Category Archives: time magazine

A Knock at the Door…

Last night just before dinner-time, as the sun was setting and the eerie dusk of a rainy day had sent in, our door knocker clanked loudly against the silence. Alarmed I looked up at my husband who instinctively uttered “uh-oh”.

In a split second I remembered where I was and retorted, “what do you mean uh-oh? Go see who’s at the door”. You see, we live in a safe suburb with mowed lawns, alarm company patrol cars and a functioning government in tact. Still, a sudden knock at an off hour can send our hearts racing, even if for an instant, until we remember we are not in a law-less land.

The knock at the door was a woman looking to sell us some magazines, because she was a single Mother of 4, trying to make a fresh start after, to her own admission, she had made some mistakes. My husband had stood outside in the drizzle for 30 minutes listening to her tale, and finally assented to buying two books from her list, for our two kids, who were safely playing video games downstairs, blissfully unaware of the intrusion.

I was alert, but still, safe inside the house working on dinner, secure in the knowledge that my husband would be back inside soon enough. Sure enough, he was.

Iraqi woman

But the sense of alarm stayed with me through the night. Not because I was frightened but because I was all too aware of the fact that in too many corners of the world, the same knock would have been a harbinger of hell knocking just before dinner-time. There would be no safety if I were a woman and mother of 3 in Baghdad, for example, in the same situation. The knock would most likely have been a warning sign for the end of my husband’s life and an impending rape for me. I cringe to think about the possibilities for my children. Where would I turn? Nowhere. Where would I be able to go? No place. How could I have escaped the brutality that would have come? I couldn’t have.

In 2003 Suzanne Goldenberg writing for the Guardian wrote from Iraq that “Amid the ordinary lawlessness of a city of 5 million with a barely functioning police force, there are particular horrors for women.” Those horrors have grown since 2003. Today armed thugs kidnap the family members of rival gangs and either beat them, rape them and then either tear them from limb to limb or discard the beaten lump of a human by the way-side. The lucky ones die. The unlucky ones are later killed by family members in the name of “honor”. Not so honorable.

Iraqi women

Women are under effective house arrest across Iraq. A nation that once boasted a secular society replete with educated women who were part of the work force as teachers, dentists, doctors, hair dressers and more, Iraq’s women are now relegated to the role of men’s property and a tool for settling scores. Abduction and rape has become a way for gangs to get back at one another for deeds and mis-deeds. Kidnapping and rape have become so common as to simply have evolved to a pass-time men engage-in simply because – well, because they can.

In 2003, all of the women Goldenberg spoke to recounted some horror of abduction. She notes soberly that “in a society like Iraq’s, where a family’s reputation is measured by the perceived virtue of its women, [a] woman suspected of transgressing social codes suffers extreme consequences for bringing shame on her family….She may even be murdered by her family to wipe out the stain on their reputation.”

Life in Iraq

“We know of a lot of cases against women,” says Nidal Husseini, a nurse at Baghdad’s forensic institute. “When a girl is kidnapped and raped and returned to her family…the family will kill the girl because of the shame.” (see:

“Iraqi traditions are hard,” Says Mari Samaan, an Iraqi psychologist quoted by Women’s e News. “Every woman without a husband or family watching over her is seen as prostitute. I have seen girls raped by armies and militias and then killed by her own families.” (see:

So a knock on the door at dusk in Baghdad is likely to bring more than just an impoverished mother selling books or magazine subscriptions to try and make a living. In fact, impoverished women in Iraq sell their teenage daughters to brothels and traffickers with unspeakable consequences. In 2009, Rania Abouzeid wrote for TIME Magazine from Baghdad that “the buying and selling of girls in Iraq, [is] like the trade in cattle,” A resident says “I’ve seen mothers haggle with agents over the price of their daughters.” (,8599,1883696,00.html).

With rampant crime in Iraq, a woman may find herself suddenly widowed. Tradition dictates that she will be unfit to marry again and unable to hold a respectable place in society. She is likely to be ostracized by her family, shun by the community and ultimately sold into prostitution. Many would rather end up in prison than in a brothel. Some are lucky enough to make that arrangement, if they have a friend or acquaintance on a police force they can pay to save their lives. Many aren’t that lucky and live their final days in the horror of a modern-day Baghdad Brothel or shipped to neighboring countries with no better circumstances.

“Hinda” an anti-trafficking activist in Iraq who was raped at 16 and disowned by her family soon thereafter tells TIME that she has been beaten by the security guards of pimps who suspect her of encouraging young victims to escape or offering them help.

“In the past week she has received several death threats, some so frightening and persistent that she penned a farewell letter to her mother. “I’m scared. I’m scared that I’ll be killed,” she says, wiping away her tears. “But I will not surrender to that fear. If I do, it means I’ve given up, and I won’t do that. I have to work to stop this.”

