Friday Morning Reads: Let’s hear it for the girls!

Good Morning!

Well, after an intense VEEP debate last night, I’d like to focus on topics related to something I care about.   So, I’ll let Kirk over there phone in the political news,

I deeply care about the future of the world’s girls.This week, we celebrated the first day specifically for girls. Here are some updates on some of the challenges that girls around the globe face. There are many.

One of the most horrifying futures for girls in many countries is becoming a child bride.  I’ve written about this before since seeing a Maria Hinojosa special on PBS called “Child Brides, Stolen Lives”. This was in 2007. I’m proud that our SOS Hillary Clinton has made ending  this a priority for the US.

Part of Clinton’s initiative includes tackling these core causes through education, underscoring a study that reveals that girls with a secondary level education are six times less likely to marry as children.

Some of the steps to empower girls through education include a $15 million initiative through nonprofit USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) tackling cost and safety issues that prevent girls reaching post-primary schooling.

Clinton’s plan also includes tracking every country’s legal minimum age of marriage, providing more training for consular staff to respond to child marriage cases and specifically tackling child marriage in Bangladesh. Here, a pilot program will promote sensitivity through the government, media and other outlets.

Within the private portion of Clinton’s plan, the Ford Foundation also launched a five-year $25 million commitment to end child marriage by pushing local governments to fight child marriage, fund new research on interventions and work to expand girls’ rights.

Here’s some updated information from CARE.

“Child marriage is a violation of human rights whether it happens to a girl or a boy, but it represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls,” says UNICEF – Child Protection Information Sheet. “The harmful consequences include separation from family and friends, lack of freedom to interact with peers and participate in community activities, and decreased opportunities for education. Child marriage can also result in bonded labour or enslavement, commercial sexual exploitation and violence against the victims,” continues UNICEF.

Advocates say early marriage can be devastating to young girls who do not have the ability to stop inequalities in marriage. Lack of safety and personal power to stop forced sexual activity in marriage can also place young girls in dangers to exposures with HIV/AIDS. Girls who marry early are also more likely to skip school or discontinue their education all together.

“By forcing a child into premature adulthood, early marriage thwarts her chances at education, endangers her health and cuts short her personal growth and development,” says CARE’s “From Aid to Impact” action report. “Maternal health risks are particularly troubling as risk of death in pregnancy and delivery for girls under the age of 15 is five times higher than for women in their 20s,” added CARE.

But can we change conditions for girls who face early marriage? Advocates say YES.

“That’s what we need to commit to: to end child marriage by 2030,” said Mary Robinson, former United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights and one of the global human rights leaders known as The Elders, in a recent October 4, 2012 Google+ Hangout (sponsored by The Elders).

I learned about The Elders from a wonderful TV program on Jane Goodall called “Jane’s Journey” on Animal Planet. Jane has started working with children in a program all over the world called “Shoots and Roots” that is absolutely amazing. It works closely with The Elders.

Goodall’s life and her efforts to save the communities of chimps she first encountered decades ago are front and center in the TV premiere of “Jane’s Journey” at 8 p.m. Tuesday on Animal Planet

She’s behind some of the latest discoveries, like the raising of twin chimps to adulthood and the ability to determine a wild paternity.

Goodall said about 20 years ago that she had figured out the best way to save the chimps would be to help people who live on the land.

“When we talked to the village elders, they told us they wanted better health facilities and education for their children.”

In return, villagers — now living better lives — have turned their attention to preserving at least some of the jungles where the apes live.

But the effort has taken years for Goodall and an army of like-minded individuals to build infrastructure and promote sustainable livelihoods — like growing and exporting coffee.

Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program is one of those programs that simply amazes me.  Again, I learned about it last week when the program aired.

Roots creep underground everywhere and make a firm foundation. Shoots seem very weak, but to reach the light, they can break open brick walls. Imagine that the brick walls are all the problems we have inflicted on our planet. Hundreds of thousands of roots & shoots, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world, can break through these walls. We CAN change the world.
– Dr. Jane

You should watch the Goodall program, the Hinojosa program, and the PBS program “Half the Sky”--promoted by Mona last weekend on Saturday–if you care about girls and boys all over the world.  We’ve promoted the Somaly Mam program for some time on this blog. Her story and the other women’s stories are so inspiring as is the work they do.

Somaly Mam was born in an ethnic minority community in Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province, and grew up as an orphan living in extreme poverty. A man posing as her grandfather sold Somaly as a young girl into sexual slavery.

Forced to work in a brothel, Somaly was repeatedly tortured and raped. One night, she was made to watch as her best friend was murdered. Fearing she would also be killed, Somaly escaped her captors and set about building a new life for herself. She vowed never to forget those left behind and has since dedicated her life to saving victims and empowering survivors.

