Saturday, October 11, 2014

Commemorating International Day of the Girl

Colors saturated the walls in the room where the writing club gathered at J.L. Zwane. Purple along one side, orange on the opposite, anchored by yellow at each end. On Saturday afternoons for a year, anywhere from 4 to 22 girls, ages 13 through 20, gathered. At our first meeting, we brainstormed together for a name. They settled on Amazw’Entombi, “Voices of the Girls.”  -Kimbery Burge on Writing with the Girls of Gugulethu (Of Note Magazine)
The Born Frees
My friend Kimberly Burge, a journalist and author, came to Gugulethu in South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar in 2010 to lead a weekly creative writing club for teen-aged girls, based at J.L. Zwane Presbyterian Church and Community Center. From her experiences and the words of many of these girls, she wrote The Born Frees, a book about girls growing up in post-apartheid South Africa.  The title will be published next August by WW. Norton. You can get a taste of the contents of the book via a great piece that  Kimberly wrote for Of Note magazine. The above quote is from the article, which is available online 

Given her experiencs in South Africa, I think it was more than appropriate that Kimberly be the one to write a piece about the International Day of the Girl Child for the Bread blog. In 2012, the U.N. declared October 11 an official celebration of girls to raise awareness about gender inequality and issues that affect girls around the world. While girls experience higher levels of poverty and hunger, they also hold the key to greater development. The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) is the main sponsor of the global celebration. The United States has its own Day of the Girl committee.

"It’s fitting that today’s the day Malala Yousafzai has been named a co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize (along with Indian children’s rights activist Khailash Satyarthi)," Kimberly wrote in a piece for the Bread blog dated Oct. 10. "Tomorrow is the third celebration of International Day of the Girl Child.  Malala captured the world’s attention when she was shot in the head by the Taliban for attending school and actively encouraging other girls to be in school in the Swat Valley, where she lived in Pakistan. After her remarkable recovery, she has become internationally renowned as an advocate for girls’ education worldwide. October 11 is an important day " 

The blog post makes a very important point.  "Opportunities abound to empower girls. Right now, the follow-up plan is being developed for the post-2015 next steps in the Millennium Development Goals. A panel – co-chaired by Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, U.K. prime minister David Cameron, and Indonesian president Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – recommended that  the post-2015 agenda should include a specific goal to empower girls and women."   Read full blog post

Several humanitarian organizations have planned their own commemorations of  Day of the Girl. Here are examples of how a couple of these organizations are observing this day.
Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services is urging supporters to  share the image on the left on Facebook. "Today, the International Day of the Girl, we remember our sisters and daughters around the world—especially the 31 million girls of primary school age who are not enrolled in school," said CRS. "That’s a big—and disturbing—number. Girls who don’t attend school are more likely to be married off in childhood, live in poverty and experience physical or sexual violence. That’s shocking. That’s unacceptable. And we won’t stand for it. With your help, Catholic Relief Services is using education to protect vulnerable girls overseas.
CARE: Through the Eyes of a Girl
CARE has put together a a gallery of videos entitled Through the Eyes of a Girl. In August and September 2013, CARE staff carrying colored pencils, pastels, paint and paper visited school girls in Madagascar, Honduras, Georgia, Ghana and India. It was screened at the "Through the Eyes of a Girl" exhibition, a collection of nearly 100 vivid, poignant works of art depicting the joys and struggles experienced by girls and young women around the world in pursuit of their education  Follow this link to see these great videos.

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