I’m lucky – I have conscientious friends. People who are invested in their communities both immediate and global; people who care deeply about education, human rights, and child development; individuals who believe firmly in these principles. I’m grateful for that, and grateful that they remain open to hearing about violations of these principles and what can be done to work towards eradicating circumstances that allow these inequities to thrive. Which is what I’m doing here.
By now, many of you have likely heard of The Girl Effect. The Novo and Nike foundations, partnering with the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and the UN Foundation, started the Girl Effect a few years ago, and since the movement started they’ve garnered a healthy following on Twitter, Facebook, and via non-profits and educational institutions. One of the organization’s most essential functions is raising awareness – they do this through their profiles of young girls around the world, their easy to understand presentation of facts and country profiles, and the way they create a storyline of cause-and-effect that shows us how the subjugation of girls is multi-faceted and interconnected.
Statistics can be powerful. If there’s one thing I’ve learned working in both public health and education, it’s that statistics can redirect money and help gain political endorsements; they can garner media attention and can heave weight behind opinions. But they can also leave people cold, and can create some emotional distance between the problem and one’s understanding and relation to it. This is where I think the real impact and power of the Girl Effect comes in.
I’d encourage my readers to do two things. First, check out the basic information the organization offers – the nuts and bolts, the facts and outlines. Then head over to the videos page and pick a profile of any one of the girls. Watch it a few times, to see if the second or third time you catch something you missed the first time. Instead of focusing on the fact that girls who do not attend secondary school in India are nearly 70% more likely to be married as children, focus on Anita or Sanchita and what they’re actually saying to you. The fact that in Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger half of all adolescent give birth before 18 – and that girls who give birth before age 15 are fives times more likely to die in childbirth – is a frightening statistic – one big enough to think that the problem is too overwhelming, too all encompassing, too massive and systemic to be solved or challenged. So instead, watch the interviews with Kidan, Shumi and Addis. Hear them describe the internal changes they went thorough when they pushed against the status quo, the familial and community influences they have had as they developed despite monumental odds stacked against them.
Lastly, I’d invite you to check out the connect/mobilize page – see what small contribution you can make, while keeping in mind the profile of the girl you just watched. Focus on the element you found most meaningful. The seconds you felt most connected to her, the point at which you most admired her. Think about that moment when you feel overwhelmed by the statistics, think of that emotional response if you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Move to change one step at a time, with that feeling as your guide.