Being a Woman – A Journey of Celebration and Discovery

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By Seema Kukreja

My Mom often told me that a woman is among the most powerful species on this planet. She has been gifted with immense patience, a fountain of love, unconditional capacity to sacrifice and above all the supreme gift to give birth to a new life.pexels-photo-103127

Regardless of one’s demographics, all women have the above mentioned gifts. However, the biggest irony of modern times is that a woman herself starts questioning her very gifts, her very strengths when faced with fearful circumstances. As per Social Issue Report: September 2011: “Domestic violence has severe emotional and physical implications for women. Emotional health consequences of abuse include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which fundamentally affect the quality of a woman’s daily life and can require long-term counseling and group therapy to overcome.” My interest in this area was aroused when I played a character of the victim of a dowry death in a NC-based play called “In the Boots of Timberland”. While dowry and domestic violence are reprimanded by Law in India, its continuance raises many questions. With strong laws being passed in recent times, and changing mindset of the Indian youth especially of men towards women, the dowry deaths have decreased but they still occur.

This is just one of the examples of varied forms of violence that women are subjected to, in addition to the worldwide incidences of rape and sexual assault. No matter how and what circumstances of violence are under which a woman is subjected to, the result is the same. A woman suffers physically, emotionally and socially and her battle becomes all the more tough if she starts questioning herself, doubting herself, which is usually the case.  I feel blessed that I got a very supportive and caring life partner, who not only takes care of me but  is also a constant source of my strength. But not every girl is as blessed as I am. There are numerous stories of how a wrong partner ruined everything for a woman and hindered her overall progression in life. At this point, I feel, there is a vital need for a perspective, and an immense need to empower ourselves with so much confidence and mental strength that no evil force can break us.

Now, it may occur to you at this juncture as to who I am to handout such knowledge to you all. One of my passions in life is to be able to heal people with the power of Yoga and I will not be boasting here, if I share with you all how much change in women I have seen and witnessed amongst friends, co-workers, co-actors once they decided to practice Yoga as not only the cure but as a healing practice. If Yoga is practiced correctly along with women’s faith that they are special and strong species created by God who are not going to have anyone tell or treat them any different, it is then possible for them to completely transform themselves.  With constant practice, you will discover many ways to train and work your amazing bodies by balancing your tensions and negating your worries or any effects of a trauma you may have had as you automatically learn how to sustain a balance in your emotions, anger, and passions.

So, I strongly urge all women to first of all accept and reinforce in them every morning that they are special, and are capable to face what life unfolds. Yoga and meditation can be very effective tools in overcoming depression, low self esteem and a feeling of lethargy. While I believe that certain strides have been made in terms of women’s status in today’s’ society, more “gallops” are necessary in order for “true equality” to be realized. It is our own perception of ourselves that will make a big difference in how we think, how we project and how we succeed in lives. I would never have seen and accept opportunities and succeed in them if I did not believe in myself and I am all for supporting other women to do what they want to do. Life may not throw in its best at us but there is always a choice that we can make as to how we want to deal with a situation or a challenge thrown at us.

Mingling with like minded strong positive women, creating opportunities for each other, lending a helping hand and last but not the least celebrating womanhood will accelerate the rate of change we want to see in our society. Feminism is about a profound attitudinal change, the responsibility lies with us about how the generations see that feminism is about equality and not about hating men.

As an artist and and an avid fan of Yoga, I feel privileged to use my voice, my talent to help people. Feel free to reach out to me, if you think you can benefit from basic breathing and Yoga exercises. I truly hope you enjoy reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And remember that considering yourself as a whole person should be your priority, you are not just someone who is born to make others happy. Once you start celebrating the womanhood in true sense, you shall be COMPLETE truly.


About Seema Kukreja

seemaSeema Kukreja is a trained actor, dancer, singer, mimicry artist, RJ, compere for local & international events. Her credits include Chakra, In their shoes, Tar Heel Tales, Secret Garden, YoMama, Premiere, LBB, Black Nativity. She takes pride in this integral body-part called “Vagina” that’s not simply limited to means of pleasure but is a very special space where humanity is born from.

V-Day Spotlight 2017: Violence Against Women in the Workplace

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Each year, the international V-Day organization chooses a Spotlight. V-Day “spotlights” a certain group of women who are facing violence, “with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area and to aid groups on the ground who are addressing it.” Previous Spotlight Campaigns featured Afghan Women (2002); Missing and Murdered Women in Juarez, Mexico (2004); and the Women and Girls of Haiti (2011 and 2012). V-Day’s 2017 Spotlight is Violence Against Women in the Workplace.black-and-white-city-man-people

Disproportionate Effect on Women

Workplace violence disproportionately affects women, who are often subject to sexual harassment on the job. The subject recently made national news when former FOX anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against FOX CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes, accusing him of sexual harassment. Subsequently, additional women came forward with similar accusations against Ailes. 21st Century Fox allowed Ailes to resign – and gave him $40 million in an exit agreement. 21st Century Fox later settled with Carlson for $20 million – an amount that was paid by the company, not by Ailes.

Occurrence Across All Industries

Workplace violence occurs across all industries, and is not always perpetrated by an employee’s boss or coworker. It can also come from clients or customers – or even from all of the above groups. In the restaurant industry, nearly 80% of women report experiencing sexual harassment from co-workers. Additionally, nearly 80% of women in that industry report experiencing sexual harassment from customers.

Nurses and other healthcare workers are exposed to extremely high rates of workplace violence, many times due to combative patients they are trying to assist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 52% of workplace violence incidents in 2014 occurred against workers in the healthcare and social assistance industry. Worse, the rates have actually been increasing – in private industry hospitals, workplace violence rates increased 110 percent between 2005 and 2014.

Workplace violence has become such a problem in the healthcare industry that last month, National Nurses United testified in Washington, DC to urge Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to pass regulations to prevent workplace violence in healthcare settings.

Workplace Violence Is Deadly

Workplace violence is a widespread – and deadly – problem. According to BLS, workplace violence – including assaults and suicides – accounted for 15 percent of all work-related fatal occupational injuries in the United States in 2015.

BLS also notes the following statistics:

  • Homicide is the second-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries for women, after traffic accidents.
  • Thirty-one percent of women who die at work are killed as a result of an assault or violent act.
  • The most frequent type of assailant in work-related homicides involving women was a relative or domestic partner.

How Can You Help?

To prevent workplace violence, it is important that a company has a policy in place that prevents violence and harassment. In addition, companies should have a clearly-communicated process for making and resolving complaints. Have policies in place for what to do in case of an intruder – many workplace violence incidents occur as part of attempted or successful robberies. As an employee, “if you see something, say something.”

Ten percent of all proceeds from this year’s benefit productions of “The Vagina Monologues” will go to the V-Day Spotlight Campaign, to be used to help end violence against women in the workplace. (The other 90% will go to a local organization – in V-Day Raleigh’s case, InterAct.) Purchase your tickets today for the Raleigh performances, and know that your money will being going to two important causes to help end violence against women and girls.


For additional reading on this subject, please visit: AFL-CIO, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and V-Day.

Why “The Vagina Monologues”?

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There are numerous ways to make your voice heard. Thanks to the innovation of the internet and social media, your voice has the potential to have an audience of millions. While there are venues of activism that are powerful, I feel activism through art is one of the most powerful ways to make your voice heard.Social Media Abstract Vector Design

Truthfully, I wanted to somehow be a part of “The Vagina Monologues” (TVM) in Raleigh in some way. I hadn’t seen it since I was still in San Diego. Since moving to the Triangle in 2013, I kept my eye out for a production of TVM that wasn’t in a college setting, but my search didn’t turn up much. Finally, in 2016, TVM popped back into my mind after a colleague of mine was killed by her husband, and then he committed suicide. After the results of the presidential election, and encountering more stories of domestic violence happening locally in the area, I felt 2017 would be the most important year to do TVM. So, in less than a month, I found an incredible group of women who were willing to go along with this crazy idea. I rediscovered V-Day and things were rolling. You know the rest of the story.

But what was the motivation behind this?

I’m someone who doesn’t do well in public speaking. I’m not a leader in that sense. But I can prepare and present something to you with practice. I needed to find a way to not only make my voice heard, but also speak on behalf of the millions of victims out there who are in an abusive relationship. Why did I care so much about this? I come from 2 generations of survivors. My grandmother’s first marriage was abusive, and she managed to escape. She then met my grandfather not too long after. Then, my father was very abusive to my mother. One of the first things my great-grandmother told me was that my dad once dragged my mom across the parking lot by her hair while she was pregnant with me. Unfortunately, my mother let the damage he caused her affect her for the rest of her life. I can elaborate more, but that’s a story for another time.

