We know the importance of a smile and how a word of encouragement can change the course of someone’s day. How much more important then is the gift of hope, something that can actually change the courses of someone’s life?
There is a young, uneducated, teenaged girl who is facing marriage in a third-world country, because in her culture, they lack the information to know there is a better way to survive. In Nicaragua, 45% of girls with no schooling are married before age 18 versus only 16% of their educated counterparts. In Mozambique, the figures are 60% versus 10%; in Senegal, 41% versus 6%.1
The cause and effect of survival techniques like this are sobering:
- Medical complications from pregnancy are the leading cause of death among girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide. Compared with women ages 20 to 24, girls ages 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die from childbirth, and girls 15 to 19 are up to twice as likely, worldwide.2
- A survey in India found that girls who married before age 18 were twice as likely to report being beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands as were girls who married later.3
Even more sobering, here in the United States, where we do have the resources available to educate our children, our rates are twice as high for teenage pregnancy as in England and Wales or Canada, and eight times as high as in the Netherlands or Japan.
Where have we gone wrong, as a culture, as a nation, as a family? I believe it is because we have put a higher value on our household, than our home. We chat online, and forget about the communication that needs to take place with our children. We need to invest our time back into our families, especially our girls.
Whether here at home, or abroad, the GirlEffect is giving new hope to a generation of girls. They are learning that they can make a difference and change the course of not only their lives, but also their family’s lives. Why be selective of girls? Statistics show that when women and girls earn income in a third-world country, they reinvest 90% of it back into their families, as compared to only 30% to 40% for a man. Targeting our help and hope to these girls simply multiplies our efforts.4
Take some time today to learn more about this incredible movement that is changing the world. This week, there are people all over the world raising awareness about the simple things we can do to keep this momentum going. Please visit Tara Mohr’s website to learn more about GirlEffect, or click here to read more stories of hope. If you are touched, and want to participate in this campaign, I encourage you to use your voice as well by joining in here.
Why am I joining the GirlEffect team? Because I was that girl. To escape an intolerable home, I found protection elsewhere, and became pregnant at 17. I am thankful though, that I did receive a high school education, although college was out of the question. Now, at age 41, I feel I am still trying to overcome the lack of higher-education that I’ve been craving for over two decades. Our girls need help, protection, education, and hope. We can be that light for them. Won’t you join me?
1(International Center for Research on Women, Too Young to Wed: Education & Action Toward Ending Child Marriage, http://www.icrw.org/docs/2006_cmtoolkit/cm_all.pdf .)
2(United Nations Children’s Fund, Equality, Development and Peace, http://www.unicef.org/publications/files/pub_equality_en.pdf [New York: UNICEF, 2000], 19.)
3(International Center for Research on Women, Development Initiative on Supporting Healthy Adolescents, analysis of quantitative baseline survey data collected in select sites in the states of
Bihar and Jharkhand, India [survey conducted in 2004].)
4(Chris Fortson, “Women’s Rights Vital for Developing World,” Yale News Daily 2003.)