Today we celebrate girls around the world for International Day of the Girl. In 2012 the U.N. declared October 11th as The International Day of The Girl. In 2016 Girls and women are still dispropotionately facing discrimination, oppression, and subjugation around the world but a shift is underway. With girls and women figured prominently into the Sustainable Development Goals as SDG 5, Gender Equality, the world seems to be waking up to the fact that it is a problem to leave half the population behind. To educate a girl, is to educate a community, when girls are excluded from the education process, a nation is cheated out of half of its full potential.
“Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.” – United Nations
Here are some facts from the UN:
About two thirds of countries in the developing regions have achieved gender parity in primary education
In Southern Asia, only 74 girls were enrolled in primary school for every 100 boys in 1990. By 2012, the enrolment ratios were the same for girls as for boys.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and Western Asia, girls still face barriers to entering both primary and secondary school.
Women in Northern Africa hold less than one in five paid jobs in the non-agricultural sector. The proportion of women in paid employment outside the agriculture sector has increased from 35 per cent in 1990 to 41 per cent in 2015
In 46 countries, women now hold more than 30 per cent of seats in national parliament in at least one chamber.
Only with equality can a community truly rise to its full potential. Girl are our future, and today we celebrate all girls around the world.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
“My grandmother told me that a woman is like the neck and the man is the head,” my student said. “Important but supportive.” The rest of the students in my class on “Global Women Writers” nodded their head in agreement. None of the students is from the same country—in fact, their nationalities pretty much span the globe—but apparently they’d all been given similar sorts of instructions. One girl had been told that she should plan on being an accountant because it would be easy to quit when she got married; another girl said that her mother worried that her brains were going to be threatening to her potential husband.
The list of readings is longer than what I have listed here—we will go to India, New Zealand, Egypt, Nigeria, and the UAE before the term is over—but the students have already noticed a pattern. No matter where we are in time and space, we find variations on the same theme: lack of access. Lack of access to money, education, safety, autonomy—the particulars may change, but always the obstacles seem rooted in the material reality of being female, and how the category of “woman” has been valued (or devalued) through the course of human history.
Sor Juana joined a convent so that she could pursue her studies instead of being forced into marriage and motherhood; Jane Eyre famously declared that women “feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint … precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings…”
“I love Jane,” exclaimed one student when we read that passage in the novel. “It’s like she’s speaking to me!” When students respond to ideas in the course, I am always delighted, but in this instance, I had to pause.
What does it mean that the struggles of an early 19th century heroine still resonate with a 21st century reader? I know, of course, that men struggle with feeling limited in their choices—as I remind my students, “gender” is something everyone has (although I’ve noticed that when students talk about “gender roles” they mostly talk about women). All the same, however, wouldn’t you have thought that by 2015, we would laugh at the attitudes Jane complains about because they seem so old-fashioned? Instead we experience a flash of recognition that in Jane’s world, as in our own, society insists on placing boundaries around women’s lives.
When I proposed teaching this course, a colleague asked why I had to specify “women.” She wondered why I didn’t just teach a course called “The Global Novel” or something like that. It’s a reasonable question, I suppose, but I think the answer connects, in a way, to why the United Nations decided, two years ago, to declare 11 October the International Day of the Girl: “Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights.” (Click here to see how World Moms Blog celebrated this day.)
Don’t get me wrong – I am the mother of two boys (and no daughters) and while I know that my sons face gender-related struggles, I also know (because I was once a girl, and am now verging on “crone”) that men have not been as systematically pushed to the margins of history. It’s why we have “Secretary Day,” in the U.S., rather than “CEO Day.” We create formal occasions to notice those who would otherwise be silenced, overlooked.
I teach “Global Women’s Writing” because we live in a world where “woman” gets all too easily pushed out of the picture. Ironically, I teach the course in hopes that one day I won’t need to. Perhaps my students–our children–will inherit a world where we don’t need “International Day of the Girl” or a course in “women” writers. Do you think we’ll ever get there?
This post is original to the World Moms’ Blog. Deborah Quinn occasionally blogs at mannahattamamma.com and writes a regular column for The National, the English-language paper of the UAE. Her most recent column can be found here.
