The state of Minnesota has always been known for its political activism and each election season you become accustomed to the massive influx of lawn signs that spring up all over the State, especially in urban areas.
This week I’ve been actively following a group of amazing women who are part of the ONE Moms/ONE Mums delegation to Ethiopia. Today these women are flying home to the United States and the UK where they will continue to use their voice in sharing the stories and photographs of what they learned and saw during their week long journey in Ethiopia.
Today marks the first-ever International Day of the Girl, a day in which organizations and individuals around the world will collaborate to hold events and a global conversation in effort to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls.
Globally, more than 600 million girls live in the developing world and of that number, 77.6 million girls are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education. This is a huge problem which has significant repercussions on not only girls but the economy and well-being of society as a whole.
Organizations like 10 x 10 fully understand the power of girls and the way education can be used as a conduit to better not only their lives but society as a whole. 10 x 10 is a global action campaign dedicated to raising the value of a girl – in her home, community, nation and around the world.
Their mission is simple: Educate Girls. Change the World.
“Around the world, millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. And yet, when you educate a girl, you can break cycles of poverty in just one generation.”
So why should we focus on girls and why should we care? Here are some startling facts about girls’ education:
- Of 163 million illiterate youth in the world, more than half – 63 percent-are female.
- Around the world, 250 million adolescent girls live in poverty.
- Sixty-five low and middle income countries are losing approximately $92 billion per year by failing to educate girls to the same standards as boys.
- One girl in seven in developing countries marries before age 15.
Despite these dire statistics, there is hope. There is an enormous, untapped opportunity because it has been proven that the payoffs of educating girls are considerable. Just providing one extra year of primary school education can increase a girls’ future wages by 10 to 20 percent, and an extra year of secondary school can help boost wages by 15 to 25 percent. Even when a mere 10 percent more girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases on average by 3 percent. Keeping girls in school not only boosts their livelihoods and the future livelihoods of their families, it is proven to keep them from marrying early, having more children and to help them be more engaged in the day to day lives of their families. An educated girl will be a better providers for her children and will have more knowledge on critical issues such as nutrition, maternal care and deadly diseases like HIV-AIDS. Furthermore, an educated mother is more likely to earn income for her family and when she does, she will reinvest 90 percent of it into her family, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent by her husband.
The ripple effect of educating one girl in a community is astounding. The math is simple and easy. So why aren’t more girls in school?
There are many cultural, religious and poverty-related barriers that keep girls out of school. For instance, in poor families oftentimes only the boys are sent to school and the girls are kept home to work. Rural girls will generally help out with cooking, cleaning, child-rearing and even manual labor. If a poor family lives in a country in which you have to pay school fees, it even further deepens the problem. Boys will often be chosen to attend school rather than girls. Other barriers that are easily solvable yet continue to keep girls out of school include access to adequate lavatories and such simple things as sanitary pads.
These barriers can be overcome as long as the world believes in the power of educating girls.
There are some very inspiring stories about girls and their will to learn. Let’s meet 9-year old Eulalia. To get her education, Eulalia must travel on motorcycle — with her siblings — from her home atop a mountain in a remote Andean village in Peru, to a CARE-supported school for the children of alpaca shepherds in the valley. Come along with Eulalia on her journey.
Educating girls is not just right, it’s smart. Let’s help break the cycle of poverty by giving more girls the opportunity to learn and make the world a better place. Help us spread the word on why it’s vital to educate girls with these simple steps.
- Join us in a day-long social media event by sharing this post.
- Use your voice on Twitter using the hashtags #BasicMath and #10x10act.
- Click here to download “Girls + Education” attachment and make it your own by filling in the blank with what educating girls means to you. Tweet the photo from your handle with the has tag #BasicMath and tag @10x10act.
On a personal level, I can’t imagine where I would be today or my daughter Sophia would be tomorrow without an education. Just because we are girls does not mean we do not have a burning desire to learn. A strong longing for knowledge, acceptance and equality. I know that my grandmother was one of the lucky girls in her time. She was one of the few women to ever go to University. I followed in her footsteps at University of Wisconsin where I fell in love with my passion for knowledge. I would never be here today writing and using my voice without the ability to read or write. Nor will my daughter reach her full potential as a productive world citizen if she doesn’t go to school either. Shouldn’t all girls have this opportunity to succeed in life and be the best that they can be? Isn’t it a basic human right?
Imagine the possibilities if all girls were allowed education. Imagine what a world we’d have for all.
This post was originally published today on World Mom’s Blog.
