Saturday, April 14, 2012

Challenges Encountered

I had so much support whether at the Aaliyah School for Girls, whether in speaking with members of Parliament, or to Jordanian female lawyers, they all understood, the problem of pornography and gained further knowledge on its ties to human trafficking while in Jordan, so to influence them, and in education, and to inspire students in speaking to them on social enterprises at the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship, there was such an interest in these topics, it warmed my heart, so I didn't encounter too many challenges in getting my purposed message across, in fact, I found great allies.

I think the challenges that I encountered was in seeing the difference between genders in Jordan, and the political landscape in being an American could at times presented a challenge. I was so fortunate to travel with my great friend, and roommate who lives in Jordan, so I did not have to navigate waters alone, standing out as a blond, pale skinned girl from America.  I think the greatest challenge for me was being able to fit everything in, and in feeling like there was so much more that needed to be done, contacts that needed to be made while I was there, and not feeling like that had been completely accomplished, due to my lack of time. My heart did break over issues that were present in the country, that I wasn't tackling at the time, such as honor killings and animal welfare and education on spaying/neutering. Two weeks just wasn't enough time to feel that I had accomplished enough, as so much more could be done.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Things to Change/Surprises Encountered/New Learning

My biggest regret is that I couldn't tackle more issues while in Amman. One the flight there, I was reading a book entitled, Murder in the Name of Honour, which touched me profoundly. I wish that I had had more time in Jordan, to meet the key people who are trying to prevent honor killings in Jordan, which still occur, based on Islamic law and country penal codes.  If I had known more about the problem, I would have done more in this area, and I regretted that I was not able to, and did not know enough about it before going. But it was good, that I was made more aware of it shortly before the trip, and during the trip. I also briefly got to speak with journalist Rana Husseini, who is at the forefront of this issue, and using journalism, and telling the stories of these women's lives, who are murdered by family members for what they "deem" good reasoning, and to "cleanse" the family name. I wanted to jump in, and help her, and help do what I could to change the Jordanian laws, that would protect these women, victims, rather, than the way it is now, where the law protects their murderers (family members). How can anyone hear about women being murdered by family members to cleanse a family name, usually brutally, and go about their life, and not be affected by such a travesty?!  Although, it has been estimated that there are 50,000 Syrian and Iraqi women who are trafficked into Jordan, human rights organizations locally have been working on the issue. One of the human rights lawyers who is working on this, attended my human trafficking presentation at the BPWA, and she spoke of the efforts to curb this that have been advancing, and it is an issue, and one that needs to be addressed and dealt with, but I found my heart pulled, and somehow saying, no one is helping us Tiffany, as I read the stories of the women who had almost been murdered or who were murdered by family members in Jordan, in the pages of Rana Husseini's book.
Honor killing is a murder, conducted by a family member (usually male) to punish a female family member who has supposedly brought dishonor on the family. The acts which are considered dishonoring include:
  • arranged marriage refusal
  • being the victim of a sexual assault or rape
  • seeking a divorce, even is the husband is abusive 
  • adultery or fornication
  • pre-marital sex
  • flirting
  • anything deemed unacceptable by the male family member
Acid attacks can also be used on the women, or a family member can insist that the women perform an honor suicide, where guilt is put upon her, to kill herself, so that a family member avoids any prosecution, to make it appear that the woman freely wanted to kill herself.

Even writing about this issue now, as a reflection on my trip, my heart feels a deep regret for coming to Jordan, and not having done anything to help with this issue. It truly breaks my heart. I feel their pain, their sadness, the feeling of betrayal that these women must have felt before their deaths, by the hands of a male family member, a brother, a father, and the sense of aloneness they must have felt.  Once I start my social enterprise, and it is stable, I plan to do as much work fighting against "honour killings" as I can in the Middle East. Its this unspoken criminal act that is occurring continuously, and not much progress has been made to stop it, as brick walls are continually encountered by the few who are trying to stop it.   I would change this about the trip, and make sure that I could setup a meeting ahead of time with Rana Husseini, and the key people trying to stop this atrocity. The royal family in Joran, has condemned honor killings but the government will not repeal laws that are lenient towards family murderers, for fear of making Islamic conservatives upset. The powerful Islamic Action Front party, has stated that any proposal to introduce harsh laws against honor killings would disturb family values and would strip men of their humanity. They have also stated that declared that honor killing is an Islamic duty and support it as they state that Mohammad advocated stoning for adultery.  Video: Rana Husseini: Murder in the Name of Honor.

