More than social justice

More than social justice | World Vision Blog

Noi (5, left) is learning the Lao alphabet in her Kindergarten classroom. She is sponsored through World Vision in Laos. (Photo: ©2014 Mark Nonkes/World Vision)

“There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.” –Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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World Vision is on mission to create a protective environment around children, not just so that they survive but also thrive in their communities. Our programs aim to provide for the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of the most vulnerable children.

Millions of children around the world are vulnerable to a wide variety of hazards and obstacles to their well-being — abuse and exploitation, dirty drinking water, poor nutrition, lack of education, to name a few — and among the most vulnerable are girls.

Why?

A few examples …

When communities lack access to clean water, it is often the girls who have to walk miles to fetch water, a journey that keeps them out of school (along with the water-borne illnesses that they get from the dirty water).

Only 30% of girls worldwide attend secondary school, and 64% of the world’s illiterate adults are women. [UNESCO]

When girls aren’t educated, their economic prospects are severely limited. In many countries, marriage is seen as the most viable future for a girl.

Nearly 1 in 5 girls in developing countries become pregnant before the age of 18. [World Bank]

About 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16. [International Women's Day 2014]

Children as young as 11 are forced to work in the sex industry; 20% of the 27 million people believed to be trafficked are children. [UNODC; U.S. State Department]

Addressing gender inequality around the world is a matter of social justice and doing what’s right, but it’s much more than that, too.

Dr. Gary Darmstadt, senior fellow for the Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program, writes: “the marginalization and neglect of the needs, roles and potential of women and girls are key factors limiting advances in human health and development outcomes for all … Investing in women’s and girls’ empowerment is a smart investment for overall development as well as a matter of social justice.”

Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the U.N., said last March: "Rural women number almost half a billion smallholder farmers and landless workers. If they had equal access to productive resources, agricultural yields would rise, relieving as many as 150 million people from hunger."

Today is International Day of the Girl — a day for us to renew our commitment to addressing gender inequality, to empowering women, and to working to protect the most vulnerable girls around the world.

One of my favorite stories that we published this past year was about a 6-year-old girl who fled her home and ran to her school principal because her father was going to sell her into a very early marriage. Her principal brought her to a World Vision community meeting outside, “Under the Big Tree,” where our staff writer Kari Costanza watched as the community came together to protect this little girl.

She would be safe.

I love this story because it shows the power of a community when we stand up against injustice together.

Girls are too often the victims of injustice.

Stand with us against gender-based violence. Against early marriage. Against illiteracy. Against dirty water. Against sex trafficking and exploitation and child labor.

Every girl deserves a bright future.

Happy Day of the Girl.


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