It was no coincidence that the RESULTS International Conference to end global poverty was held at the same time as the AIDS 2012 Conference. It was a huge event and opportunity for over 400 RESULTS Activists to learn about the latest breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS treatments and the impact this devastating disease has had on the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is rampant, having 22.9 million of the 34 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want to give all my readers a huge thank you for all the wonderful, supportive comments I received after my post The Color of Guatemala was Freshly Pressed. I could not have been more humbled by the beautiful, encouraging comments I received from fellow readers and bloggers. It was a big pleasure to read each comment and I’m in the process of responding to each and every one. So thank you, everyone! You are why I keep blogging!
What could not be more ironic, however, is the timing of my Freshly Pressed post. I wrote it hurriedly last Friday morning as I was desperately trying to get in one last post done before I left to our nation’s capital to the Results International conference on ending global poverty.
Today I did something I never dreamed possible. As a representative of the world’s poorest of the poor, I lobbied on Capital Hill. If you asked me two years ago if I would ever find myself here as an advocate for global and human rights, I would have laughed it all away saying “you’re dreaming”. Yet, here I am. Today I did it. I gave a voice to the millions of voiceless people dying and suffering around the world.
Today was an amazing day. One of those unexpected, joyful events happened here in Guatemala. An event that will have a lasting impact on my experience living here in Xela for a week to learn Spanish and understand Guatemala’s rich culture.
Being away from home, I completely forgot that March 8th is a special day for women around the world. It is International Women’s Day. Thus, I was fortunate to be here on “El dia de la muter” and witness the grand celebration that is happening all across Guatemala and the world today. The celebration and promotion of women’s rights and an end to violence against women.
Since I’ve been in Xela, I’ve learned a lot about a woman’s life in Guatemala. My fantastic Spanish teacher, Lili told me some surprising details of what it is like for most women to live in Guatemala. There are several issues regarding women’s rights that need to be resolved yet are very complicated since many problems are engrained in their Latin culture. Guatemala, like most latin countries, has a strong culture of Machismo and is very conservative. Thus women are not always treated as equals. Most women in Guatemala, regardless of status and/or profession do not understand their rights or if they do understand them are afraid to do anything. Violence against women is very common and tragic. Many women suffer beatings and some are even killed if they do not comply with their husbands wishes. The murder rates are high thus women are afraid of reporting domestic violence to the police.
To further aggravate the problem, many women working at factories are exploited in their jobs earning under minimum wage and working long hours with no benefits or health insurance. They are trapped in a horrible situation and are also often sexually abused by their bosses. Oftentimes, they have to submit or else they will be fired.
Lili also told me that it is quite common for men to have mistresses that they frequent or even prostitutes which greatly puts women at risk for developing diseases or other health problems. Generally, women are expected to produce a large family and sometimes if a woman refuses or tries to use contraception, she is beaten or even killed.
Mayan women have it even harder as almost 90% are illiterate and uneducated. Many Mayan children today still do not attend school further aggravating the problem. Most Mayans are very poor and live a hard life outside of the city in farming communities and villages. Although they still maintain a rich culture that has lasted for centuries, the life of a Mayan woman is quite hard.
Despite the law created in 2007 to protect women against violence, little has changed due to fear and a vicious cycle of being trapped in a culture that hasn’t changed much in regards to women’s rights. If a woman is poor, uneducated and has no job along with five or six children, how could she possibly leave her husband? She must accept the violence.
On a positive note, many groups have formed to help educate women on their rights and support women who suffer mentally and physically from abuse. Women have services available at their church and at local and governmental levels, if they choose to speak out. Furthermore, today was the largest demonstration and celebration of El dia de la mujur en Xela. There were women, girls and even men and boys all together, representing all walks of life. It is not only a Mayan problem. Violence and mistreatment of women is very common and happens to many Guatemalan women.
It is a tragic problem that will take some time to solve since it is so engrained in the culture. Lili believes that boys and girls must be educated at a young age that they are equal and they must treat each other with respect. That is the only way that women will ever have equal rights. Let’s hope all women can have the same rights as men and be treated fairly with kindness and respect!
Here are my photos from the spectacular celebration in Xela, as women from all walks of life came together to celebrate and fight for women’s rights, together as one.
A Mayan woman walking down the street.
This is an original post by thirdeyemom on World Mom’s Blog published today.
Photo above of the female lion which is always located on the west side of a building while the male lion, which is considered more important in ancient times, is located on the east side, towards the rising sun.
Imagine living in a place where your reproductive life was controlled by the government. A place that not only controlled the number of children you were allowed to have but also the timeframe. A place that enforced stiff fines, allowed forced sterilization and even forced abortions when you were breaking the law. Imagine living in remote, impoverished parts of rural China. This is what life is like for most women in these far off, often forgotten parts of the world, a place that accounts for millions of China’s 1.3 billion people.
Did you know that every 20 seconds a child dies from a vaccine preventable death?
Photo credited to UN Foundation.
