Friday, 8 March 2013

"Jenna, why do you only care about girls?!"

Given that today is International Women's Day, I thought this would be an appropriate topic.

My project in Uganda focuses on the girl child. But why not the boys?! I get this question all the time. It’s not because I’m a man-hating separatist. In fact, it’s much the opposite. 50% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 18, and if I still have any math skills left, that means 25% of Uganda’s population is girls under the age of 18. In empowering girls, we strive not to be better than boys, but rather we strive to be equal. Feminism has taken on a negative connotation. But what is feminism really? It is the desire for women to have equal human rights-as humans, period. With my girl’s project, we are not aiming to only empower individuals solely, we are aiming to uplift a nation. If 25% of the future population were to have the opportunity to be educated, the country would begin to thrive economically and socially. This is not just for us. This is for everyone. 

So why else should we support the education of the Ugandan girl child?

-In many countries like Uganda, boys are innately born the superior gender. Thus opportunities naturally are given to them. Often in Uganda, if a family can only afford to send one child to school, they will inevitably choose the boy.

-Since dowry still exists in many communities like these, girls are often seen as property that one family sells to another through marriage. Culturally, boys take care of their parents in their later years. Thus, many families of girl children don’t see the need to educate the girl child, since “she is just going to leave anyway.”

-If a girl is not in school, she is often seen as “eligible” for marriage, regardless of her age, and her opinion.

-Because of the lack of reproductive health education in many parts of Africa, as well as the stigmas surrounding condom use, and the patriarchal pressure that prevents girls from having the right to refuse sex, many girls end up pregnant very young. This is one of the main reasons I chose to put my girls into boarding school. 

-The role of women, especially in rural villages is much like what you would imagine the role of women would have been 100 years ago in the States. They are born with little option to stray from the duties expected of them. Women in the villages spend their days walking miles and miles to fetch water and firewood. They tend the fields, digging and cultivating rice and corn. They take care of the chickens and goats, and make meals from scratch. They wash clothes in whatever water source they can find. They are in charge of raising the village children. And generally speaking, and I hope I don't get poisoned for saying this, they need to be available to sexually satisfy their men when expected. I’ve never met a more harder-working and under-valued population. Such cultural expectations are one of the main reasons girls are not given the opportunity to go to school.

-If women are in charge of raising the children, imagine what an educated woman can do.

-A girl that is determined to go to school might be seen as “stubborn” or “trouble” because culturally, many men might believe that such a girl is trying to “overtake” them.  Such feelings of insecurity result in the emasculation that is often the root cause of domestic violence in the home.

-Girls are human beings and deserve equal respect and opportunity.

Why else do you think it's important to educate girls?

The fact is that although all Ugandans (and most Africans) are deprived of many of their human rights, and are oppressed on a global level, Ugandan boys are still born with privilege and opportunity and girls are simply not. They are the lowest on the chain, a
nd it's about time things changed. Given that this has been 'the cultural way' for generations, the solution as I see it is to focus on the youth. The only way out of this oppressive cycle is through education. If we empower the girls, and educate the boys on the importance of empowering their female counterparts-beginning with supporting them getting an education, the future of the country-and of our world, will thrive. 

“But Jenna! You’re white. Aren't you imposing your Western beliefs? …This is their culture.”

Human rights are human rights, period. Because I, (like many of you), was circumstantially born into privilege. I believe that it’s my moral responsibility to use the rights I was unjustly granted to empower those who were unjustly granted less to see-and fight for their human rights too. 

What do you think?

If you are interested in making a donation to support the education of one of my girls, you can do so via PayPayl:, or message me for more details.

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." -Helen Keller

1 comment:

  1. BEAUTIFUL WORDS JENNA!!! Spoken so perfectly. I cant wait to see how your future unfolds. Something great comes your way....