Take a Stand

As a high school student approaching my final years of school, we are constantly pressured to choose a path. We're forced to distinguish what reality is and what's not. But our own reality is different to millions of illiterate children. After learning in my humanities class about cocoa slavery in the Ivory Coast, and the violation of women's rights right around the world, I started to ponder: Is the chocolate I'm eating the end product of cocoa slavery? Why should girls around the world be treated differently than boys? It's difficult to comprehend how some countries accept these ideologies, because I simply haven't experienced that kind of sexism and at first I didn't know anything about cocoa slavery.

Regardless of gender, why should people be treated differently? I'm a girl, and I have my own rights, and so should those other 66 million uneducated girls around the world. These girls are not able to chase after their aspirations. It's a mere dream, as they have to endure the hard reality they face each day. Furthermore, it's unfortunate that we won't have these bright children, contributing to our growing and changing medical, technological and arts communities. Cocoa slavery should be abolished and we should be demanding for all chocolate brands to become fair trade. Children shouldn't be in the workforce at such a young age, working in inhumane conditions. Instead of going to school, like a regular child, they are being oppressed and exploited by cocoa farmers.

A Nepalese woman was not able to go to school, and forced to do manual labor. She grew up illiterate. However, when she was older, she started going to the community library, where literacy training and resources was provided. Now she has more confidence, and has the desire to help other women in her own community. Education is one of the most powerful assets; it can anchor some of the brightest students to come up with innovative ideas.

I also recently read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wu Dunn. It was incredibly inspiring. The story of Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan, who defied her attackers and the chapter on genital mutilation impacted me the most. The book is able to meticulously highlight the issues, looking at different perspectives to tackle poverty. Kristof says, "One of the great failings of the American education system (in our view) is that young people can graduate from university without any understanding of poverty at home or abroad."

I believe schools should introduce more topics about poverty so young people can have a better understanding of these issues. I thank my humanities teacher for introducing these topics and making students like me more aware. Prior to that, I didn't understand 'fair trade.' If I hadn't done my research on the violation of women's rights, I probably would not be writing this article.

Words are just simply words. They don't mean anything unless you decide to do something. One year later, after my research about chocolate slavery, I raised funds by baking with fair-trade chocolate. I also held a Girl Rising screening for students in my school. Some of my peers came up to me, telling me that they bawled their eyes out.

However, I hope in the future, I don't just raise funds, but embark on a trip to a developing country to contribute some of my time. To experience something is different than to reading about it.

Many of my classmates have posed the question: "Why are you doing this?" My answer is simply that we are all global citizens, and we should put an effort and care to assist the plight of poverty. No girl should be married as a child. No child should be a slave. No girl should be gang-raped. Let's make it a reality for these children to pursue their dreams, and stop being abused. Educate yourselves about these issues, and take a stand.