Month: January 2013

The Lost Daughters

I have now spent three weeks in India. It has been three weeks of an endless number of impressions, which have made me feel both inspired and frustrated, sometimes at the same time. The main reason for that is because of all the women’s activists I have met who are dedicated to change the future for the small girls of the nation. Because if it doesn’t change, there won’t be many girls left in India. Sex-selective abortion is illegal in India but widely common. A daughter is far too often considered to be a burden and is therefore aborted in favor of a son. Why? Lack of education is usually the answer to most of the problems we are facing in the world (“If people only knew how to read / take care of their garbage / have a good health”) but female feticide seems to have other explanations. In Goa, one of the states in India with the highest standard of living and literacy rates, there are only 920 girls per 1000 boys in …

Measuring Inequality: The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women compose 43 percent of the global agricultural labor force.  In less developed countries, where large portions of the population live in rural areas, the majority of the agricultural workforce is often female.  Unfortunately, the employment of women in the agricultural sector does not necessarily equate to female empowerment, as many lack land rights, benefits or access to financial assistance normally reserved for their male counterparts (i.e. loans or microloans).  In order to gain a better understanding of women’s empowerment in agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) partnered with USAID’s Feed the Future and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) to launch the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI). You might be wondering, is it really that important to measure women’s empowerment in agriculture? The answer to that question is an astounding YES.  Food insecurity due to climate change is a very real and pressing issue. Around the world, food prices are rising as farmers – many of whom are women – find …

Get Water! A Mobile Game that Advocates for Change

Water. It is the essence of life on Earth. Humans can only survive three to five days without it and unfortunately, in many parts of the world, accessing enough water is a daily struggle. Nearly one billion people around the globe lack access to water, causing particular strife for those in charge of its collection – women and girls.  In only one day, women around the world spend over 200 million work hours collecting water for their families. For women and girls living in these communities, going to school is often considered a luxury, as they are needed at home to gather water.  Without access to a proper education, many women grow up only to repeat the cycle of poverty as those who preceded them.  However, one gaming organization is working to creatively advocate for change. Decode Global, a mobile game developer specializing in social change, has created “Get Water!” to raise public awareness about how women are affected by water scarcity.  Partnering with organizations such as Unicef Canada, Women for Water, and Coca-Cola Support …

CEDAW: Ending Violence Against Women

“Gender equality must become a lived reality.” -Michelle Bachelet The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) began on January 18 and will go until February 5. CEDAW is an international agreement that “affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world” (CEDAW 2013). This agreement establishes an agenda for how to overcome discrimination of women and girls in countries around the world. It was originally adopted in 1979 and the UN holds as many meetings as are necessary to meet its objectives. To date, 187 out of 194 countries have ratified the treaty. The United States is one of those countries that has not ratified this treaty. The purpose of CEDAW is to: Reduce sex trafficking & domestic violence Provide access to education & vocational training Ensure the right to vote End forced marriage & child marriage & ensure inheritance rights Help mothers and families by providing access to maternal health care Ensure the right to work & own a business without discrimination I was so excited to …

Her Community, Our Community

I think one of the most important and indeed one of the most powerful components of girls’ and women’s empowerment is unity. It’s not about succeeding individually or collecting individual accomplishments, but progressing together as a worldwide community of girls and women. Many of our assertions of promoting girls’ education often claim that education for women not only affects women themselves, but more significantly communities at large. In 2007, Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the 4th annual Women’s Parliament Conference in Cape Town, Africa promoted girls’ education by saying that when we “educate a woman, you educate a nation” (1). In Girls’ Globe blogger Elisabeth Jessop’s recent post, she similarly acclaimed similar sentiments that when you “educate a woman [you] build a nation”.  Why are we asserting that the education of a woman is equivalent to the education of a nation? Here’s the answer: By providing education opportunities for women in our communities, we are in essence building our communities as a whole. We are choosing awareness, opportunity, and enlightenment over ignorance for our citizens. We are showing that we believe in the …

Maternal Mortality: Progress and Potential in Nigeria

When it comes to achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 – reducing maternal mortality ratio by 75 percent and granting universal access to reproductive health by 2015 – Nigeria is fighting an uphill battle. Here are some quick facts to illustrate just how staggering maternal healthcare (or lack thereof) is in Nigeria: Nigeria is currently ranked among the top ten most dangerous countries for a woman to give birth, placed alongside Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia and Sudan. In 2010, approximately 40,000 women passed away giving birth and another 1 to 1.6 million suffered serious disabilities related to their pregnancy and/or childbirth. Data from The World Health Organization suggests that 630 of every 100,000 childbirths result in a maternal death. Nigerian women face a 1 in 29 chance of dying from childbirth whereas the average risk throughout Sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 39.  (The risk in developed countries is as low as 1 in 3,800.) To clarify: 14 percent of all maternal deaths in the world occur in Nigeria. However, not all hope is lost.  Abiye and Saving Lives at …

Educate a Woman, Build a Nation

Lately, I have been thinking of the many opportunities I have been given for education. I am so blessed. I will be starting graduate school soon. Education has never been a question for me. I always knew I would graduate high school, learn another language (or two), attend a university, and even go to Graduate school. For so many others, this is not the case. Don’t take education for granted. There is an extreme lack of educational opportunity among women in other countries, namely developing countries. I think about my mom in India, Laxmi, and her desire to learn, to be educated, but her desires are muffled by the needs of her family. I think about the sweet women I met in Mali who have never known the value of education; they have never known anything beyond feeding their children, selling good at the market, and cleaning their homes. I think about these girls in the small village of Kouri, Mali, who, in between bouts of broken French told me… They wanted nothing more than to …

Education and Health: A Sisterhood

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, remarked in an address at the Millenium Development Goals Summit in 2010 that “education and health are a mutually-reinforcing sisterhood.” (1) I stop and think about this quote often and am at times a bit confused by the connection. What is it about education that is so empowering for women (and really anyone in general) so as to result in drastic improvements in health? What is it that links the two together? The strongest bridge between education and health is what is widely known as consciencization, a phrased coined by Paolo Friere, an influential Brazilian educator and philosopher. Conscientization is defined by the Freire Institution as the “process of developing a critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action, [in which] action is fundamental because it is the process of changing the reality.” In simpler terms, conscientization brings about a “state of mind” in an individual, a proactive awareness of the opportunities that life has to offer and the viability and tangibility of those opportunities. Empowering …

Google+ Hangout with Nicholas, Somaly and Rachel to discuss Slavery and Sex Trafficking

Thank you for following our Google+ hangout with @NickKristof, @GEMSGIRLS' @rachelgems2, @SomalyMam & @FreedomCenter's @lukeblocher! — Half the Sky Mvmt (@Half) January 10, 2013 Today some of us at Girls’ Globe joined the Google+ Hangout with New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof, GEMS founder Rachel Lloyd and Cambodian anti-trafficking advocate Somaly Mam. The topic of discussion was modern-day slavery and sex trafficking and was moderated by Luke Blocher from The Freedom Center. The group discussed domestic sex trafficking, factors contributing to the international sex trade and ways to help combat the problem, from high-level to grassroots actors. Regarding what governments and state actors can do, Nicholas spoke about the importance of ending impunity. In most places there are laws in place that should protect trafficked victims and victims of sex slavery, the problem is that these laws are not being enforced. He mentioned the importance of putting pressure on governments to ensure that laws are followed and enforced. One example of this is Naming and Shaming. Through international shame, governments feel pressured to make a change, and this can …