I’m going on a journey into the unknown and I want you to join me as I face challenges and miracles.
I’m not climbing Kilimanjaro or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. My journey is not as physically gruelling as those heroic feats. Mine is a journey of the mind and heart; a journey with a goal, not for personal achievement, but to make a contribution to others.
I am documenting my journey in this blog called Humanity Matters. Throughout my career as a journalist I’ve written about what matters; Family Matters, Relationship Matters, Health Matters, Travel Matters, Midlife Matters. And all these subjects really did matter at different stages of my life.
However as I approach 60, I’ve arrived at a vantage point where one subject concerns me deeply and urgently: the suffering of humanity. I am gripped by a passionate desire to work to reduce suffering and increase joy.
I want to live a life of purpose and meaning and I want to Make a Difference - a positive one – to the lives of others. When this desire took hold five years ago, I lacked focus. I did some volunteer work in Ghana in 2012. My efforts were well intentioned but generalised and undirected. There are so many worthy causes and charities to work for, I wanted to embrace them all.
Then two years later I started asking myself the question, ‘If I could pick one worthy cause to champion, what would it be?’ And ‘Bingo’ I got the answer.
I’ve long been horrified by the shocking human rights violation, the vicious crime against the innocent, the ultimate form of child abuse – the deliberate maiming of millions of little girls through the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
I researched and wrote about the subject for over two years to understand the complex issues and to discover the most effective way to put an end to an entrenched custom that dates back 2000 years that condemns little girls to an unimaginable trauma and a lifetime of pain and suffering.
Can you imagine 8000 girls a day, that’s three million girls a year, are subjected to FGM around the world. Tragically 30 million girls in the next 10 years will be maimed if we do not stop this crime. Already 200 million women are living with the horrendous health consequences of being cut as a child.
That’s when I discovered the work of pioneering American educator Molly Melching, who while living in Senegal for many years developed an innovative program of empowerment for girls and women.
Her work, through the charity Tostan, is so successful; I want to join her team to introduce the life-changing program across Africa.
“Tostan” is a Wolof word meaning the hatching of an egg, the precise moment the chick emerges from the shell. The evocative word expresses the essence of ‘break through’ and ‘new life’.
And I am inspired. I want to stop FGM – not just from a safe distance – but on the ground – in the country where a rusty razor blade is used on tender flesh on a daily basis.
And so I am setting off on a journey next week – a slightly courageous one - to Senegal in West Africa to be trained in Molly’s method with the big dream of taking the Tostan program to remote villages throughout East Africa.
This is a heavy, disturbing issue and it would be easy to feel outraged with anger and bitterness that fuel a fire in the belly against this child abuse and the old women who inflict it, the mothers who allow it and the patriarchal social system that demands that ‘brides be clean’.
However I would rather be motivated by conviction; to be inspired by what I stand for, which promotes value (while anger devalues). And what I stand for is empowering women in Africa; human rights and social justice; protecting children; humanitarian work and compassion and kindness.
Do you stand for these values? Will you join me on my journey of discovery and read my posts because Humanity Matters; it really does.