Our friend Dr. Susan Blaustein of the Millenium Cities Initiative just published an incredible article on Huffington Post in honor of today's "Stand Up for Girls" rally! Read the full article here.
Gender discrimination compounds the muting: where poor people go nearly unheard, poor women and girls have little chance of sharing their stories, or simply of being acknowledged. While this is true of many victims of terrorism, conflict and inequality, it is punishingly true for women and girls. We find examples in every one of the "Millennium Cities," 11 severely under-resourced cities across sub-Saharan Africa working earnestly, against tough odds, to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Girls in Blantyre and Mekelle and Louga, three of these cities, spend so much of their days fetching water and performing other chores for their families that there is literally not time for school. No one has asked for these girls' stories. A child in Bamako, or Kisumu, or (to go far beyond the Millennium Cities) in Mumbai or Rio or Port au Prince or Chicago, lost a parent to HIV/AIDS, cares for her younger siblings and sells her small body to do so. She is ashamed to tell her story, and frankly, nobody wants to hear it. Another girl, in Kumasi, says out loud that she wants to be a nuclear scientist or the next UN Secretary-General. But people laugh at her dreams.
It's time to change this. It has been demonstrated over and over again that women's wisdom feeds families and communities and environments, making them healthier, stronger, more resilient and less tendentious. Educated women live longer, earn more and have healthier, better educated children. It seems a no-brainer: investing in women and women-to-be is one of the most efficient expenditures possible. Why is this not our top-priority investment, as a nation, and in today's world? What could be more efficient, delivering more bang for the buck, in the areas of child, maternal and family health, nutrition, safe water, environment and places of work, education, world peace? And what better way to start than by enabling girls worldwide, and their mothers, the opportunity to speak, and for us to hear their voices?
This September 22, the International Day of the Girl, is a chance to start turning the tide. Join the "Stand Up For Girls Rally".