That is about the time it takes to read the first paragraph of this post. A life has gone that could have been saved by a mere $20. The cost of buying two tickets to a movie, a bottle of wine or a birthday present for a child. That is it. But to many people around the world, that is everything.
Over the last two days I had the honor of attending the UN Foundation’s Summit as a Shot@Life Champion who in the coming months will be one of 45 citizens across the nation championing this great cause in saving lives around the world. Through raising awareness and funds for four life-saving vaccines, it is our hope that we can galvanize the nation so that no child around the world will not have a Shot@Life. A shot to reach these important milestones that many of us Americans take for granted.
So why does it matter? I can tell you exactly why.
Sometimes in life, there is no better way to understand a complicated issue such as civil rights, than through the tender eyes of a child. I had the opportunity to volunteer in my son Max’s first grade class last week, and they were learning about Martin Luther King Jr. Through art and creativity, here are their dreams of the future….
I had a dream…
My son Max’s dream:
That all bombs will be sent to outer space.
We met Jackie, our 26-year-old tour guide to the Great Wall, at our hotel lobby on Sunday morning. Jackie was dressed in jeans, sneakers, a pink button down shirt and a pastel blue sweater vest. Needless to say, he was dressed well but not appropriate for an all day hike along the Great Wall.
Above is a picture of Jackie, smiling as we literally “climbed” up to the Wall.
Jackie (of course his “western” name; all Chinese pick western names when they start English in primary school) is a jovial, bright fellow who grew up in rural China, like the majority of the Chinese people, to farming, illiterate parents. He has witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes that China has experienced over the last twenty-five years, while China has emerged as a leading economic powerhouse fighting for the center stage in the world order.
Per Jackie, there used to be only three colors worn in China: Blue, Gray and Black. Now the Chinese wear any color under the rainbow.
Jackie is a chatty, intelligent guy. He had a lot to say about China – where it once was and where it is headed. He talked the entire hour and a half ride to Jiantou, the entire climb up to the Wall (in between breaks) and the entire way back to Beijing. I, of course, asked tons of questions and took tons of notes. I found our conversation fascinating and it was great to get an inside view from a young, educated Beijing tour guide who has over ten years of experience and is quite knowledgable about what is happening now in China.
This post is a summary of the “World (aka China) according to Jackie”. (Note: I haven’t confirmed all the figures and statistics. This kind of information is hard to get out of Communist, censored China. I have discovered that many things are a mystery in China and it is hard to get accurate, hard data. Thus, I am just going with what I heard from Jackie (whom I feel is an excellent, intelligent source of information) as well as some of the research I conducted myself (see below for links to the articles). So, here goes nothing: The World (aka China) according to Jackie!
Picture above of Confucius from the Wikipedia Commons. Confucius was one of the greatest Chinese thinkers of all time. His influence can still be felt today, thousands of years later.
Jackie had a lot of opinions on what China is like today, especially in Beijing, China’s political and historic capital. For the most part, Jackie feels gratitude for how far China has come over the last twenty-five years. China has literally taken most people, including the Chinese by surprise, in their unheard of industrialization and economic advances, which have brought millions and millions of people out of poverty. China has industrialized in a matter of years compared with the centuries it has taken most countries in a similar situation. When you visit China, the proof is in the endless amount of new buildings, apartment blocks and skyscrapers reaching for the stars. It is said that the crane is the national bird of China. The building crane is as well!
Yet, none of this rapid change has not been without problems and mistakes. As most people know, China is still ruled by a dictatorship of hardliners that slam their iron fist down on many basic freedoms of their people. While China is growing and expanding at insane rates, basic human rights and needs of its people are being left in the dust*. Hospitals are old and dingy. Doctors are scarce and expensive. Social services are lacking. Good education is hard to find in the countryside. Good jobs for educated graduates are becoming harder to find. Small and Medium sized factories are closing down at alarming rates. Housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable. Pollution is out of control. Traffic is maddening. Freedom of Speech is denied. Speaking out against the government comes at a heavy price with imprisonment, financial difficulties and abandonment. And the list goes on.
With all these paradoxes and complexities, I found my conversation with Jackie to be incredibly interesting. Here are some of the main points he raised:
Decrease in opportunities for new university graduates:
Last year, 6.6 million students graduated university in China. Yet, over one million of them can’t find a good job. Most are holding off and not accepting the lower-paid jobs in hopes that there will be a turnaround. Jackie believes that China is good a “making” things (i.e factory level) yet not “creating” them. I found this to be an interesting point and wonder what it will hold for the future.
Education is central to Chinese mentality. Look at Confucius (551-479 BC) whose ideals were paramount in Chinese thinking for over 2,500 years. Education became a priority in China yet was briefly and tragically interrupted during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) which pushed everyone out to the countryside and created an entire decade of uneducated peasants. Nowadays, all Chinese parents realize the importance of education and dream of giving their children a better life, out of poverty, through education. Rural and urban parents alike strive to provide the best education possible for their children so they can head out to the big cities to find a better life. If there are no good jobs to be had, this creates a big problem.
