ONE Mom Jennifer James compiled this photo essay to honor International Day of the Girl. Read her compelling stories and see the beautiful photos from her travels, below.
Today marks the second annual International Day of the Girl. It’s the day when we come together to recognize the plight of girls around the world who are oftentimes second class citizens with less access to rights and freedoms about their lives and futures. This year the global community is bringing awareness about girls and education with a theme of Innovating for Girls’ Education.
Did you know 66 million girls are not in school globally? Oftentimes in my many travels to the developing world I notice girls who are doing household errands like fetching water for the family or cooking instead of attending school.
And, I often talk to mothers who are worried about their daughters’ education and how they will pay their exorbitant school fees like these Maasai mothers in northern Tanzania who said they don’t know how they will pay their daughters’ school fees because their beading business is experiencing a downturn in the global economy. They simply do not have as many customers as they once had and now their daughters are suffering.
And at other times while visiting villages or even slums in developing countries I will come upon girls in schools who are extremely intelligent and bright and know it.
Sometimes circumstances prevent girls from going to school like being street-affected. I met this young girl in Lusaka, Zambia at a community center for street kids called Fountain of Hope. Not only did she have to take care of herself; she also had to take care of her younger sibling making it nearly impossible to go to school.
And even other circumstances prevent girls from finishing primary and secondary schooling like becoming young mothers. I met these two girls at the N’Gombe Clinic in Lusaka, Zambia on vaccination day earlier this summer.
And, even girls, like this young Maasai girl who lives in northern will eventually have to undergo female genital circumcision, a traditional practice in the Maasai culture confirmed when I asked one of the women in the community about it. If she is lucky she will be out of school for two weeks, the experience of the woman I asked about girls and FGM, or it may be considerably longer. She may not go to school after undergoing FGM and be married off right away. That is another challenge for young girls and their right to education.
There is good news, however. More girls than ever are enrolled in school. Education has been proven to give girls more opportunities from knowing more about family planning to delaying marriage. And, even girls who are educated become educated mothers who can better earn money for their families and in turn send their girls to school.
I hope the more I travel to developing countries around the world, the more I will see more girls learning and in school.
Thanks to ONE Mom Jennifer James for this great piece. Reporting from Zambia and Tanzania was made possible through fellowships with the International Reporting Project.