Michelle Wright Travels to Dominican Republic On a Mission for World Vision
by Michelle Wright
Michelle holds a youngster on her trip
The following is an open letter from multi-award winning, Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member, (and CMAO member) Michelle Wright. Michelle writes of her recent experiences in the Dominican Republic while on a mission with World Vision:
Forged in the Fire:
As a woman living in North America, it seldom enters my mind that I can’t do something simply because I am a woman.
True, even in 2013, women face different challenges than men do. Ask any single mom trying to raise children on a salary much lower than that of her male co-worker. You’ll get a pretty clear sense of what these challenges are. But such struggles have nothing to do with a woman’s gifts, talents, or inner strength. And while I’ve had my own hurdles to clear along the way, I’ve never thought that gender would be the one variable to stop me making my goals a reality.
The one variable:
For countless women around the world however, gender is that one variable. In my travels, I’ve been stunned to encounter belief systems that absolutely enforce the inequality of women. Not only do these systems prevent women from rising up, they push them down.
I want to support women around the world in their fight for freedom. But at the same time, I realize that in some regions of the world, working for change is easier said than done. The courage and strength required is greater than anything I have encountered. So is the cost of motivating progress. It can literally be a matter of life or death.
I recently boarded a plane for the Dominican Republic (DR) with the international aid and development agency World Vision. In my travels around the world, I’ve already met girls and women who have experienced unimaginable oppression and abuse.
A bouquet of death:
While doing my research for the trip, I came across the story of an amazing woman, Miguelina Martizez. She was so afraid of her husband that she’d gone to the country’s courts 18 times, just to try for a restraining order. In desperation, she even made a video and posted it on YouTube. But the justice system in the DR is slow to protect women, often tragically so. It failed the 31-year-old mother and her four young children. When her husband came into the beauty parlor where Miguelina works, he was holding a bouquet of flowers. But this was no peace offering. Within the blossoms was hidden a knife, which he used to stab Miguelina more than two dozen times.
I was heartbroken to read that Miguelina’s story is no anomaly. Statistics show that every 48 hours, a husband or ex-husband kills a woman in the DR. That number may vary slightly from Afghanistan to Colombia to India — but the general idea is tragically similar.
Dreaming of a better life:
Amazingly though, and in spite of their circumstances, these women still desire to fight against these wrongs. They dream of a better life. I was encouraged to read about a World Vision program in the DR which helps young people pave the way for the future by repairing the gap between genders.
Teenage girls and boys play sports and games together. Then, with the help of a leader gifted at working with youth, they sit on plastic lawn chairs to talk about issues affecting them all. “He included me,” says a girl, sixteen-year-old Beri, of the kind and gentle group leader.” He said, “How do you feel? How are things going?” Beri’s own father had left her family when she was just a little girl. Before coming to the group, she’d been struggling with depression.
As the young women speak, the young men learn to listen. Boys who witnessed their fathers beating their mothers are able to choose a new path for their futures. “I’ve learned how to stop domestic violence, and how to treat women right,” said one 19-year-old man, who says he’s learning things his parents did not know. “I am different from the former generation.”
Michelle presents an Epiphone acoustic guitar to a boy from the Dominican Republic
Strong as steel:
I visited a place where World Vision provides music education to boys and girls, helping them discover their talents. With more self- confidence, they can find the strength to make their own decisions about what they want to do with their lives. For example, a delay in pregnancy, even marriage, will give them more of a chance to finish school and perhaps even start a career.
In situations where women are deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, I always find myself wondering what I can do to help. I do know that education and open communication create awareness and the possibility for change. I want to be a part of that. If I can be a part of something that supports them in their fight, I have to do that.
As a songwriter, I give words to my experiences and observations. The chorus for my new single, “Strong” was written for girls and women around the world. They inspire me and I want to be there for them.
She’s strong as steel Forged in the fire Fighting through the scared and the tired Always darkest before the dawn She’s strong enough to bend But never breaking Strong in the face of the battle raging Set on moving on She’s Strong