Read more:,8599,1883696,00.html#ixzz12kmARogK

What can you do to stop this? Write your representative to the Congress and you state Senators to help Iraqi women escape a brutality that goes against everything we believe in, here in the States. We said we would liberate Iraq. Now let’s stand by their women who are imprisoned at home. Log onto and join a growing chorus of voices committed to helping innocent Iraqis.


Women, Decisions and Money

Who controls the finances in your household?

“Women now account for more than half of the workforce. Additionally, men have suffered the brunt of job losses in the recent recession, meaning that more and more women have been entering the workforce and those that were in it already, are now working longer and harder to make up the difference and make ends meet.  Women are now economic engines, and their progress in the labor force is intrinsically tied to our future prosperity as a country.”

In the States, in a day when, according to Valerie Jerret, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, women account for half of the national workforce, I would think that at least half of them would be the head of their household. But according to statistics compiled by the Health Resources and Services Administration (, only 10%see themselves as the head of the household.

Women, as it turns out, are working longer hours and at a wider gamut of positions to make up for the revenue lost by men without jobs during the latest recession. But they’re still not controlling the purse strings. Women are still the primary care givers and seen as the nurturers, while the men maintain their traditional role as the worker and bread winner ( What happens when those roles intermingle and mesh? From my look-out point I see many families that have begun to blur the lines of traditional male/female roles. Of those families, many either share the burden of managing the family finances, or the women have taken over the task. What surprises me is that in the families where the women don’t work, as is centuries old custom, they also don’t control the purse strings.  

Why does it matter, you ask? Well, the decisions they make matter because they are different. Women prioritize in a different way than men. They tend to give priority to the children more consistently than men do. Men tend to view adult leisure activities as a must-do more often than women. This is true by statistic (see, as well as by practical observation. Research has also found that men tend to be more confident about their financial prowess so they spend more freely. Women tend to spend more cautiously (if they are in charge of household finances – not if they are given a personal budget) since they are more anxious about handling the finances (see: You may notice if you look around you that the women you know are more concerned about the children’s activities and clothes than the men are. You may also note, if they control the family finances, that they are more cautious and more protective of the money they spend. If you do, then you can personally and practically concur with the research that I’ve found.

Last week, Time magazine featured three prominent women in finance, who effectively now run America’s finances, or at least spearhead its recovery.

Among them was Sheila Bair, the chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and one of the first federal regulators to publicly sound the alarm about the collapse three years ago. She sat next to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) chair Mary Schapiro, the first woman to hold that post and the deciding vote to initiate the agency’s recent lawsuit against Goldman Sachs. Across the stage sat Elizabeth Warren, chair of the panel bird-dogging the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bank bailout and the chief advocate for new consumer-finance regulations that banks and their allies have spent millions to oppose.

Read more:,8599,1988953,00.html#ixzz0pMUqhly1
The New Sheriffs of Wall Street” (May 2010 issue)

By contrast, risking political incorrectness, NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF wrote last week in a New York Times Op-Ed (May 22, 2010) that  “if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed.”  (see: He was talking about a village in the Congo, but he could just as easily have been talking about an inner city American family. Kristoff argues that in traditionally patriarchal cultures them men control the purse strings and often make decisions that are debilitatingly inappropriate for their families. In a Congolese village Kristof meets an impoverished family who’s children have been expelled from school for non-payment. They are the Obamza’s:

The Obamzas have no mosquito net, even though they have already lost two of their eight children to malaria. They say they just can’t afford the $6 cost of a net. Nor can they afford the $2.50-a-month tuition for each of their three school-age kids.

“It’s hard to get the money to send the kids to school,” Mr. Obamza explained, a bit embarrassed.

But Mr. Obamza and his wife, Valerie, do have cellphones and say they spend a combined $10 a month on call time.

In addition, Mr. Obamza goes drinking several times a week at a village bar, spending about $1 an evening on moonshine. By his calculation, that adds up to about $12 a month — almost as much as the family rent and school fees combined.

The story is not unique. A search on “gender attitudes toward finance” reaps a stream of resources comparing emancipated attitudes toward finance with those of traditionalist, and finds that societies with traditional notions of finance as a man’s realm are dis-served. Mostly the women in these societies toil and the children suffer, while the men decide how to squander what little they have as best they can.

If you believe Time magazine, you’d have to believe that women are becoming more accustomed to a role of financier, rather than back seat consumer. But if you look at Kristof’s Op-Ed, you’d have to think that across the world women still find themselves without control on home budgeting. Whereas in the States, more control over finances may be just a matter of asking or taking on the task, around the globe the lack of financial control for women is a product of age-old preconceptions that keep hard working, good thinking women out of the realm of finance.

Unfortunately, the staus quo may dis-serve some of the neediest families around the world and even at home. But attitudes can be changed. Less than a century ago, here in the states, a woman working and controlling the household finances equally with her husband would have been unthinkable. Today it is practical. No reason why tradition can’t assimilate to change in every other corner of the world…as long as we make sure we get out the word that we, globally, expect the empowerment of women to beat its path forward in every corner of the world.