|UN food distribution center. Somalia|
I'm a feminist. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I don't care how out of use or abused the word is, I believe that men and women are, like the t-shirts in Thailand put it, "same same, but different". I believe in the beauty of that difference, but I think it would be irresponsible for privileged women to ignore the abuse and disadvantages that most of our ... sisters? .. live under. And by the way, if you are reading this, you have access to a computer AND you can read, so you are already a part of that privileged group.
But even those women are fortunate. They are fighting, that means they have a voice, that means that someone, at some point in their life taught them that, and that is already more than many women (girls) have.
One of my most traumatic experiences was reading "The road of lost Innocence" by Somali Mam. Somali is a brave Cambodian woman that was sold into prostitution by her uncle at the age of 13. She survived, and by taking in one girl at a time founded an organization that helps other girls escape and survive that same experience. She tells her story in a brave book. Nothing I didn't already know, but to read it told in first person rather than in cold statistics. To read it while living in Cambodia and holding my new born daughter..... your heart breaks a little.
My mother often asks me why I went back to work after my children were born. She asks why I put myself in harms way when I have two small children at home that need me, that only have me, that would never be able to replace me. The answer is simple: I can't know what is happening and ignore it. I just can't. More so now because I have children of my own and all the statistics have become personal. Those girls are no different from my girl.
So here are some sobering statistics behind the so-called girl effect:
When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more
years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2
(United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990.)
An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages
by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school:
15 to 25 percent.
(George Psacharopoulos and Harry Anthony Patrinos, “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further
Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881[Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002].)
Research in developing countries has shown a consistent relationship
between better infant and child health and higher
levels of schooling among mothers.
(George T. Bicego and J. Ties Boerma, “Maternal Education and Child Survival: A Comparative
Study of Survey Data from 17 Countries,” Social Science and Medicine 36 (9) [May 1993]:
When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90 percent
of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40
percent for a man.
(Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)
Out of the world’s 130 million out-of-school youth,
70 percent are girls.
(Human Rights Watch, “Promises Broken: An Assessment of Children’s Rights on the 10th Anniversary
of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” www.hrw.org/campaigns/crp/promises/education.
html [December 1999].)
Wondering how you can help? it's the girl effect blogging week. Write a post, or just share this one or one of the others posts written by other bloggers you like with your friends. Get the word out. In the words of Steve Jobs "Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."
Unfortunately it seems that Somali Mam's story might have been somewhat.... made up. the sobering fact remains that thousands of women (and boys) are sold into prostitution every year.