Raise Your Voice
By Natalie Pixler
Winner of Rotary 4 Way Speech Contest
In my house, I am famous for oversleeping. It is that darn snooze button. I know perfectly well that hitting the snooze button is a dangerous game, and yet I continuously play it. I’m just too groggy to care.
In my near-comatose condition there is no way of knowing whether I will awaken in five minutes or five hours. When I finally come fully, frantically awake — well, you can imagine how it goes:
Looking at the clock realizing my first period has already begun. Fear and panic shoot through my body like electricity. I hurl the duvet across the room and lunge out of bed like a bottle rocket fired from a tipped-over cannon.
Frantically, willing time to stand still while lecturing myself on the importance of my education, I arrive at school with hair in disarray, shirt inside out, toothpaste running down my cheek and still hoarse from screaming at the drivers who would dare to drive the speed limit.
All of this chaos for a few extra minutes of sleep.
For me, when I hit the snooze button, I am simply late for school. But as a culture, we are hitting the snooze button on something much more serious. As I see it, we are hitting the snooze button on the continued oppression of women around the world.
Let me explain.
First, we are actively fighting for the end of sexual assault. One in four women will be sexually assaulted before the age of eighteen. Every 98 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Out of every 1,000 rapes only six perpetrators are charged, arrested and incarcerated. Post-traumatic stress disorder is prevalent among survivors with 94% diagnosed.
Second, there is the problem of human trafficking. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today. According the the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female. The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the U.S. Globally, the cost of a slave is $90. It generates a profit of $32 billion every year.
Third, female genital mutilation (FGM) is still practiced in twenty-nine countries. The World Health Organization estimates that over 140 million women have been mutilated, some as young as five months old. These barbaric acts must be stopped.
As we consider the masses of women suffering oppression, we often lose sight of the stark reality. The numbers overwhelm us, and, therefore, the women become just that — numbers. However, the oppression becomes real to us when we listen to the stories of those who have suffered abuse. The stories humanize the faceless “numbers.”
Karla Jacinto was just a number. She was sold and trafficked through Mexico at the tender age of twelve. She was raped 43,200 times by thirty men a day. There were hundreds of girls there alongside her, some as young as ten. She emerged from her own personal hell with a powerful message to those happily and obliviously free: “Take the blindfold off of your eyes.”
And the stories go on and on. We could tell of countless others just like Karla. And hearing stories like this should compel us to take immediate and relentless action.
So what are the steps for action?
Simply this: Give. Volunteer. But most of all, raise your voice.
You have a voice, so use it for the ones who don’t. Use your voice to shine a piercing light that shatters the darkness. Darkness prevails in our communities because we have not demanded change. It’s time to speak for the girl cowering in a brothel, hiding in shame and running for her life. The girl chained to a wall, forced to do unimaginable things with no hope of every walking free again. We must speak up for the abused, battered and voiceless. These are the women for whom we speak.
Do you see the need? Do you feel the outrage? I hope you do. And I hope now, after realizing the astronomical numbers and putting a face to each number, you will now make an informed decision to stand up and speak. As Malala, a girls’ education activist, once said,
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
You have that one voice. And your one voice is powerful enough to change the world. Stop hitting the snooze button. The alarm is sounding, and its time to wake up.
Winner of the Rotary 4 Way Speech Contest