Friday, October 11, 2013

The International Day of the Girl

I love documentaries.

Girl Rising is a doc directed by Oscar-recipient Richard Robbins that takes 9 girls from 9 countries and pairs them with 9 actresses -- Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Chloe Moretz, Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep and Kerry Washington -- to narrate their incredible life stories.

The cold, hard facts about girls and education in Pakistan are abysmal. Clearly Malala Yousafzai had -- and still has -- a massively huge fight on her hands. This begs the question: what about the rest of the world?

Girls are denigrated, devalued and neglected in a myriad of ways, all over the world.  They have an especially hard way to go in part because many cultures believe that daughters will marry and leave but sons will remain in the family.  To their way of thinking, it's important for boys to be educated so they can get good jobs. Girls should know how to cook and clean, to prepare them for the husbands and children -- and that mother-in-law -- that they'll eventually have to take care of and the household they'll have to run. And that's that.

I'm sorry but to my ears, that sounds like a Southern way of life.  More on that some other time.

 In over 100 countries, you have to pay for your children to attend school. If you're in sub-Saharan Africa and you have a boy and a girl with only enough money for one child, guess who gets to go? 

Not only are girls valued as hard workers around the house and in the fields, they also fetch a high price as virgin child brides -- the younger they are, the more money they bring (probably because their virginity is insured). Fourteen million girls get married worldwide every year. That's over 38,000 girls every day -- or if you prefer, 13 girls in the last 30 seconds. Some of them are as young as 11 years old.  The story of Nujood -- married off at the age of nine to a man more than three times her age and raped on her wedding night -- pretty much sums it up. Not surprisingly, the number one cause of death in the world for girls from 15 - 19 is childbirth.

Stats here at home in the USA aren't as great as you might think.  We have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the developed world.  Over 50% of Native American girls, 4 out of 10 Latinas, and 4 out of 10 girls of color do not complete their education.

Anyone that thinks that focusing on what girls so desperately need somehow takes anything away from what boys are already getting doesn't really understand the enormity of the problem.

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