After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.
This past Sunday, we celebrated International Day of The Girl on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter by sharing photos of our contributors’ daughters and what they dream of being when they grow up. (See their pictures at the end of this post!) So for our World Voice column today, we found it fitting to share a story of an amazing girl who defied the odds and later became one of our World Moms Blog contributors…read on!
There was once a little girl who grew up in a slum. This little girl would go to school in the morning without breakfast and would come back from school not expecting lunch. By the age of 11 she had no friends because they had all been married off. This little girl grew up in an area where education was not seen as important. At 14 she was mocked for being old maid not married.
This little girl wanted one thing in life, TO BE EDUCATED!
She had seen that those with education rode cars and lived in big houses. This little girl used to read so much and wanted the life she read of in books. She wanted to travel the world. She wanted to do many things. She did not allow her present circumstances determine her life. In other words she dared to dream.
Her parents couldn’t understand her big dreams. She was told she wouldn’t succeed much in life because she was not hardworking. She wasn’t much good at cooking, washing, sweeping and she always questioned everything. Who would marry you? No man would marry you if you cannot do domestic chores. She was always told, and she would always reply there are machines to do all that. This little girl read and read, and read.
Today she is living her dream because she dared to dream. You, too, can dare to dream. Do not allow someone’s else’s opinion of you become your reality. Allow yourself the opportunity to be the best that you can be. Give yourself a chance to excel, and the question I ask is WHY NOT YOU?
That little girl is all grown up and writing this article. I AM THE LITTLE GIRL THAT DARED TO DREAM.
If I could dream those dreams so many years ago why can’t you? I never thought of being a girl as a burden, and I still don’t. And no matter what anyone said, I knew I was born to shine in this world, and it was my duty to fulfil that destiny.
As a young girl you have all that it takes to be the greatest, and I wished someone had told me that years ago. I would have wished for so much, and dared for so much.
The greatest disservice you can do to yourself is selling yourself short of your potentials. Never, ever do that. Go for what you desire, and anyone that says you can’t, take great pleasure in proving them wrong. You are strong, bold, and the best. Accept yourself for who you are and never give anyone the power to hurt you.
No one can hurt you without your permission, and no one can make you feel less without your permission.
Be a voice for the voiceless girl. Be a name for the nameless girl, and be the face of the faceless girl. At the end of the day we have to stand for each other and by each other. It’s #GirlPower, and we dare to dream.
This is an original post written by Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria for World Moms Blog.
Photo credit to Jennifer Burden.
Here are some of the daughters of our #WorldMoms who shared their dreams for #DayofTheGirl
Today marks the first-ever International Day of the Girl, a day in which organizations and individuals around the world will collaborate to hold events and a global conversation in effort to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls. (Watch the official video here.)
Globally, more than 600 million girls live in the developing world and of that number, 77.6 million girls are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education. This is a huge problem which has significant repercussions on not only girls but the economy and well-being of society as a whole. (more…)
Third Eye Mom is a stay-at-home mom living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her two children Max (6) and Sophia (4). Her children keep her continually busy and she is constantly amazed by the imagination, energy and joy of life that they possess! A world wanderer at heart, she has also been fortunate to have visited over 30 countries by either traveling, working, studying or volunteering and she continues to keep on the traveling path.
A graduate of French and International Relations from the University of Wisconsin Madison, where she met her husband Paul, she has always been a Midwest gal living in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. This adventurous mom loves to be outside doing anything athletic (hiking, running, biking, skiing, snowshoeing or simply enjoying nature), to travel and volunteer abroad, to write, and to spend time with her beloved family and friends.
Her latest venture involves her dream to raise enough money on her own to build and open a brand-new school in rural Nepal, and to teach her children to live compassionately, open-minded lives that understand different cultures and the importance of giving back to those in need. Third Eye Mom believes strongly in the value of making a difference in the world, no matter how small it may be. If there is a will, there is a way, and that anything is possible (as long as you set your heart and mind to it!).
Visit her on her blog, Thirdeyemom, where she writes about her travels and experiences in other lands!