This blog was originally posted on March 9, 2015.
I vividly remember the first time I heard about gendercide. I sat in a church service in Cambridge, UK, and our pastor showed us a clip from ‘It’s A Girl’, an excellent and powerful documentary highlighting the issue of gendercide in India and China. The stories described broke my heart as I was hit by the horror that we could devalue our girls to such an extent; however, the thing that most surprised me was the fact that I had not heard of this issue before. How was it possible that 200 million missing girls could go unnoticed by us in the UK? That’s about 3 million a year, double the amount of people that died from AIDS in 2013 . How could news about something of this scale be entirely absent from our media? And, given that it is missing, what needs doing in order to raise the profile of this issue?
I have memories of Women’s Day ever since I was in elementary school. Growing up in Europe, March 8th was a good day to be a girl. Boys would give us flowers at school, husbands would surprise their wives with a bouquet, my dad would get chocolate for his girls. It was natural for me that women are beautiful, valuable, hard-working creatures who should be celebrated. I didn’t know there were parts of the world where being born a girl was undesirable or even dangerous.
India also observes International Women’s Day, honoring women’s accomplishments in different ways on this day, but acknowledging that women are equal to men is still not an everyday reality. There has been much progress in recognizing women’s value in the last 30 to 50 years, but traditions and mindsets are slow to change and some women suffer “from womb to tomb.”
For some crazy reason my latest relaxation reading has been biographies written by women about their lives in some of the more difficult nations in the world. Just in case anyone’s wondering, it’s not great relaxation reading. On the plus side it does burn off lots of calories as I go speed walking to burn off my frustration.
One of the latest books that I read was “I am Nujood, aged 10 and divorced.” I remember vaguely hearing about this on the news when it happened. As was traditional in her area, Nujood’s family arranged for her to marry an older man. Whilst he promised not to consummate the relationship until she had reached puberty, the moment they got back to his village he became incredibly violent and raped her multiple times a day, justifying it as his right as a husband.
October 11 is the third annual “International Day of the Girl Child.”
If, like me, you live in the United States, you might be asking yourself, “Is that really the best name the UN could come up with?” And then, your next question might be, “What is that day even for?”
Well, funky name notwithstanding, October 11 is really a big deal kind of day. We live in a world where:*
- Gender-based violence is the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls.
- Close to half of all girls aged 15 to 19 (about 126 million people) think that it is sometimes justified for a husband to beat his wife.
- 250 million girls and women alive today were married before the age of fifteen (1 in 3 of those women live in India).
- More than 200 million girls are “missing” from the world population due mostly to sex-selective abortion and infanticide.
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (2009) is a best seller. It has sparked a movement with impressively famous spokespeople. So, yeah, I’m late to the party. But in case you haven’t read this important book, as I had not, I figured I should bring it to your attention.
Half the Sky is excellently written and researched. It is very educational about a wide range of issues faced by women around the world. And the authors use many personal stories to drive the narrative, which makes it readable. Obviously, it has impacted and mobilized a lot of people. But…
In celebration of Women’s History month, we want to introduce you to some women who are making history right now within Reconciled World. Rose* is a team leader with the TCT program. We asked her to share her story.
I was born in a family that practiced ancestor worship. My father died in 1967. My mother wasn’t able to provide for our family on her own, so she sent me to an orphanage when I was ten years old. There I heard the name of Jesus for the first time. Every night I studied the Word of God with other older orphans. At the age of fourteen I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to introduce you to some women who are making history right now within Reconciled World. Balini* works tirelessly on behalf of girls and women with our Ending Gendercide project in India. We asked her to share her story:
I was born & brought up in a Christian family. Though I was not discriminated against in matters of food, education or my upkeep, I grew up in a culture of son preference. I was taught the stereotyped roles of women and men in the family. Cooking, cleaning, caring for family members and all household chores were for girls to do, while boys could roam around and play as they liked. Many a times I was punished by my mother because I played and did things like my brother. I was taught that I have to go someone’s home after marriage. The land properties which were bought by my parents were bought in the name of my brother. The mindset behind it was, if it is bought in a daughter’s name the property will go off to another family with the daughter, but if it is in the son’s name it will remain in the family. However, I didn’t marry, and now have no parental property to stay or cultivate. If my brother or his sons wish, they can kick me out any time. So, I am a landless woman.
I vividly remember the first time I heard about Gendercide. I sat in a church service in Cambridge, UK, our pastor showed us a clip from ‘It’s A Girl’, an excellent and powerful documentary highlighting the issue of Gendercide in India and China. The stories described broke my heart as I was hit by the horror that we could de-value our girls to such an extent; however, the thing that most surprised me was the fact that I had not heard of this issue before. How was it possible that 200 million missing girls could go unnoticed by us in the UK? That’s about 3 million a year, double the amount of people that died from AIDS in 2013 . How could news about something of this scale be entirely absent from our media? And, given that it is missing, what needs doing in order to raise the profile of this issue?
According to my Facebook feed, a few weeks ago at the Oscar’s Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech included a reference to equal pay. Meryl Streep applauded. A number of my friends shared it on Facebook with their supportive comments. And it all got debated in the media.
I have no opinion. My brain has no space to form an opinion. I just got home from the DR Congo – the worst place in the world to be a women. Rape is common, with some statistics saying that in the east 85% of women are raped. Before that I was in Uganda, where I met women who have lived through being kidnapped to serve as wives of soldiers. Another person I met there told me that in the area they work you don’t go to a government office to get a marriage certificate – the man forcibly rapes the girl they want to marry – often as young as 12 or 13. If she isn’t strong enough to fight the guy off, then she is married to them. She told other stories of girls that almost died in child birth. One 13 year old girl almost died because her 12 year old husband didn’t know what to do when she went into labor. Fortunately a representative from the organisation was in the area and rushed her to hospital. We discussed the challenges of telling sponsors of these girls that their ‘child’ has been married and was pregnant, especially when they are only 13 or 14. We did that because it’s easier. It’s easier to discuss those challenges than the real problem. On any night, any of these girls could be raped and find herself married. That’s a much harder problem to think about.
With vigilance and optimism Miriam kneeled at the bank of the Nile River watching, waiting and probably praying that her baby brother would be safe as he floated in the riverbank reeds. Secured in a waterproof basket Moses drifted along in great vulnerability towards the spot where Pharaoh’s daughter and her maidens often came to bathe. Would they arrive and bathe today? Would they see the basket in the reeds? What would they think? How would they react? The questions must have filled Miriam’s mind.
The idea to try to save the life of her younger brother Moses came because of a recent decree issued by the Egyptian ruler; “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.” (Exodus 1:22) Would the plan devised by Miriam and her mom work?
At around seven years old did Miriam fully realize the risk she was taking? What if the basket tipped over or got caught in the wrong current? What if Miriam’s plan was exposed by the officials and Miriam herself was killed?
Her heart must have raced as the little ark floated along bobbing up and down in the reeds. Finally, the stirring began and Miriam saw the maidens heading towards the water to bathe. In a moment of excitement and utter fear Miriam witnessed the ladies identify the basket and the beautiful baby lying inside. Pharaoh’s daughter instructed the ladies to bring the baby to her and she immediately was overwhelmed with compassion. The plan had worked!