One tragic story: 

A 12-year old Jordanian girl returned home one evening from a walk with some friends. She was confronted by her enraged father who was shouting that she had dishonoured the entire family. He began beating his daughter with sticks and iron chains until she died. He told the police that he killed his only daughter because she went for a walk without his permission.  This survivor of an attempted honor killing, to the right survived, but so many don't. 
The fear that women must live in never knowing if they will be a victim of this, must be prevalent throughout the Middle East. It will take a grassroots, groundswell, internationally to apply pressure to put a stop to it I believe.

This 17 year old from Mosul, was tortured for two hours, by a mob stoning, leading up to her death, after she eloped with a Muslim man, as she was apart of a community that was not Muslim.  (Source:

I would also do work in the area of animal rights in Amman. I had no idea of the extent of stray cats, without homes in Jordan. They seem to be on every street, roaming, looking for food, doubtfully spayed or neutered, producing more and more stray cats, and I even saw one cat limping, something must have injured its leg, and I thought, how is this poor thing even getting around, obtaining food water, and how long has it been limping.  No one appeared to be concerned about the stray cats, or if they had food or water. I tried to keep my eyes open for an animal welfare shelter, or some sort of humane society location, but I saw nothing while in Jordan, and according to Islamic law, from what I understand dogs are looked upon as dirty, so I just imagined that stray cats must be viewed in the same way. My roommate did tell me that she knew of someone who took in stray cats and helping take care of them, but this seemed very rare. My hope was that a large American or European animal rescue organization, such as the Humane Society, or ASPCA could have a branch in Amman, to house these poor, sweet creatures. They always seemed scared when coming into close contact with them, and many if not all must be feral, but this was another cause that I would have loved to have helped with if I had known that this was such a huge issue before coming to Jordan. So I would have to say that my biggest regret or the things I would change, would be to work on more issues that touched me, if I had known before arriving, and to have planned to include these issues, along with educating on pornography & human trafficking while in Jordan.

Honestly, I was surprised at the candidness of some of the topics that were brought up in my conversations when meeting new people. During a visit to a friend's family's house, and uncle in the family, after meeting him, immediately started asking me about American politics, and stating that America went into Iraq to obtain oil, and started to state derogatory things about George W. Bush. This was difficult, as I wasn't expecting such candidness, but the Middle Eastern culture, I learned has political conversations candidly like this during social gatherings, as part of the culture, and is normal during get-togethers. Honestly, I was offended at first, that I would be accused, or that my country would, of being in a war, where thousands of our own soldiers were killed, just to obtain oil. This did make me mad, but I chose the path, to let this individual speak his mind, and I listened, and wasn't as argumentative as I normally would be or defensive, as I was a guest in someone's home and in another country, and thinking back during this reflection, I would have voiced my feelings more, and wanted to express more facts to this individual, so that he would at least hear a different perspective from someone from that country, who put elected officials in place via voting, and having family members that served in the U.S. military, to express that American soldiers, mostly, although, there are corrupt individuals in all countries, but these soldiers put their lives on the line and in great jeopardy to free a country from a dictator, and one who treated women horribly, and whose human rights record was an atrocity, and it disturbed me that there are some who view American actions not as liberating the people who feared a dictator, but that we would enter a country to obtain oil, when we have oil here, and when there are other countries that we could buy oil from and with whom we have great relations with.  I regretted that I wasn't true to my feelings, and didn't speak up as much as I should have for the liberating of Iraq & Afghanistan, and again I realize that something like this could never go perfectly, and something like this, a plan to liberate another country will always have faults, but I would also speak my mind if I could do it over, and express the true heart of the American people, that we have a heart to help the world, that is why we spend billions in doing so, not only through our government, but out of our own pockets through charities and donating to non-profits, but I was surprised and disappointed that some people did not appreciate what was done, for what was meant as a  good intention for the betterment of lives in those countries. 

