Posts Tagged 'Freedom'

Girls Rising

Photo credit: vazovsky via flickr

Today, on International Women’s Day, I want to celebrate girls who are rising out of poverty and all those who support them.

Not too long ago, 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:

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 have so much join these brave pioneers and work for the freedom of girls in poverty.

 

(This is a further development of a blog which first appeared in June 2014.)

Freedom

Freedom is on my mind.  As the U.S. prepares to celebrate Independence Day several days from now, 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 opportunities to do work I love and 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.

As I consider immigrants at our border, I know that most of them enjoyed none of these freedoms in their countries of origin.  While poverty has long been a cause for immigration from Central America, added to that motivation now is gang rule in regions of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. With gangs in charge, murder, extortion, and sexual exploitation have risen dramatically. The asylum seekers at our border aren’t even assured the freedom to live, let alone the other liberties I take for granted.

The U.S. has long been a country that has promised freedom to those denied it in their own countries.  We take pride in being the land of the free and the home of the brave, with many of the free and the brave among us having made dangerous journeys to escape the oppression they faced in their homelands.

Now, however, America’s approach to refugees does not reflect the same welcoming spirit that, in the past, allowed many immigrants to seek safety and better lives on this soil. Dr. Fiona Danaher notes,

When the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees interviewed 404 unaccompanied or separated immigrant children in 2013, they found that 72% and 57% of the children from El Salvador and Honduras, respectively, potentially met criteria for refugee protections under international law. Yet in recent years, only about one third of asylum requests by unaccompanied minors have been granted — and the proportion is likely to diminish under the current administration’s ever-narrowing asylum criteria.

Why do we Americans, who have such a long history of granting freedom to refugees, seem so hesitant to do so now? Asylum seekers deserve the right to a fair hearing.  Asylum seekers deserve the right to be considered for refugee protection in their search for freedom.

To be an asylum seeker does not make one a criminal.  

As we celebrate our many freedoms on July 4, let us remember all those who don’t live in freedom.  And let us not add further to their misery. Let us ask, “What is mine to do, to help offer the gift of freedom to those who lack it?”