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October 11, 2012 / mommy brain

Girl Power

Me as a little girl in Poland, solving some calculations in my spare time.

Today was the International Day of the Girl. Coincidently, I started my day over coffee with a young college student who reached out to me because she has an interest in working on start-ups. She was bright, ambitious and oh so lucky to be an American college student going after her dreams.

I am reading a book entitled “Half the Sky.” I am not done with it, but it has already opened my eyes to the magnitude of the injustices endured by girls around the world. Did you know that approximately 3 million women and girls worldwide are currently enslaved in the sex trade? These girls are bought or kidnapped and forced into commercial sex work which they are not paid for against their will.  Did you know that more women are enslaved annually at brothels now than Africans were enslaved and forced to work on plantations annually during the 18th century?

I did not know these numbers were so high. The truth is a girl born in North America or Europe is very lucky. Her basic needs will likely be taken care of, and she’ll be given at least some opportunity to go to school, and if she’s ambitious, she’s likely to have some chance to go after her dreams. If born elsewhere, however, she may not have the chance to do much at all. While reading Half the Sky, I’ve learned that parts of China have a ratio of about 130 boys to 100 girls under the age of four due to disproportionate levels of baby girl abortions and disproportionate baby girl mortality rates caused by a societal preference for sons over daughters. Not only is a baby girl in China more likely to be aborted, she’s more likely to die as a baby because her parents don’t care to take care of her basic needs. And I learned that in India and Pakistan, thousands of women are murdered or horrifically injured each year as a result of “bride burnings.”

I’m not very far into the book, but I’m writing about it today, on the Day of the Girl, because I feel strongly about the empowerment of women, and I feel that the prevalence of horrific crimes against girls deserves the attention of those of us lucky to live far from a world where such crimes are widely accepted as societal norms.

The book also outlines why giving girls access to education reduces poverty levels for everyone, and so it’s not just the right thing to do morally, it’s the most effective way to improve the lives of all inhabitants in any community.

Here I am upset when I hear that a professional woman earns 10% less than her male counterparts, but I can’t imagine explaining to a girl enslaved in a brothel why I’m upset about the fact that a dude got the promotion I deserved. I’m not saying the gender inequality in this country is not important to fight because it absolutely is, but I do wish girls around the world had the kind of opportunities, as imperfect as they are, we have in the Western world.

You can read about the Half the Sky movement and the book as well as real ways to help here:

http://www.halftheskymovement.org

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One Comment

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  1. Tamra Johnson / Oct 12 2012 3:05 PM

    Hey Katie – I’m reading that book as well, and have been planning to write a post on it too! It does really put things in perspective – how fortunate we (and most of our family/friends) are for having been born and raised where we are. I think it’s also mind boggling to think of how being born one gender can be such a determinant of your future for soooo many girls and women.

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