Her column introduces poor, sick, defeated and hopeless girls and women. Much of the time, they’re seen as disposable.
Then she shows us the light, the hero, the one person she finds in each incredible circumstance, and tells their story.
There are a lot of these women to be found, the ones who work miracles.
There are stories from all over the world—Colombia, Canada, France, Cuba and Cambodia. Inside each one is a woman who devotes, and risks, her own life for the future of the girls and women of her country.
The first story I read was from her 10th stop in Casablanca, Morocco. She introduced 65-year-old Aicha EcChenna, a local advocate for Arab women.
Aicha was a social worker when a woman came in to abandon her baby at Aicha’s office. One of the nurses literally pulled the baby off of his mother’s breast, splattering milk on his face.
It was women like this one, either single with a child or single and pregnant, that gave Aicha the motivation to help. They are, at the very least, outcasts. At the most, they are (legally) imprisoned, harassed, abused or sometimes killed.
Sexual contact outside of marriage is considered the highest social taboo. Unwed mothers, even if they are victims of rape or incest, are shunned for life. Aicha gives them food, a place to live, teaches them a marketable skill, and gives them a chance to survive with their children.
There is 23-year old Mayerly Sanchez, from Soacha, Colombia, who aside from being the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, organized a children’s peace club when she was just 12 years old.
Today it’s 100,000 members strong and has brought about unprecedented changes in Colombia’s government, such as passing a law that makes it illegal to force any child under 18 into mandatory military service.
She told Pearl, “People think kids are the future, but really they are the present.”
From Iqaluit, in the Canadian Arctic, Pearl meets Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a member of the Intuit people, hunters and fishermen whose survival depends on the Arctic ice.
According to her, their homeland is “ground zero for global warming.” Their livelihood (seal hunting) and their mobility are depleting along with the ice. She is an advocate for the Arctic environment, forcing anyone who will listen to do so, and devoting her life to saving her home.
In Africa, a 26-year old AIDS orphan, Julian Atim, a medical doctor, spends her life helping Ugandans inflicted with HIV and AIDS.
Her father died from AIDS when Julian was 13, and her mother in 2003, two weeks before Julian’s final medical school exams.
Her mother made her promise to help others and that’s what she is doing, lobbying for drug patent laws, working with HIV and AIDS children and finding ways to make sure poverty stricken Ugandans have access to medications.
In Cambodia, she meets Somaly Mam, the cofounder of an organization that rescues girls from brothels. She herself is a former sex slave who was sold into prostitution when she was a child.
Girls by the thousands are kidnapped, beaten and forced into prostitution rings in her country. Some as young as 5 are sold into prostitution by their own families for the equivalent of a few dollars.
Mam estimates they have saved 3,000 girls since they began in 1996.
These are just a few. The whole global diary is on the Web at www.glamour.com/news/globaldiary.
The power that one person—one woman— has to bring change is obvious in every story that Mariane Pearl reported.
If you want to gain some perspective on our advantages and see how much difference one passionate person can make, this is a good place to find it.