My experience in Jordan, was terrific. I learned many new things as I have mentioned about new issues that have touched me, and that I will try to do more about in the future, and the surprising views and candidness of some, and the things that I hope to help some local people change, but the Jordanian people are very friendly, and I were gracious hosts to an American girl who came to talk to them about pornography and human trafficking, and I am grateful that this topic angered them as much as it does me, it was quite refreshing to be around so many who view it the same way I do.

Rana Husseini - Murder in the Name of Honor, Nov. 2, 2009

Reflection Journal - Expectations for Service/Experiences While in Jordan

 My time in Jordan, went by so quickly, it is hard at times to unpack everything that occurred, and to truly reflect on every detail of the journey and trip.  The organization I worked with was wonderful, BPWA in Amman, and helped coordinate many presentations for me to give to female Jordanian lawyers on human trafficking and its ties to pornography, allowing me to meet with a fraud investigator who is developing the First Middle Eastern Fraud Forum, and allowing me to meet their members (other Jordanian businesswomen) and share my ideas, information, and listen to their experiences, was all very valuable, along with the enduring friendships that I made there, especially with the BPWA Assistant who I shared an office with, when I was in the office. She is a young Muslim woman, with a caring and genuine heart, and I enjoyed our discussions and looked forward to conversing with her every day. 

Going into the project, I don't think I knew what to expect, or had any pre-conceived ideas of what I would be doing, but it started to develop once I got to Jordan and met with the Executive Director at BPWA. During my time there, I was also able to have several conversations with a female member of Parliament, who is the one who introduced me to BPWA in which she is apart of, and she was most gracious in inviting me to the girls school to speak on human trafficking and pornography to the 12th grade girls at the school, a very memorable, and unforgettable experience. My roommate and I spent several hours with the girls, outside of the lecture, talking to them about what a good female rolemodel is, and looks like and they had questions for us on American celebrities (specifically women who they admired), and we told them that is important that you have good, and decent rolemodels, if you do look up to anyone, and its rare to have that in a celebrity - since they are teenagers, they are heavily influenced by American media, which really amazed me to see the impact of Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, and other younger American female celebrities, and how they have a following worldwide, even in Jordan. 
We wanted to express the importance to the girls, of what a female celebrity does with her body, is very important, and the ones that freely show skin, and not decent when it comes to having respect for themselves, should not be people that they consider a rolemodel and admire.   The girls were very frank, and would let you know that they were big supporters of certain celebrities, and really wanted to have an open dialogue about what they thought of these young American celebrities.  These were great girls, modest girls, and educated young women, and I enjoyed being able to talk with them, and being frank, but I also thought to myself if I ever did adopt, or have kids someday, I never would want my daughter to consider a celebrity a rolemodel. My hope is that I would raise them to respect people that are world changemakers, who care less about fame, and more about the well-being of others and animals. This is what I would want to instill in my children if that was ever to be a part of my life. I would want my daughter to not be concerned about American Hollywood celebrities, but to be interested in the lives and to model the lives of Mother Teresa, Muhammad Yunnus, Somaly Mam especially; those who have dedicated their lives to fighting injustice sometimes even alone and without many resources, and yet, who did it with a smile on their faces, and despite of major threats to their lives-this is heroism. This is to be admired.

