Sunday, October 9, 2011

cause us privileged people that can read and access a computer have a responsibility to give a damn - The girl effect

UN food distribution center. Somalia
I saw this video a while back. I was flabbergasted  (do you even spell it like that?) I knew already everything that was in it. I do this for a living. What really shocked me was how simple  they had managed to make the message.  So simple and in-your-face that it was impossible to ignore. 

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. 

There are a lot of fights still pending. The developed countries do a lot of preaching, but the reality is that when everything has been said and done, there is usually a lot more said than done. You'd be surprised to see that indigenous women  in some mountain in Colombia are fighting for some the same things that we are: like equal pay and equal opportunity. I certainly was.

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:
Drawing by the princess
When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more
years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2
fewer children.
(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,”
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.

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