There is a price on her head. She runs for her life because she knows they will kill her, she hides in dark corridors like a criminal, she sells her body for food.
What is her crime?
She is a girl.
The United Nations estimates there are 200 million missing just like her, killed, aborted or abandoned just because they are girls. Today, India and China eliminate more girls in their countries than are born in America every year.
It’s a quiet genocide.
But it’s not just a foreign issue: in our country we exploit, objectify and even traffic girls. Pornography is a 10 billion dollar industry. Sex sells and our daughters are the commodity. There must be a direct correlation to this booming practice when you consider trafficking is on the increase in our nation. Girls are trafficked in 49 states in our country and the average entry age for commercial exploitation is between the ages of 12-14 years old and many of these girls are punished for prostitution instead of helped as a victim.
In countries like Kenya, girls have been subjected to genital mutilation and polygamy and sent out to prostitute their bodies for food to help feed their families. And if they end up pregnant, they have to quit school and are often kicked out of their homes. Some are orphaned, some are trafficked.
It’s the main reason we risked it all and started Mercy House.
A day this week has been set aside as International Day of the Girl.
The Day of the Girl is a response to an urgent problem facing our world today: the neglect and devaluation of girls around the world.
You might have a daughter or two, a sister, you’re probably a mom reading this. And we are busy busy people with so much to do, so many demands placed on us. But we cannot ignore the plight of our sisters around the globe.
How can we help? Because this isn’t just a day, it’s a call to a movement, we can stand up for the girls in our world by boycotting places that sell pornography, getting involved locally in trafficking organizations like Not for Sale, become active in the fight to save our girls. Here are 11 tangible ideas for action.
“No act is too small; you may never know the full extent of your impact. Activism is contagious. While you may be one person, your voice and actions can touch others, whose voices and actions can touch still others, and so forth until we experience change. This is how activism works.” (Fight Like a Girl by Megan Seely)
We can also do something right now. Change begins with the opportunity for education.
I’ll never forget sitting on a blanket outside Mercy House in Kenya with one of the very first residents almost three years ago. This young girl had been rescued from unspeakable horrors. She gingerly reached out to touch my white skin and said, “Thank you for bringing me here.” I thought she was referring to sleeping on a bed, living in a clean home with plenty of food, a safe place to heal and become a mother. But her next words surprised me. She thanked me for the the chance to get an education. “I want to learn. This is what I want the most. I want to be something,” and then she put her hands on her swollen belly.
“We know from study after study that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and women.” Kofi Annan
Education is a fundamental right for all people, women and men, of all ages. Unfortunately in Kenya and many countries like it, education for girls still lags behind education for boys.
When girls are given the opportunity to learn, it not only changes their lives, it changes the world (facts based on research at womendeliver.org):
- Educating girls raises lifetime incomes for them, their families and their countries. In particular, girls with secondary education have an 18% return in future wages, as compared to 14% for boys.
- Educating girls and women fosters democracy and women’s political activity. Educated women are more likely to resist abuses such as domestic violence, traditions like female mutilation, and discrimination at home, in society or the workplace.
- Educating girls and women saves children’s lives. Each additional year of schooling for girls reduces infant mortality for their offspring by up to 10%. Also, mothers provide better nutrition and health care and spend more on their children: girls and women spend 90% of their earned income on their families, while men only spend 30-40%
Want a tangible, practical way to help? Today, right now, you can be a part of Phase 2 of the (in)Mercy fundraising campaign called Learn Mercy. After moving into a smaller (paid for home), the Mercy House desperately needs a two-room classroom addition for the residents to be educated, continue their sewing skills (sewing machines are outside under tarps right now due to space), learn computer skills in a future computer lab and work on their studies.
Let’s remember girls everywhere today.
*Photos by Bess Brownlee