Archive for May, 2015

A WINDOW ON THE WORLD!

May 14, 2015 Comments Off on A WINDOW ON THE WORLD! General

Ceski Krumlov window

 

To my great fortune, I recently enjoyed a river tour on the Danube from Budapest to Prague. One of our stops was in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. There we had the opportunity to visit the home of a young single mother who lived with her parents in what was formerly Communist housing. She had made us coffee and a delicious cake, and spoke with us about her life. It was so interesting and moving to hear not only about former political struggles but her present struggle – a struggle of women around the world – to balance caring for her little boy with working hard to prepare for employment with adequate income. Also moving was her description of the corporate changes that were resulting in unfair treatment of older employees. In fact, her 59-year-old father had just lost his job after working for a company for many years. This, she explained, had become a common occurrence. The companies stranded older employees who were facing years of probable unemployment before they were entitled to any retirement support. Of course, younger employees who received less pay were replacing them – and Slovakian companies were also beginning to outsource jobs to nations with cheaper labor. The young woman knew of several cases of mental illness and suicide that were linked to the loss of employment in older age.

 

Walking from her building to the bus, my heart was filled with a deep sense of the many ways that people everywhere are struggling with common social issues and problems. At the core, in many cases, are persistent problems of greed and lack of care and respect for all people as valuable human beings. These problems are clearly evident in callous treatment of older employees for corporate gain. Also at the core is the unfinished women’s revolution. Women, unlike men, are faced with the realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and years of significant and time-consuming responsibility for young children. They want to work, they seek work – but face many overt and covert barriers. The young woman we visited us told us that the three-years of maternity leave for which women were eligible in Slovakia also presented hardship – many companies were using questionable strategies to avoid hiring women who might become pregnant and take years of leave. Companies got around laws forbidding interview questions about future plans to have children by telling women that they had the choice of answering the questions. However, the women knew that refusal to answer was likely to result in a loss of consideration for the position.

 

Even the most complicated global problems begin with small steps toward solution. There is no end to the good that can be done by anyone who tries to make a contribution to social justice for those who are increasingly marginalized by economic and gender inequality and merciless corporate greed. Knowing, caring, and acting where we can will accomplish a great deal. The whole world is waiting!

 

(The photograph was taken by the author and is of a window in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic)

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children