I was recently discussing with a colleague (a father of 4) that there is a new law which requires changing stations in both men’s and women’s bathrooms in certain buildings. He laughed because he couldn’t believe there was an enforceable law in place. Then he started to reminisce about changing his children’s diapers on his lap, the trunk of the car, and the hood—yes, the hood! (And, no, the car wasn’t running or hot.)
As a parent, this is a challenge of which I’m familiar. While dining, traveling, and shopping, I’ve been lucky enough to score a bathroom with changing facilities, but I’ve also met my fair share of those lacking this much appreciated modern-day convenience. For dads, they have it worse due to the absence of changing tables in men’s restrooms. I’ve seen my husband frustrated by the lack of compassion for diaper bag-toting parents.
I’m pleased to report on October 7th, President Obama signed a bill into law requiring changing stations to be available in the men’s and women’s restrooms of public federal buildings. The Congress.gov website states changing facilities should be “…physically safe, sanitary, and appropriate” for use. The new law titled ‘The Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES Act)’ is not fancy sounding, but who cares!?
I was surprised when I learned a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives agreed to the bill before being unanimously passed in the Senate. Many are praising this law, although there are those who feel the law doesn’t do enough and that it’s just a small step toward equality. I say it’s a positive start! Let’s celebrate the small victories. (Parents, I know you are silently applauding while reading this.)
Let’s face it, fathers have been dealing with the woes of changing diapers when out in public while harnessing their inner MacGyver, but oftentimes that means changing your little one on dirty floors, unsanitary countertops and car trunks. And for the women who have endured similar moments using their lap and passenger seat to get the job done, I would bet they are also in favor of all businesses installing changing stations in the restroom. At least designate one as family friendly, equipped with a changing table, turning a “unisex” restroom into an all-ages appropriate facility.
We often talk in the context of men versus women, but what about rethinking bathrooms in terms of family-friendly or child-friendly? Let’s think about who really has the disadvantage here—why are we discriminating against youngsters when it comes to providing basic needs in a public setting?
The full language of the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation or Babies Act can be viewed here https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5147
—Marra Chinn Allen, Marketing Coordinator & Office Manager
YES, SLAVERY STILL EXISTS...
Do you know there are presently an estimated 21 million slaves around the world? This staggering number comes from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Known as modern slavery, victims are trapped in some sort of enslavement, be it domestic servitude, forced labor, child labor, or sex trafficking. To be clear, human trafficking can include, but does not require movement. It’s also not isolated to a specific country or region of the world; it’s a global problem. And according to Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest international human rights organization, “women are forced into prostitution, and both children and adults are forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, or factories and sweatshops producing goods for global supply chains; entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts; or girls forced to marry older men, the illegal practice still blights the contemporary world.”
Perhaps you have an idea of what being enslaved means, but in truth, slavery is defined by men, women and children who are: mentally or physically threatened to work, owned, or controlled by an ‘employer’ through various methods of abuse, dehumanized or treated as a commodity through being bought or sold, and/or physically constrained or having restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
On its website, the U.S. Department of State also identifies “child soldiering as a manifestation of human trafficking when it involves the unlawful recruitment or use of children – through force, fraud, or coercion – by armed forces as combatants or other forms of labor.” You probably heard of this as a common tactic used by extremist groups (ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram), paramilitary organizations, and rebel groups worldwide. The U.S. Department of State goes on to say “many children are forcibly abducted to be used as combatants while others are made to work as porters, cooks, guards, messengers and spies. It’s extremely common for both female and male children to be sexually abused by commanders and male soldiers.”
It’s important to raise awareness about modern slavery and to recognize a victim when you see one. Preyed upon, victims are often desperate to earn money, escape an unstable and abusive environment, and seek refuge for a better life. They are commonly promised payment, transportation, and freedom in exchange for their labor. We must educate our children and citizens, arming them with opportunity and a chance to prosper. We, in turn, can help people to protect themselves against deceitful “recruiting” methods through community engagement at the grassroots level and offering educational programs. Our united goal of eliminating castes and gender inequality should also be a priority as is working with organizations aimed at eliminating slavery.
I would hope in my lifetime slavery would cease to exist. I am an optimist and know the reality of that happening anytime soon is being wishful. Now I’m asking myself, what can I do to help make a difference.
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—Marra Allen, Marketing Coordinator & Office Manager