I’ll give you the short version and say that sometimes the cycle of abuse can be passed on to the next generation. I found myself in an abusive relationship in my teens, and then late teens, with the same guy. Even after breaking the cycle for myself and moving on, I still feel shame and foolishness for allowing myself to get into a relationship like that…twice. It almost happened a third time after I moved to Raleigh. Hadn’t I learned? While I shouldn’t, I still beat myself up about it. I come from a long line of strong women. This shouldn’t have happened. But it did.

As someone who is in a decent place now, I want to do more, and I need to do more for my community. My passions are in theatre. Art can be a catalyst for change, it can make a major impact to those who bestow upon it. Through TVM, we are raising money for InterAct of Wake County. With the audience encountering the stories of different women and their relationship with their vagina, we are communicating what exactly is wrong with our society still. Sure, on paper, women have equal rights, but real life experience still shows it’s not the case. Theatre is one of the most versatile venues to make these stories known, or to have them be told again. As women, we need to come together to support each other and do what we can to help those who are down.

As long as violence against women and girls still happens, we will still make our voices heard through art and activism.

As we get closer to the performance of “The Vagina Monologues“, I hope Raleigh, Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Zebulon, Wendell, Timberlake, Apex, and beyond…will all grace us with the honor of their presence. Be a part of this crazy idea I had, grab a ticket to the show, and see what all the fuss is about!

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (Teen DV Month). Statistics show that one in three teenagers will experience emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in their 2017-shareable-fb-instagramrelationship, and that dating abuse affects 1.5 million teenagers every year. In addition, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – a rate that is nearly triple the national average. Teen DV Month was created to educate teenagers and their supporters about unhealthy relationships, and to provide information on how to prevent dating abuse.

Why Focus Specifically on Teens?

Dating violence or abuse can have lasting effects on teenagers who experience it. Victims who experience violent relationships as teenagers are at higher risk for eating disorders, substance abuse problems, and additional domestic violence. Teenage girls who have been sexually or physically abused are twice as likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection, and six times as likely to become pregnant. Furthermore, fifty percent of youth who have been victims of both rape and dating violence attempt suicide.

What Does Teen Dating Violence Involve?

Loveisrespect, an organization created to engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships, notes that dating violence can include any of the following:

  • Physical: hitting, slapping, choking, kicking
  • Emotional/Verbal: putting you down; embarrassing you in public (online or off); threatening you in any way; telling you what to do or what to wear
  • Sexual: pressuring or forcing you to do anything sexual, including sexting; restricting access to birth control
  • Financial: taking your paychecks; preventing you from working
  • Digital: sending threats via text, social media or email; stalking or humiliating you on social media; logging into your social media or email accounts without permission; forcing you to share passwords

How Can I Help?

One way you can help is to know the signs, such as those listed above, that may signal an abusive teenage relationship. Awareness is key, as only 33% of teenagers who experience dating violence tell anyone. In addition, 82% of parents say they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse – but in reality, 58% of parents couldn’t accurately identify all the signs of abuse.

Another way to help is to educate others, and help raise awareness via your social media accounts. Loveisrespect has declared February 13-17, 2017 “Respect Week”. You can post information relating to teen dating violence using the following hashtags: #RespectWeek2017, #teenDVmonth, and #loveisrespect.

In addition, February 14th, 2017 is Wear Orange Day. Loveisrespect has created the #Orange4Love challenge. On February 14th, wear orange to show your support for healthy relationships. Post pictures of you and your friends wearing orange, and use the hashtags #orange4love and #RespectWeek2017. Make sure to share in your caption the reasons why you’re wearing orange that day, such as in this example: “I wear #orange4love because 1 in 3 teens experiences dating abuse & that’s 1 too many! #RespectWeek2017”

Everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship no matter their age. With your help, we can continue to raise awareness about teen dating violence, and hopefully change the statistics.


Note: All statistics are from Loveisrespect.org. For further reading on teen dating violence, check out Loveisrespect.org and National Resource Center on Domestic Violence.

InterAct – Courageous Voices Tour

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InterAct – Courageous Voices Tour

By Alex Matsuointeract-blog-image-medium

Written on 1/26/17

Today, I had the honor of taking InterAct’s Courageous Voices tour. As the organizer for V-Day Raleigh and director for this year’s production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”, I felt it was my duty to see firsthand what InterAct does for our community on a daily basis. I knew what to expect visually, but I had no idea what how my heart would react to what I saw.

