Thursday, March 8, 2012

Call To Action: Be the Change

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate YOU and all of your amazingness but I also want to go a bit deeper. I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on social change especially women’s rights. When I visited India I saw firsthand how privileged we are but I didn’t see the whole picture. Melody from Brave Girls Club had called out on Facebook recently about reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn) for an upcoming book club. I had just finished another book so I downloaded Half the Sky and dove in. Wow. It has opened my eyes to things I have been blinded to for so long.

Women hold up half the sky. ~Chinese Proverb

There are a number of misogynistic acts committed against women in third world countries. Crimes so unfathomable that even law enforcement officers these girls and women seek for help return them back to their abusers. Or even cause harm too. Even worse is their own families who should love and protect them are the ones causing them the most harm.

Here's a list of some of the horrific crimes against girls and women that I read about in Half the Sky that are a daily occurrence in many areas, especially remote villages:

- Manipulation and intimidation into prostitution, generally young girls
- Crimes against mother's for bearing a daughter instead of a son or against the baby for being a girl
- Girls traded, kidnapped, or coerced into a brothel who then suffer humiliation, raped, beaten, and drugged until their will is broken as is their self-esteem
- Passing on the legend that AIDS can be cured by sex with a virgin causing young girls to be kidnapped (Asia and Africa)
- Gang-raping women to humiliate them into suicide. “They don’t even need to use their weapons. Rape kills her.”
- Honor killings – a family kills one of their own generally due to suspected loss of viginity (Pakistan)
- Men who pick their future wife but doesn’t have dowry or doesn’t feel her family will accept him, he has the girl kidnapped, rapes her so that she is “ruined” and they can be forced to marry him (Ethiopia)
- Acid attacks
- Genital mutilation
- Maternal mortality – fistulas, birthing too young so hips aren’t wide enough for baby to delivery vaginally, obstructed labor, and lack of medical care during pregnancy and childbirth
- Lack of availability of medical care, family planning/birth control, and condoms to prevent HIV transmission

While sex trafficking is a known problem this isn’t all inclusive because girls aren’t always transported over vast distance or across an international border. Sometimes they're traded by middle men right within their country's borders. Slaves is a more appropriate term. Modern day slaves.

The calculation of the number of modern slaves is difficult due “in part because sex workers can’t be divided neatly into categories of those working voluntarily and those working involuntarily. Some commentators look at prostitutes and see only sex slaves; others see only entrepreneurs. But in reality there are some in each category and many other women who inhabit a gray zone between freedom and slavery.”

Given the multiple theories and studies, the biggest return on investment and greatest rewards can be reaped by investing in the education of girls. Empowering girls is the missing piece to the puzzle. When girls are uneducated, a low-caste peasant’s society tends to look the opposite direction.

Laws rarely matter in poor countries so the effort of trying to change unjust laws is not necessarily beneficial. Arrests aren't always necessary. A few changes can create enough of a ripple effect for the message to be conveyed. Changing culture, building schools, educating girls, and assisting grassroots movements are more practical.

It's possible that educating and empowering girls can also lead to disempowering terrorists.

Conclusion – Invest in girls and women!

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Here’s the best part of all this saddening talk – what you can do to help:

1) Support organizations like who help women with microfinance loans (on Day 6 & 7 of RAOK Week I shared how I support Kiva).

2) Support grassroots organizations especially those who help build schools and educate girls:
+ - you can choose a grassroots project to support
+ American Assistance for Cambodia - fights trafficking and subsidizes school for girls
+ Apne Aap - works in remote areas that most organizations neglect, battles sex slavery in India
+ Central Asia Institute - if you’ve read Three cups of Tea then you’re familiar with this organization run by Greg Mortenson providing education in Pakistan and Afghanistan
+ A listing of reputable aid groups are available here

3) Sponsor a girl. I use Mother Miracle (shared on Day 3 of RAOK Week) but there’s also World Vision, Plan International, and Women for Women International.

4) For more information on actions you can take to help visit World Pulse, Women’s News, and the CARE Action Network.

*quotes are from Half the Sky.


I’m sure most of you heard about Kony 2012 since it's been on every social media outlet the last few days. While not a women’s issue per say, it’s still a cause that can’t be ignored. Visit Invisible Children to learn more on stopping Joseph Kony and LRA’s forced boy soldiers. 

1) There’s so many ways to help but you MUST watch the video first. 

2) Sign the pledge to support Kony 2012 here.

3) If you feel called to donate to support the cause that can be done at Invisible Children and/or you can show your support in the Invisible Children Store

4) Cover the Night on April 20th at sundown (see video for more info).

I first learned about Kony 2012 from Kind Over Matter. Love Infinitely has a great write-up for you to better understand this mission and ways to help.

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