I have often felt very alone in the porn fight.  People who don't fight the porn industry, and go against them via campaigns to try to squelch their business, have no idea of the toll it takes on you not only physically, but emotionally.  That is why it is very much like a close knit family those of us who are in the fight, and we stick closer than brothers to each other. Knowing that the porn industry is connected to drug cartels, human trafficking rings, billions of dollars of funding backing them up, its crucial to stay healthy, emotionally and physically, and to take time off, from such a dark arena when needed.  I was so re-energized while in Jordan to meet so many like minded individuals who thought that the porn industry was a travesty, and understood the destruction it causes, even the young people there, such as the girls at the girls school, who clapped loudly and applauded when I told them that The Playboy Club on network television had been shut down, through the efforts of our coalition, the War on Illegal Porn, and all of the members efforts to make this happen. I felt good to be able to deliver news like this to people of the world, to these young Jordanian women, so that they knew there were Americans out there who cared about their well-being, and who wanted no part in the type of trash, that gets sent to them via American hard-core violent and obscene movies and programming. I wanted to report to them, that we were doing what we could to make sure they weren't exposed to such trash, and I felt a little bit of an accomplishment in that, that they would be spared from ever seeing such a trashy show, glorifying a pornographer, whose magazine supports the molestation of children through the cartoons even on its pages.

My expectations of the encounters that I had with Jordanian women were really rewarding, especially with members and those associated with the BPWA. The open dialogues we had with each other, after presentations was great, and open, and collaborative, and I can see that it may lead to future collaborations someday on anti-porn initiatives on a global scale, working with Jordanian lawyers to do what can be done to put pressure on the American government to prosecute pornographers once again. The Jordanian female lawyers I spoke with were so frustrated that the American Embassy refused to do anything about the pornography complaints that they made to the Embassy, and they continually fall on deaf ears.

I think my expectations for what I would be doing with the BPWA were exceeded, and every experience was rewarding. In addition, after the trip and the speaking, and working with Jordanian women, I told the BPWA that I would continue to help them, and develop a social media guide/handbook for their female members, and draft some helpful guides so that they can hand this out to their women, who need to setup and get established on social media, so I look forward to finishing that this summer, and providing those tools to them, for the women to benefit from also.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Honor Killings" - Additional Notes

While I was in Amman, I was briefly able to speak with Rana Husseini, a journalist for The Jordan Times, who has extensively tried to shed light on the travesty and criminal act of "honor" killings, which is based on Jordanian law, Article 340 of the Jordanian penal code, which states, "A husband or a close blood relative who kills a woman caught in a situation highly suspicious of adultery will be totally exempt from sentence." Article 98, meanwhile, guarantees a lighter sentence for male killers of female relatives who have committed an "act which is illicit in the eyes of the perpetrator."  Even if a female family member is rumored to have done something immoral (without any proof) she can be killed by a male family member. If she is seen walking with a man, or even in talking to someone of the opposite sex, her actions could be deemed immoral, and could cause shame upon the family name, thus legally giving any male family member grounds to kill her. Before I first even thought about going to Jordan for my internship, this topic angered and saddened me immensely. I was hoping to make this the main topic I would work on while in Amman, but wasn't able to during this trip.  Although I wasn't able to meet Rana in person, due to short notice and scheduling, it was good to learn more about honor killings, and what has been attempted to try to stop them, or to at least make punishments much harsher for those who commit them, in an attempt, to change behavior among male Jordanian family members who even remotely contemplate such an horrid action.  This is a topic I would like to help with in the future with the social enterprise I start and in perhaps working with Rana and those who have been working on this issue for years, as it breaks my heart. I highly recommend Rana's book, Murder in the Name of Honour, which is an unfathomable open door to a world into the lives of these girls who are murdered brutally by their own family, for a "perceived" immoral act, immoral being subject to whomever chooses to interpret it that way...This should be a world issue of concern, because as Rana explains, it even occurs in the West. Behavior can change, but harsh and extensive consequence must be present in order to bring about that change, and attempts to squash Article 340 of the penal code, have been unsuccessful so far. This topic should be of concern to every female in the world, and will take many females standing together to say "enough is enough, no more."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day #9 & #10

Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship Presentation on Social Enterprises

