The scene: Budapest; May, 1989. I’m traveling through the Continent with my older, cooler cousin Leslie, eurorailing around in 2nd class compartments, drinking in the culture, sleeping in youth hostels and occasionally (and accidentally) train stations. It’s my first trip abroad, my first time away from parental supervision.
“Should we go to Germany? Check out Checkpoint Charlie? See the Berlin Wall?”
“Nah, they’re not going anywhere.”
Lesson: Always exercise caution when trusting the political analysis of teenagers.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the communism’s last gasp in Europe – November 9 is the date considered to be the fall of the Berlin Wall (although that’s more of a metaphor; the 9th was the date that the gates were opened to allow free passage). In the lead-up to that date, there’s a proliferation of news stories about the event. Of special note today is U.K. newspaper The Times’s lengthy look at how women have fared since the wall came tumbling down. Roger Boyes, the paper’s Berlin correspondent, notes that after the fall: “In a short time, women in Central and Eastern Europe found themselves beached by history. East Germans were merged into a supremely capitalist all-German state in which women were paid, on average, 23 per cent less then men. Within months of the fall of the Wall, 21 per cent of women were unemployed, there was a 25 per cent drop in marriages, 12 per cent fewer children were born. That was followed by a massive migration of East German women westwards in search of work. The result: ageing men-only rural communities, soaring divorce rates and stranded children.”
Boyes does point out that at no point does anyone yearn for the days shrouded by the Iron Curtain, and there’s hope for the future, as the setbacks women experienced were just growing pains of the adjustment to a new political system. Still, it’s a little mind-bending, and depressing, to ponder that women may have been better off under a notoriously oppressive regime.
- Rebecca Caldwell
When I was approached about doing this blog my first reaction was excitement. It was a huge compliment. I found it ironic that me, of all people, had been asked the do this. I’m not the greatest at expressing my feelings and here I was about to open myself up to the world!
Once I started to realize what I had gotten myself into I began getting cold feet. I felt like I was in over my head but, because I had made a commitment, I knew I had a responsibility to follow through. I was very nervous when I submitted the first blog. I didn’t know what to expect, what type of reception I would receive, or what I could “give” to the readers. I’ll never forget receiving that first comment. I read a little, cried a little, read a little, cried a little! It was then that I realized this was going to be a great experience.
The feedback I’ve received has been incredible; the phone calls, e-mails and comments on the blog itself. Many have conveyed to me that they didn’t understand the extent of my illness, while some weren’t even aware there was anything wrong. There have been others that I’ve never met – don’t even know their names – and they’ve passed on kind words of encouragement and understanding through friends and family. What’s even more incredible is being told by many strangers that I have touched them. I never thought that by telling my story, others would feel better about their own.
I’ve learned this past month that there are so many of us out there, especially younger women, who are fighting Heart Disease. While I once felt very alone with my struggles, I now feel renewed hope – hope for myself and others like me. Two women almost lost their lives to heart disease and here they are, 12 and 13 years later, able to share their stories on this blog. July 21st will be my five year “Anniversary” – and what a celebration it will be!
If nothing else, I am confident that this blog has given a positive light on an often dark situation. This can be a very frightening rollercoaster ride – so many ups and downs, but with great doctors, technology and faith, many good things can happen. I’m living proof!
According to data released today, more than 5,000 women were turned away from shelters in Ottawa last year because there was no space for them. Despite a 24% increase of shelter beds in the city over 2005-2006, there is simply not enough room to house these thousands of abused and homeless women.
Imagine having the conviction to leave an abusive relationship and then having no place to turn.
Let’s hope the Ministry of Community and Social Services does something about this.
And if it’s happening in Ottawa, where else might this be the case?
“Women have entered politics in greater numbers than ever in the past decade, accounting for 18.4 percent of parliament members worldwide, according to a study released Thursday by the United Nations Development Fund for Women.”
I read today that University of Toronto researchers Scott Schieman and Taralyn McMullen have found that women who work for other women have greater health problems than women who work for men. I’m entirely rocked by this — I’ve always loved working for women and found they understand the pull of family and home life much more than men.
So I don’t quite buy this. However…
Published in the September issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, the duo’s study uses data from a 2005 survey of 1,800 American workers. They found that women who worked for women bosses have a higher rate of distress in their lives (anger, depression), not to mention headaches and backaches.
Schieman and McMullen haven’t been able to explain why this is so.