Domestic violence is a real problem in Wake County, and InterAct is the only shelter for victims of domestic violence in the county. 1 in 3 women is a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault. In Wake County alone, we’re talking about 100,000 women. InterAct helped 40,000 people last year get away from their abusers and start their life anew. Not only do they help these women, but they also provide support for their children too, as well as men. Each woman spends about 8 weeks with InterAct, where they learn skills to enter the workforce, get their confidence and self-worth back, learn how to budget, find an apartment, and get their lives back. 90% of the women InterAct has helped do not go back to their abusers. Why is this important? Nationally, about half of all shelter residents return to their abusers.

InterAct also has the Solace Center, where victims of rape and sexual assault can have a quiet place to get examined, submit their clothes for evidence, get a hot shower, and a change of clothes. Afterward, they are contacted by one of InterAct’s counselors for counseling and help. Again, the Solace Center is the only place that does this in Wake County, and it is the first of its kind in North Carolina.

During the tour, we got to hear stories of women who have been helped by InterAct. These stories hit me hard, and often I found it hard to hold back tears. It’s one thing to hear about all of the amazing work InterAct does, but it’s a whole different level to see it in person. Throughout the tour, I thought of the monologues, and the women Eve Ensler talked about when she was developing The Vagina Monologues. I wondered if any of them ever had the chance to use a facility like InterAct.

This made the work of V-Day Raleigh that much more important to me. It has given me the drive to make the production not only successful, but I want it to impact Wake County. Domestic violence is a very real issue, and it needs to stop. If we’re ever going to heal from these deep wounds, we need to come together to show these women they are supported and loved.


Editor’s Note: To help V-Day Raleigh raise funds for InterAct, please donate here. For more information about InterAct’s services, please click here.

I Want to Tell You

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the V-Day Raleigh blog! We are requesting submissions from the community for our blog – below is our first one! An anonymous member of the V-Day Raleigh community wrote this beautiful and powerful poem to share with you all. What would you tell the next woman?

If you would like to submit your own blog entry (we can publish it under your name or anonymously), please email us at vdayraleigh@gmail.com


I Want to Tell You

By Anonymous

 

I want to tell you.

I want to tell you what he did to me.

Where is the line between my responsibility as a woman to a woman and his confidence?

Is there one?

 

I want to tell you-

that it took me years to heal.

If an angel looked in my chest and saw my heart, they would have wept.

It had dissolved.

I shuffled through life clinging to any hope that came my way. Maybe today he would touch me… and it won’t hurt.

I don’t remember breathing, I don’t remember sunshine, or rain, or smiles, or even itching bug-bites.

I remember gray.

I remember the distant sound of my stifled soul screaming to be released.

I remember the first time I saw the rage in those steel eyes; how the terror cut through my skin and sunk into my bones to reside there for eternity, never being exorcised.

I remember the first time there was pain.

I remember that I knew it was my fault. Yes, there was overreaction, but I caused the argument in the beginning.

I remember how I told myself this.

I remember finding strength and fighting back, but knowing I had only made it worse.

I remember the first holes in a child’s door, while the child cried in fear and a mother held the door secure with all her might.

I remember when he denied it all.

I remember how that felt.

Was I really the one going crazy?

I can see the holes, and broken wands, and shattered mirrors and bottles.

I can see the flashing lights from the cars he was finally put into.

I can see the child still wrestling with the fear of him…

But, I can see the pure confusion in his eyes from his story of truth.

Was I crazy? No. These were not illusions.

 

I want to tell you-

how long it took for me to enjoy touch again, and how hard new partners work to make me feel safe and loved.

I filled caverns with the tears I cried while having sex I didn’t want to have.

I didn’t want to have, yet couldn’t say no.

The terror still resides in my bones.

I want to tell you-

that I still slept with him because I wasn’t going to let the demons be in control and I was determined to make it right.

I want to tell you-

that we still have sex… at least we did…

 

Then I saw you.

 

Beautiful, fresh faced, innocent.

I don’t want you to hurt.

Maybe people can change.

Maybe they can’t.

If there is change, I cannot speak.

If there is not, I should have spoken.

Where is the line?

 

I want to tell you-

that I am here, that I know, and that it’s not you.

When those demons, that you aren’t able to envision right now, show themselves I will fight by your side.

I will pick up my sword and smite the head from your beast if you are too weak.

I will hold up the shield if you are strong.

And I will carry you home.

 

Please understand and forgive why I don’t, but I want to tell you.