On this International Day of the Girl we need to recognize that millions of girls around the world desperately need us. A person's gender should not decide their worth. Yet, right now in our own community and afar, being born as a girl can mean an end of a life or a life destined to modern slavery. It's a shame we have to have a day dedicated to girls when every day should be a day of humanity.
This may seem extreme to us here in the U.S. where we hear that women are leaning in, jumping in, and are increasingly the primary breadwinners, but you'd be surprised how close these issues are to you. The woman I call my mother was abandoned in the '50s after the Chinese Civil War and struggled to raise herself. When she was in her 40's, she bought me on the street in China. I was sold because I'm a girl. I went to college here in Boston, I've had great jobs, and I look like any other professional. However, both my mother and I are beyond fortunate to not be among the statistic of over 200 million missing women and girls. You'd never guess by looking at us now.
It's primarily poverty that leads to human trafficking, child bride abductions, and gendercide. Fortunately, poverty can be addressed with books and pencils. Education can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. The fact that Malala Yousafzai was shot for going to school and has an active threat on her life by the same group of men that hurt her the first time tells us they know how powerful educated girls can be even though they proclaim otherwise.
No one wants their mother, sister, aunt, niece, wife, cousin, or friend to sell their bodies or live a life of slavery, because that's not a life at all. Americans think that doesn't happen here. However, pornography continues to create a vicious cycle of demand for not only more videos and images, but it also drives human trafficking. When videos become old, new ones are purchased and the women 'acting' have to come from somewhere. When watching isn't enough, people seek out physical satisfaction. When did our society lose it's humanity? Has the human condition changed?
Educated mothers raise educated children. When women have the ability to take care of their families by making a living wage, they then can nurture and be active participants in their children's lives. They can encourage their children, spend time with them, and know how they are doing in school.
I could have been bought by a woman who trafficked me, so why didn't she? She knew what is was like to not have a loving mother and wanted to give me opportunities she never had. My mother never sold her body, even though that meant going without food for long periods of time. Inside, she somehow always managed to keep her self-esteem, despite never being able to go to school. To this day, no one that has met my mother believes that she's lived such a rough life. She doesn't look hardened -- she is full of warmth, compassion, and love. The resilience and compassion I see in Malala Yousafzai is the same as that of my mother.
As a community and especially as women, we need to support and encourage each other. Education and girl power. Let's change the lives of girls together.