As part of my work in Jordan, I wanted to make sure that I could spread knowledge on the topic of social entrepreneurship, predominately to those in the younger generation, that would be open to the concept, and engaged around its premise, more so than an older generation that isn’t always at the forefront of leading social entrepreneurs. I gave a basic overview of what social enterprises are, and why they are needed, and tried to motivate the students at Princess Sumaya University, that they can do anything, that they can start anything, and that they themselves can solely change the world, if there was one message in this presentation that I wanted to get across this was it.  One student asked me what social enterprise are you starting? The students in Jordan ask very well thought out questions, I’m continually amazed at all the presentations I’ve done here. I told them about the Gentlemen’s Posse, and they were intrigued to say the least. I could see immediate intrigue on all of their faces though, the thought of a social enterprise that is involved in the rescue of little girls from trafficking, must have been a lot to comprehend. This is the sentiment that I receive, who I tell about the social enterprise, so on the long plane trip home, I began to analyze this response in my mind. Even the students told me, “You must be very careful when you do the rescues, and how will you protect yourself?”  This touched me, that students would be so considerate and concerned about someone who came to speak to them.

I recently read a quote by Steve Jobs, and I guess, I identified more than most people with the quote, that basically states, “watch out for the misfits, the rebels, the people who don’t put up with the status quo..” Perhaps its because I consider that being a rebel for a moral cause, is the utmost dedication you can do with your life and that one should do with their life. To live for a cause greater than yourself, without regard to the consequences. My mother was a private investigator at the age of 18, my family is all formally Navy and Air Force, and I learned how to shoot a gun at the age of 18. When I was a little girl, and my mother would take me to a toy store, I didn’t run to the Barbie or doll section, I immediately jetted for the guns and the GI Joes, much to the mortification of my motherJ, so thinking beyond ourselves to do something greater, for the greater good, and for humanity, is what is required by us. Going to Jordan, perhaps has made me see that the backbone that I’ve been given to start a social enterprise around this issue, which is much needed, is a gift from God, because I firmly believe in the plan that He has for each of us, and that He will protect His children, especially his girls, so there should be no fear, precaution yes, but fear to do what is needed in helping little girls around the world, no.  This isn’t a decision, it’s a must. That’s the problem that I don’t think people realize, while they are enjoying their everyday business, going to school, going to work, there are little girls around the world, as young as age 6, who are having to perform sexual acts for men around the world! Does this not disgust anyone to the core of their being I continually thought during my time in Jordan. How can anyone go about their daily routine, knowing this? I know I can’t. Its always on my mind, and from what I see unfortunately, it will be up to the big girls of the world, to help rescue and support financially the rescue of the little girls around the world. I don’t see too many men being sick to their stomach about this, in fact, they are the customers that have made this situation as bad as it is, creating a demand for the trafficking of little girls across the world, and frankly, this angers me to the core. So I go with my original premise, as I did with starting GAP, to gather the girls of the world, to do something collectively about this problem. My conversations with people worldwide, have expressed great concern, even from friends who are in the fight themselves, and has even made me to believe that there is greater danger in this arena, than I even thought, and even more connections between the mob, organized crime, money laundering through banks, and how it is all tied to human trafficking. But the people of the world, especially the big girls, must stand up and say enough is enough, we won’t tolerate the abuse of children by men and traffickers anymore, and do whatever it takes to put them out of business. I believe more strongly then ever, that this must be my mission, and to fulfill it through the social enterprise. To inspire young people and the youth, we must show them that they have to have a backbone, to be able to persevere with the passion that lives inside of them, if we go to our graves, without every releasing what was inside of us, I believe this is the greatest travesty of all.  Many of the students at Princess Sumaya University came up to me and told me their ideas for a social business, and one male student mentioned to me what he was doing to help orphans in Jordan, and they inspired me to do better, to help more people, to have an untainted view once again that there is good in humanity.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day #7 & #8 - Amman, Jordan

