Freedom is on my mind. As the U.S. prepares to celebrate Independence Day in a few days, I’ve been contemplating my freedoms.
I enjoy the freedom to vote for the candidate of my choice. I enjoy freedom of religion. I enjoyed the freedom of a good education, which gave me the freedom to do work I love and the freedom to marry the person I chose. I enjoy freedom from want, with a place to live and food to eat. I enjoy the freedom to live where I want to live and to travel to the places I want to travel.
Last week I viewed the film “Girl Rising.” The film reminded me of the invisible chains that bind many girls and women around the world. It also introduced me to heroic leaders, women and men who dedicate their hearts and souls to the task of unbinding the chains of girls trapped in the cycle of poverty, helping them move toward freedom.
Girls in developing countries face barriers to education that boys don’t. When a family can afford to educate only one or two of their children, they invest their resources in the boys, understandably, since men have traditionally had more earning power and more status in society.
Girls chained in poverty are often forced into child labor and into arranged marriages, becoming spouses to older men while they themselves are only 12-14 years old. Many girls become victims of human trafficking, experience physical and sexual abuse, and bear children while still in their teens.
When girls in poverty receive an education, the cycle of poverty is broken in one generation:
- Girls with an education marry later and bear children later.
- Educated women have better health and their families have better health.
- Educated women educate their children.
- Educated women increase the GDP of their countries.
A number of organizations are leading the way in educating girls to break the cycle of poverty. Room to Read, CARE, World Vision, Girl Up, and Partners in Health are but a few. Courageous leaders teach night school for working girls, provide funding and convince parents to allow their girls to go to school, and support parents who take the risk of educating their girls.
Brave girls step up and take advantage of these opportunities. Challenging their parents, studying late into the night when they must work during the day, challenging the norms of their societies, girls overcome many barriers to learning.
What is your part? All of us can help release girls from the chains of poverty. Whether we volunteer to teach, whether we support those who volunteer, whether we donate money, we can help. May those of us who enjoy so many freedoms join these brave pioneers and work for the freedom of girls in poverty.