Pressure on the lower wage jobs: Made in China to stay?
Everyone knows that almost everything these days are “Made in China“. China’s enormous population has provided one of the greatest means to pull itself up out of poverty by its enormous labor force. However, rising costs have been difficult on these very factories that provide low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Many small to medium-sized factories are having a hard time competing and are forced to shut down, creating higher unemployment and unrest among many migrant workers. **
Economists have differing opinions on what the future will hold for China and whether or not these low-paying, low-skill jobs will migrate elsewhere where the labor costs aren’t as high and the supply costs are lower. Per the Financial Times article, “A workshop on the wane” (10/16/11):
“Slowing global demand for cheap Chinese exports, rising production costs and unsustainable levels of debt have combined to crush some of the country’s most savvy entrepreneurs. China’s economic success over the last 30 years has been built on cheap capital, cheap labour, cheap energy and cheap land but this has now produced huge imbalances and inefficiencies that are causing more and more problems.
But having drastically raised the living standards of almost a fifth of humanity, the formula is increasingly seen as defunct, and a contributor to serious problems including environmental degradation and rapidly rising social inequality. Time is running out for a model that has served it so well. ….but this does not mean that the end is nigh for the world’s second-biggest economy”.
China needs to adjust and adapt its market, what it is doing. Most economists predict a soft-landing for China, yet not without problems.
As the economy has boomed and China has been seduced like others by an enormous gains in the real estate market, many argue that China is also facing a real estate bubble. Per GMO***, “Property construction accounts for some 13% of GDP in the world’s second largest economy. Construction has been one of the most important drivers of economic growth” (Jonathan Anderson, UBS, March 16, 2011). Although it is hard to get a true and accurate picture of the Chinese real estate market since the government tends to hide unpleasant statistics, it is said that “there’s little doubt, however, that many Chinese feel they have been priced out of the property market. A 100 square meter apartment in China currently costs around 17 times average disposable income, according to Deutsche Bank”. I assume this must be what Jackie was referring to when he told us that the cost of apartments in Beijing has quadrupled since 2006.
Daily Life in Beijing becoming harder, more congested:
Jackie told us that China purchases 20 million cars and trucks per year. There are currently about 20 million citizens and 10 million migrants living in Beijing. There are 5 million cars. Last year, there were 2,000 new cars added every day in Beijing. Thankfully the government decided to put stricter controls on the huge increases in traffic and pollution. Now if you want a new car, there is a lottery system. This year there are 600 new cars added per day in Beijing. Traffic is also controlled by the numbers on your license plate.
Marriage and Family:
The average age of marriage in urban China tends to be 30 years old for men and 27 for women. In the countryside, it is generally around 20 years of age. The year 1979 represented the start of China’s famous “One Child Policy” as a way to control China’s massive, growing population. Over the last few years, the policy has changed a bit. In the countryside, if the first-born is a boy then a family is done. If the first child is a girl, then the family can try one more time for a boy. In the city, a family can have two children now (if they pay) yet it is very expensive and most families today have only one child.
Social and Political Change:
This is a very tricky question. While most Chinese are thrilled to have food on their plates, a job and a much better life than their parents, there are still huge inequalities and disparities among the people. Like many other young people, Jackie shared the opinion that as long as people’s lives are improving that there will not be any major “Asian Spring” or push to oust the strong-armed Chinese rule.
As an American, I found this so hard to believe and tried my best to examine everything with my “thirdeye”. I found China to be a confusing, frustrating yet fascinating place. So much has changed. Yet so much more needs to change. I will be highly interested in seeing what the future holds for China and whether or not such a brutal government can remain in power. It all remains to be seen, doesn’t it?
For further reading, please refer to the articles below which I used in my research:
(Note: The Financial Times online requires a free password. Some require a paid password for the premium service. I get the paper at home and only occasionally read it online. If you want to access the free parts, it is definitely worth doing as these articles are excellent, and the FT is a fabulous paper to learn about what is going on in the world).
*”Cautious Beijing keen to avoid domestic unrest” – Financial Times 11/21/11 (click here for article)
**”A workshop on the wane” – Financial Times 10/16/11 (click here for link to article).
***GMO “The Real Estate Cycle —September 2011.
Financial Times (print version):
“China labour costs soar as wages rise 22%” – 10/25/11
“Reshoring jobs from China won’t happen” – 11/13/11
Plus, for a fabulous book that I am in the middle of reading about 1990’s China, “China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn“.
Stay tuned…..more China coming up! I still have a ton of photos and stories to share!