Yesterday, we traveled to the Dead Sea for a Christmas Day dinner, and it was a terrific experience. On the way there, it was raining in Amman, but the closer we got to the Dead Sea, the warmer it got, the fog lifted and the rain disappeared. We discussed it perhaps as a sign that God was happy that it was Christmas Day, and at the Dead Sea, he was sending the good weather just at the Dead Sea as a sign or statementJ.  We had a wonderful buffet lunch at the Movenpick right above the shore of the Dead Sea. I’ve never seen a location/resort/spa so beautiful as this one. To relax, this would be the place to be to just unwind and decompress in numerous relaxation pools. Probably over 10+ relaxation pools, and healing salt pools from salt water. I got to feel the water, and it is very oily, and I can see why these products are used on a large scale for the benefit of skin and hair condition. Upon entry you are given Arabic tea, a very sweet and herbal tea, which is very flavorful, and Arabic coffee, which was very nice and intense also.  We were given an extensive tour, which was very gracious of the guard at the spa, who was dressed in traditional Jordanian cultural dress. This resort and spa is magnificent, and there really are no words to describe. On the way to the dinner, we saw many camels on the side of the road, which was neat to see, and I’ve included pictures of several-I have never seen one so close before.  The Jordanian culture is such a giving culture, especially concerning guests, I am thoroughly so warmed and welcomed by the graciousness and giving to make sure I have paid for food, drinks, and such genuine concern with how else I can be assisted by the people, it is so gracious and kind. Shadi’s family who treated me as a guest, we so generous, and I am very appreciative.  I have never experienced a culture so giving to guests and that show such hospitality, it is so admirable, and I aim to adjust my personal hospitality to do the same, when I have company and guests, it is so inviting, and really makes guests feel so welcomed, as people to go extensively out of their way to make sure you are having a good time, and are provided with everything.  I am also told, “you are always welcome here in Jordan,” which to be honest, I was not expecting, and is so comforting for me to hear. I’ve been very touched. This Christmas Day, I will always remember fondly.

I met with the gentleman who will be organizing the Middle East fraud forum in 2013, for another discussion on the topic, and asked how I may assist, perhaps in a panel discussion at the forum in 2013, or in perhaps engaging American professors to let them know that the forum will take place in the Middle East, and to see if they would like to attend we discussed. He is interested to have the collaboration within academic American universities and with professors being involved, because as I stated before America does not train our college auditors, accountants, and future fraud professionals well at the academic levels or at all in fraud prevention and detection, there is little training in fraud in universities if any, as is the same in the Middle East universities, and I strongly agree with his approach in wanting to change this in both regions. We need strong young leaders, who are equipped to detect, prevent, and prosecute fraud and corruption, with steel backbones. Sometimes there will have to go up against executives double their age, to audit them, and investigate them, this is not easy to do this, when dealing with a high level and even C-Suite executive, you must be trained and know what you are doing, and it is incredibly stressful for someone ½ the age, investigating a senior level executive, talking about this, made me remember those days, they were very trying personally. Fraud and corruption shouldn’t be allowed in governments or the private sector in any country, and perhaps its up to us with the anti-fraud experience to be the champions for this through education and higher training standards, through massive education, and in writing articles and case studies, and being the fire-starters for change. I hope to be able to assist how I can in the future and with my own personal contacts that may assist.  Fraud fighters in the Middle East need to be supported fully. 

I also met a member of the BPWA today, and she mentioned how she works with Jordanian youth at universities speaking about entrepreneurship & business, and she inquired more about social entrepreneurship, when she heard why I was here in Amman.  She relayed to me that there are many Jordanian young people who want to start businesses, and want to do something to help the world, but many have never thought about combining the two concepts into one; something we call “social entrepreneurship” and “social enterprise” in America and Europe, but there isn’t much knowledge of the concept here in the Middle East. Her thought was that the university students would love to hear more about social entrepreneurship through a presentation, similar to the one I’m providing to the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship on Wednesday now.  She was very interested in this topic, and wanted to learn more, so I will be keeping in contact with her, and sending my presentation to her, so that perhaps I can assist further in this area in the future, even beyond leaving Jordan. I haven’t heard anything about any social enterprises in Jordan yet that do exist, so it will be very interesting to see how the topic gains momentum in the Middle East, and it is my hope that many students will be interested and will start their own social enterprises in the future, and that the fire will start in their local communities and then globally to effect change, by learning about the concept; a concept that many young people with a passion to help the world are very excited about, when they hear about it for the first time.

Social Enterprise Presentation: