“For what is done or learned by one class of women becomes, by virtue of their common womanhood, the property of all women.” —Elizabeth Blackwell, first U.S. female physician
A woman who works with parents of small children was asked if age makes a difference in attitudes and parental skills of her clients. The question was based on the assumption that there are major differences between the attitudes and competency of parents—specifically single moms—who are under 25 compared to those who are over 30.
She said no. Age isn’t the thing. Education is.
There’s a lot of talk about the importance of education on an international level. Ignorance is truly bliss, or hell, depending on where it exists.
It’s hard for an American middle-class woman to relate to truly impoverished women like Srey, a 15-year-old Cambodian sex slave forced to work 15-hour days with no pay and just enough food to stay alive, or Goretti, who’s husband wouldn’t allow her to buy mosquito nets to protect their children from malaria or go to the market alone, but found a way to pay for his trips to the bar for banana beer several times a week.
But in some small way, maybe we (women) can relate to Goretti sneaking out of her house to go to a meeting about microloans made available to women in her village. We can relate to taking that first step to making a difference in our own lives, small as that may seem in comparison to a literal life and death situation.
Goretti and Srey are two women who’s stories are told in the book “Half The Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” This is a global look at extraordinary stories of women’s suffrage and empowerment, dealing with and overcoming three major abuses against women in underdeveloped areas: forced prostitution, gender-based violence/honor killings, and maternal mortality (halftheskymovement.org).
The bottom line is education and opportunity. That’s just as important here as anywhere. But here, the opportunities are much easier to come by if someone knows how to take advantage. A little more work needs to be done in other parts of the world.
The book’s Web site references a long list of women’s charities, but one that jumped out to me is Girls Helping Girls. (empoweragirl.org)
Girls Helping Girls was started in 2007 by a 15-year-old California girl. Her mission? To build a global culture of girls consciously collaborating to make a difference.
And she’s doing it. Her non-profit, run exclusively by girls, has raised tens of thousands of dollars for girls’ scholarships. They’ve purchased uniforms and provided a desk and chair for every girl in the schools they’ve partnered with in India.
Other programs tied in with her organization have raised money to provide loans to women entrepreneurs and provide personal care items and school supplies for girls at risk for sex-trafficking across India.
Three years ago, this entire program was just an idea in a teenager’s head.
That is a perfect example of what an educated American girl is capable of. Thanks to her, there are thousands more, here and across the world, who will have a chance they may have never had otherwise.
There are a lot of worthy causes out there, but for women, these themes float right up to the top. We may live in different countries and lead different lives, but essentially, we’re the same. We feel and fear the same things.
As a Chinese proverb says, “Women hold up half the sky.”