In 1996, Somaly established a Cambodian non-governmental organization called AFESIP (Agir Pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire), and in 2007 launched theSomaly Mam Foundation.

She quickly gained international attention for her anti-trafficking efforts, and is the recipient of the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation and Glamour Magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award. She was featured as a CNN Hero and named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009.

Somaly was also featured in the film Not My Life, an unflinching documentary depicting the horrors of modern slavery on a global scale, which released in 2011.

So, instead of watching something that is meaningless this weekend, please, take time to learn about the life of girls around the world. There are some really inspiring programs that you can learn about in the links that I’ve provided for you this morning.

I wanted to update you on Malala–a young girl who just wants to go to school in Pakistan–who JJ covered in her news post earlier this week.  She has been shifted to AFIC Rawalpindi in serious condition.

The doctors had conducted surgery on Malala’s head and neck to remove a bullet on Wednesday. They advised complete rest for her in the hospital. Col Dr Junaid, who handled the 14-year-old Malala from the first day after she was shifted to the CMH from Swat, told this correspondent outside the ICU where she was fighting for life, that it was now the unanimous decision of the doctors to transfer her to AFIC Rawalpindi for better care.

“A joint team of doctors from the Pakistan Army and civilians held a meeting and found that the surgery done on Malala in Peshawar was outstanding but felt that she now needed better care. The team said the AFIC was a better place for post-operative care for patients suffering from trauma and head injuries,” Col Dr Junaid said.

He said the two British doctors also expressed satisfaction on Malala’s surgery and congratulated the Pakistani neurosurgeons for doing such an excellent job with limited resources.He said Malala would remain at the paediatric unit of AFIC where foreign doctors would assist Pakistani doctors in her treatment.

Before Malala’s shifting, extraordinary security measures were made in and outside the CMH and the Pakistan Army commandos were seen escorting a brief motorcade of two ambulances and military vehicles.

Malalal’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, her mother and close relatives and Dr Junaid accompanied her in the military helicopter.Though worried for his patient, Col Dr Junaid said he was optimistic she would recover soon. “It’s a critical injury. We are keeping her on a ventilator,” he said. Asked as to when she would regain consciousness, he said it would require at least 15 days.

The military sources, however, said the decision to shift her to AFIC was taken on the advice of two British doctors called for Malala’s treatment. One of them was identified as Dr Fiona and the other her Pakistan-born husband. The couple visited Malala at the CMH and advised her shifting to the AFIC.

“Fiona has experience in post-operative care in neuro-surgery and head injuries. She and her husband offered their services to Malala and agreed to attend to her if she is taken to the AFIC,” the officials said.

Yesterday in Peshwar, the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) staged a protest rally to condemn the recent attack on Malala Yousafzai and the two other school students in Swat.  People in Pakistan have been outraged at the attack on the young teen.

Speaking on the occasion, Bashir Bilour termed Malala Yousafzai an icon of peace, education and prosperity. He said the bold and courageous girl had even spoken against the militants when they wielded power in Swat. “The militants have shown their cowardice by targeting an innocent teenaged girl,” he said and added that neither the Muslims nor the Pakhtuns could even think of attacking women and children. “The militants cannot stop us from our struggle to establish peace on this soil,” he vowed.

The participants prayed for the early recovery of Malala Yousafzai and her injured friends. The ANP central deputy general secretary Tajuddin Khan, Peshawar district president Arbab Najeeb and other leaders attended the rally.

Meanwhile, students of the Bacha Khan Model High School in Nauthia staged a protest rally at the Fawwara Chowk in Peshawar Cantonment to express solidarity with Malala Yousafzai.Prof Khadim Hussain, who heads the schools project of the Bacha Khan Education Foundation, was leading the rally which began from Nauthia and ended at the Fawwara Chowk.The students in their collective prayers prayed for early recovery of Malala Yousafzai.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia lauded Malala in Islamabad even as she fights her own fight against sexism and misogyny in Australia. She was backed today by the New Speaker Anna Burke. There was quite a verbal exchange between the PM and the minority party at parliament.  Gillard accused the opposition leader of misogyny and sexism directly.

But the new Speaker, Anna Burke, said Ms Gillard’s prime ministership had triggered a wave of public and political sexism.

Days after she was confirmed as Peter Slipper’s replacement in the chair, the Labor MP condemned the tone and subject matter of much of the debate in the current parliament.

“I think there is obviously some sexism and misogyny that goes on in the parliament, as it does in a lot of workplaces, tragically,” Ms Burke told ABC radio.

“And I think that one of the disappointing parts about having the first female prime minister is that unfortunately that has brought out the worst in some people in the parliament and some people in the public.

Here’s PM Julia Gillard’s Speech.

Let us also not forget about the assault on the rights of women in this country either.  So, that’s a little change of subject for me this morning. What’s on your blogging and reading list today?