I don’t usually recommend particular charities or organizations simply because there are so many out there doing so much good work. But I’m going to break that rule today.
Because I am a girl…
Well, I was a girl, a long time ago. And now I’m a mother of two girls. Actually both of my girls are women now, pursuing interesting, fulfilling careers. They are living their dreams and as a mother, that is all you can ask for.
I can remember telling my daughters that they should always be grateful that they were born in Canada, one of the depressingly few countries in the world where women have the ability to shape their own destiny. Canada has its share of issues that affect women — from the horrendous number of missing First Nations women, to domestic violence and continuing issues with wage equity. But Canada is also a country where a girl can say, “I want to be….” and have a real opportunity to fill in the blanks and realize that dream.
In so many other parts of the world women and girls are engaged in a constant struggle to survive, to put enough food on the table, to avoid being exploited. They have no time for dreams — survival is all they can manage. From women oppressed in nations dominated by archaic Islamic legal codes, to the grandmothers of Africa trying to hold families together against the ravages of war and AIDs, women and girls around the world wage a constant battle.
This year we had the honour of seeing Malala Yousafzai speak to the UN about education for girls in Pakistan. Malala, 16, had been shot in the head by the Taliban for the crime of advocating education for girls. She recovered and is moving on undaunted.
“Let us pick up our books and pens,” she told the UN. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.”
She speaks nothing but the truth. The path to a better life for girls around the world is education.
One of the organizations trying to assist is Plan Canada’s Because I Am a Girl. This organization offers an opportunity to sponsor a girl in a developing country, or to sponsor a specific community and help improve the lives of girls and their families in Hatibandha, Bangladesh by providing access to education, reducing child and maternal mortality, fighting child marriage and generating income opportunities. Or you can donate and help sponsor any number of Because I Am a Girl projects around the world.
“No country has ever emerged from poverty without investing equally in all its children. And yet girls in developing countries are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet.” Also from the Because I Am a Girl website: “Girls can change the world but they can’t do it without you.”
As we head into the holiday season and reflect on all we have and all we are grateful for, I ask grandmothers, mothers and daughters to think of the opportunities available to us all in developed nations like Canada, and the struggles faced by women and girls in so many parts of the globe.
Think of the possibility of your daughter being born into a society that won’t let her learn, that would treat her like chattel, that would forbid her free expression, even the right to an opinion, and provide no opportunity for a life fulfilled.
I think of watching my oldest daughter receive her undergrad degree a few years ago — the look on her face as she walked across the stage at the University of Calgary. It was pride and accomplishment all wrapped up in one big glowing smile. No one told her she couldn’t do it because she was a girl.
No girl — anywhere — should ever hear that.
See what you can do.
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin