Editor’s Note: The following is a repost from Melissa Sharman of Dusty Highways. She wrote it beautifully, that I thought re-posting it without any alterations will be the best way to deliver the same message. The original post can be seen on Melissa’s blog.
Do you know that, according to UN estimates, 1.2 million children are sold into sexual slavery each year? That’s one new child raped and exploited every 26 seconds.
But the mistreatment of girls does not always look like prostitution. Often, it looks like marriage. Child marriage. One in seven girls in developing countries marries before the age of 15. Young and uneducated girls are likely to be beaten and mistreated by their husbands, and medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death between girls aged 15-19.
A girl with an education however, tends to marry later, have less children and better access to infant and child health care, her eventual wages are increased by up to 25 percent and, given the opportunity, she often uses her better fortune to invest in creating more opportunities for her family and community. (The Girl Effect)
But let’s be honest, none of this means a lot to you, does it?
At least it didn’t, until I met such girls myself and was confronted with our common humanity.
I was a girl once, and I now have a daughter. Girls in the developing world are no different.
Today there is a little girl, about 7 years old, who lives in a stilted shack surrounded by mud and rubbish. Her baby brother has scabs and open wounds all over him, and so does the stray dog. She can not read, nor can her parents, and knows no other life than the one she now lives. Her mother collects rubbish from the nearby dump to sell to the recycling depot for a few coins. She will do the same. Unless someone, smartly dressed and educated, comes to offer a better opportunity… An opportunity that will, most likely, end in exploitation, rape, abuse and, ultimately, more hopelessness.
I could never understand the complexities of her situation from the comfort of my laptop screen, and I don’t presume that there are any easy answers.
In our limited understanding, we tend to make brash judgments of mothers who ‘sell’ their children to traffickers, without ever having considered the desperate poverty, multi-generational illiteracy, embedded world-views and powerlessness that shapes that mother’s desperation. Have you thought about how much that mother’s heart must break, because she can see no other option?
We ‘rescue’ girls from prostitution and fail to understand why they want to go back because of the immense pressures of social stigma and family obligation.
We build schools for girls in Afghanistan that remain empty because travel is unsafe, we fail to train female teachers, and facilities are inappropriate for the cultural requirements of female modesty – so caring parents don’t send their daughters.
It is evident that we need to serve and respect enough those who suffer, so that they can change their own world, from within.
And so I ask myself this, and I invite you to do the same: If I could be a voice for her who has none – better yet, if I could build a platform from which she can discover and use her own voice – how could I not?
If you’d like to write your own Girl Effect blog post during the week of October 4-11, visit here.
Daily with you,
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