The Girl Effect

One thought has been circling round my brain ever since I signed on for this project and started reading more about The Girl Effect. Just one thought. And that thought is this:

I am so…damn…lucky.

I have a very “sorry-for-myself” streak. I’ve felt down and hopeless and, yes, suicidal before. But something about the statistics I’ve been reading and the videos I’ve been watching has flipped a switch in my brain and made me realize how goddamn lucky I am. Seriously.

I was born to a relatively affluent family in Canada. I not only finished high school, but went to a special arts school in Grade 12 so that I could train to be a dancer. I went to university without student loans, and graduated with the degree I wanted. I got engaged to a boy I loved…then changed my mind…then married my soulmate. I had my son when I wanted to have him, and delivered him safely, secure in the knowledge that my family would be able to support him. Even though I spend a lot of time criticizing my own choices, the fact of the matter is that I HAVE choices. I have power over my own life, and I’ve had support from my family every step of the way.

So. Insanely. Lucky.

I could have been born into poverty in a developing country. I could have been born into a family where my education was considered unimportant, where I was kept from studying even to a junior high level, regardless of my aspirations. I could have been forced to marry a much-older man while I was still a teenager, and gotten pregnant at 16 or younger, whether I felt ready for a child or not. I could have grown up in a world where violence and sexual assault were a simple fact of life, or where I had to sell my body to support my family.

I could have watched as the chance for every dream I’d ever dreamed was taken away from me…or I could have had to fight tooth and nail against centuries of oppression to achieve anything I wanted.

Hell, I could have been born and then disposed of…or not been born at all.

If you want some perspective…there’s some with a vengeance.

I’ve never thought of myself as “an activist.” I’ve never stopped to learn very much about the plight of people in less-affluent countries than the US and Canada . It was less painful to pretend that the problems didn’t exist. But they do. Girls are having their chances at education and their own livelihood (not to mention their lives) taken away by the millions. I can’t help wondering…how would I feel if it was me?

How would you feel if it was you?

Kind of a horrifying thought, right?

But here’s the good news:

There are girls who are standing up for their futures. They’re staying in school, and they’re creating businesses. They’re living their dreams. And their efforts make a difference not only in their own lives, but in the lives of their families and communities. Every extra year of schooling that a girl gets boosts her eventual earnings by 10-25%. Women who go to school longer marry later, have fewer and healthier kids, and are more likely to make sure their kids go to school.

And their positive influence doesn’t stop there.They take the money they earn in their jobs and businesses, and they invest it in their families and their community —in significantly greater amounts than men and boys do. And they help to inspire other girls to do the same, and other families to support their daughters’ choices.

It’s a ripple effect that could change the world; it’s The Girl Effect.

And we can help. We can learn about the issues and spread the word about the Girl Effect. We can donate money to causes that specifically target girls (because otherwise they only get about 2 cents of every international aid dollar. Yes, you read that right.).

I’m making a commitment right now. I’m pledging $20/month to help The Girl Effect. And I’ll increase it as soon as I can. It’s a a small thing, but it’s what I can do right now. And it will help.

How about you?

Help spread the word about The Girl Effect. Add your voice to this blogging campaign, or read and share more posts from the hundreds of participants. Check out the Girl Effect videos and share them with your friends and family. Donate to The Girl Effect here, or go to Kiva.org and help make a girl’s dreams come true with a microfinance loan of $25 or more.

What if it was you? Or your sister? Or your friend? What would you want for her?

Girls deserve better. And if you let them, they will fly…and take the rest of their community with them.

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