Today, the 11th of October, is the International Day of the Girl Child and this is why I am writing this post one day earlier. The reason we have this day as well as the International Women´s Day, on the 8th of March, is simple: to awaken consciences about the discrimination and violence girls face throughout the world. Their challenges are unique, but unfortunately their voice is oftentimes not heard or simply silenced. According to UN Women:
- Around the world there are 750 million girls and women that were married before the age of 18
- Most women and girls alive today who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) were cut before they were 5 years old
- Young women in conflict zones, when compared with the ones living in peace zones, are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school
In the West sexual harassment and dating violence are some of the most common challenges. So many girls have been through this, myself included. I remember so well always being very careful with the clothes I wore on the street as I would walk to school alone, but even avoiding skirts and clothes with less fabric there would still be unpleasant catcallers. Yes, I was afraid. And, yes, I also suffered dating violence despite not seeing it as such at the time. This is because violence is not only physical: psychological violence creates wounds as well!
Love is not blackmailing, monopolizing or offending.
Love is not preventing you from being with your friends or going wherever you please.
Love is freedom.
I leave you with this photo of mine taken in India, in the state of Rajasthan, with my girls as I would lovingly call them. I used to go to their village once a week to give them English lessons while talking about different subjects from food to leadership. I always remember their enthusiasm when I arrived, delighted for another opportunity to learn something different! They were so eager to learn!
It was so hard for me to say goodbye to them (I cried a lot) and I miss them so much, but unfortunately I lost their contact. Sometimes I think about what might have happened to them. Nonetheless, I know their path was mapped a long time ago: to marry (probably before they were 18) and have children.
Love, respect and freedom of being to all girls,