“Any woman that wants to be equal to a man has no ambition.” Nomalizo Leah Shenxane Tutu (wife of Bishop Desmond Tutu)
As I sit typing on this post and listening to the vice presidential debate, I am remembering that today is the 1st International Day of the Girl. Sanctioned by the United Nation’s General Assembly and passed as Resolution 66/170, this day is designed for advocacy and action by and for girls.
This special day comes at a critical time when the war against women and girls is still being waged around the globe. Most notable in the news that is trending this week is the story of Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl who has been called one of the world’s most persuasive advocates for girls’ education. [Ref 1] The Taliban, after throwing warning letters in her home that told her to stop her advocacy — or else, stepped up their campaign against this female education rebel on Tuesday of this week by approaching her school bus and shooting her in the head and neck.
Prior to the shooting, Malala had refused to back down and even stepped up her advocacy campaign by starting a fund to help extremely poor Pakistani girls get an education. The attack on Malala is just one of many countless acts of violence against women and the girls that often go unreported each day, and all too often is a way of life in many parts of the world.
By adopting resolution 66/170, the United Nations signals its global commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls across the globe. Girls continue to lag behind in education and access to health, and many are exposed to domestic violence, commercial sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices.
Malala is still unconscious, but her health is improving. Here is a young woman who is targeted for assassination by the Taliban, yet she is not shaken in her goal of helping girls like herself gain an education. It leads me to ask, once again, why it is that so many of our youth in the United States take their education for granted, when others hold education to be the equivalent of a virtuous woman that is more valuable than rubies?
One of the provisions from Resolution 66/170 states the following:
Recognizing that empowerment of and investment in girls, which are critical for economic growth, the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals, including the eradication of poverty and extreme poverty, as well as the meaningful participation of girls in decisions that affect them, are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence and in promoting and protecting the full and effective enjoyment of their human rights, and recognizing also that empowering girls requires their active participation in decision-making processes and the active support and engagement of their parents, legal guardians, families and care providers, as well as boys and men and the wider community. [Ref 2]
Yesterday, at the U.S. State Department, a special program was held to honor this special day, and to remind each of us that when we help people realize their God-given potential, they build empowered communities, families, women, and girls.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that each year there are over 10 million child brides under age 18 who are forced into marriage, there are continuing attacks on women that speak out against their oppressors, and that more girls go to primary school than secondary school in the world.
Bishop Desmond Tutu was also present for this special program and as one of the leaders of the Council of Elders announced that his group has a goal to end child marriage by 2030. Simply stated, his group wants to make child marriage history. He stated that one of the roles of the female is making our world a different kind of world that is more compassionate, gentler, and warmer.
The most memorable comment made during the special program was attributed to the wife of Bishop Tutu who states, “Any woman that wants to be equal to a man has no ambition.”
- United Nations Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly 66/177: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/66/170, November 14, 2011.
- Her “Crime” was Loving School, Nicholas D. Kristof, The Opinion Pages, New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/11/opinion/kristof-her-crime-was-loving-schools.html, October 10, 2012.