Monday 29 November 2010

Because I Am a Girl

I ride the subway in Toronto and have been seeing for a while now a publicity campaign for something called Because I Am a Girl. Several times, I've looked up and down the car and seen sign after sign on the overhead publicity showing this phrase. Just what's this all about?

Wikipedia: Because I Am a Girl (campaign)
Because I Am a Girl is a campaign by the aid organization Plan. The campaign is made to address the issue of gender discrimination around the world. The goal of the campaign is to promote rights of girls and bring millions of girls out of poverty around the world.

Wikipedia: Plan (aid organisation)
Plan is a child-centred development NGO, and works in 48 countries to provide programs to over 1.5 million children and their families. Within 2007/8, it raised in excess of €474m. The charity was originally founded by journalist John Langdon-Davies and refugee worker Eric Muggeridge. The organisation has no political or religious affiliations. It is active primarily in developing countries in Central and South America, Africa, and South and Southeast Asia, with a staff of over 6,000 worldwide, and a further volunteer force in excess of 50,000. Plan operates long-term to address health, education, shelter, and livelihood issues in the communities in which it operates.

Petition: Because I Am a Girl Canada
The Canadian wing of the organisation has set up an ePetition to lobby the government to declare September 22 as the National Day of the Girl. They say that getting Canada to do this would be one more step to lobbying the United Nations to declare the 22nd the International Day of the Girl.

A popular site. As of this writing, I see that "33,339 People Like This".

Annual Reports
Plan publishes various reports on its activities and each year puts out a report on this program.
Paying the price: The economic cost of failing to educate girls
This is a startling report about the opportunity being lost by not educating girls.

This report presents an analysis of the economic cost of failing to educate girls. Based on World Bank research and economic data and UNESCO education statistics, it estimates the economic cost to 65 low and middle income and transitional countries of failing to educate girls to the same standard as boys as a staggering US$92 billion each year. This is just less than the US$103 billion annual overseas development aid budget of the developed world.

Why? I don't have to look very far. Within my own family, I can easily compare the results of adults with an education and adults without an education. Empirical evidence clearly shows that going to school results in tangible benefits. If I or anyone applies that idea elsewhere in the world, it seems quite obvious that a huge portion of any population is being overlooked.

The State of the World's Girls 2007
In reading over this paper, I think it is easy to comprehend how we in the Western world tend to forget where our own society was just a hundred years ago. History has long been the story of a patriarchal society where women were second class citizens and what we witness elsewhere in other parts of the planet are very much representative of that history. We may have improved our collective lot in Canada - we still have a long way to go! - however elsewhere in the world, the inequality between the genders is absolutely startling. Boys are prized; girls are not.

In chapter 1 Survival, 100 million girls are missing, I read

Discrimination against girls begins at birth, or even before they are born, through attitudes and patterns in behaviour passed down through generations. The disadvantage of being born a girl today includes the facts that girls are more likely to be killed in the womb, girls are more likely to be malnourished, and young mothers are more at risk of developing serious complications both for the mother and her unborn child. These will all have an impact at every stage of a girl or young woman’s life.

In many countries, the birth of a boy is something to be celebrated, the birth of a girl a cause for commiseration. One report notes that: “While a number of national and international legal norms protect the rights of the girl child in theory; in practice cultural and social beliefs about gender and the value of girls and boys have been much more difficult to overcome..."

As we go about our day to day business, do we truly understand what's going on in the world? And let's not forget that while we're thinking of this going on elsewhere in the world, may I remind the reader that just one hundred years ago, women didn't even have the right to vote in Canada.

November 25 - December 10
November 25 is designated as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and is marked by the wearing of a white ribbon. It marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence. The end of the 16 Days is December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Will the petition take hold? Will we end up celebrating September 22 as the National or someday International Day of the Girl?

Buy a T-shirt
Canada is coming to the end of the year holiday season. Consider participating in the Because I Am a Girl campaign by buying a T-shirt. Read about the movement.


official Canadian web site: Because I Am A Girl

Facebook: Because I Am a Girl Canada

official web site: Because I Am a Girl

blog: Because I Am a Girl

White Ribbon Campaign: working to end violence against women


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