Dear Girls, and yes, boys too,
In honor of International Day of the Girl this month, I’d like to highlight some of the problems, the successes, and the solutions found in the book Girl Rising, a book I read by a well known author in the modern age, Tanya Stone. Ms. Stone wrote this book to accompany a film called Girl Rising, and she highlights girls who overcame obstacles such as poverty, child marriage, threats of forcible abduction, sexual harassment, etc. They went to school and learned what they should about their P’s and Q’s, how to play with numbers, and all that science and stuff. I personally took education for granted till I heard stuff about the Taliban, listed as a terrorist organization, and AlShabbab, another terrorist organization in Somalia. Let me just explain in a sentence what these guys stand for: men do the work, fight, breed, etc., and girls stay at home, breed, cook, pop out babies, whatever you want to use to word it best. The Taliban nearly killed an activist, but they are not in charge of the government in Afghanistan anymore. However, AlShabbab stole my ex-boyfriend’s hometown, Kismayo, a coastal location in Somalia, along with pretty much all of South Somalia. Sadly, girls are threatened by both of these groups still, and AlShabbab has been known to hang girls for being victims of rape.
How can we change this problem into a solution? It’s not just the terrorists who need to be thrown out of line with the planet. It’s not only this, but government corruption in Africa and Asia are the biggest problems. First, governments should understand what their roles are. What is education? Education is a necessary thing that we should all have in order to change the world, girls included. But let’s add a little edge to this education ambition: blind and physically handicapped girls.
Yes, child marriage and sex slavery may affect these girls at a disproportionate rate. India is known for not letting a blind or physically incapacitated girl go to school. Mariyam Cementwala, a blind woman who was born in India, says that we should educate the people of these countries, notably India, about the capabilities of blind people if given the proper tools. She’s like most blind folks in America, and thanks to her efforts, she’s not unnoticed, but she and others like her can have meaningful jobs and careers like the boys in any village could. Cementwala has been stopped and patronized repeatedly in the streets because of her cane. LEt’s just say it’s a teachable moment.
I get pretty upset when med drivers (medical transport people hired by Medicaid to drive disabled people to doctor appointments) try to grab my cane like it’s the steering wheel of a car. Most of these drivers come from foreign nations where girls who are blind do not have proper tools for walking freely around. I have to tell them that this cane is not to be touched while in motion, especially while I’m trying to explore the area. With the limited language skills of these guys, however, I find myself yelling impatiently sometimes because they have to stop groping my arm, grabbing parts of my body, etc. Gentle holds are fine, but I’m more comfortable with holding someone’s hand if there’s no safety rail, or handrail for instance. The bad thing about these guys is that their lack of education in English could lead to death of the passenger in an autoaccident. Automobile accidents kill a lot of people, I don’t have a number, but the uneducated men who sometimes get involved in accidents like these can’t adequately speak to a 911 operator. This can become deadly if I myself was involved, could not speak, or was dead on impact. If the driver survives, he could be forced to pay funeral bills, hospital bills, etc., and that’s if he caused the accident.
I don’t mean to use this as an excuse to yell at anyone, but this is why English and education are so damn important. And this is for both girls and guys.
Girls are more vulnerable to being married off even in Denver, my city. I have heard of Somali girls being married off to what my ex’s cousin calls “men old enough to be their Grandpa.” Fardousa, the girl who told me this information, now lives a happy life, going to college, etc. Fardousa is a sweet and compassionate young woman who lives to help other people, and her mother, a midwife by trade, wants to learn too. Nadifa speaks fluent English, but she needed to go to premed school and nursing school, learn some Latin terms, etc., and get a board certification to work here in the States as a midwife to her community. It is education of her, her daughters, and her sons alike that will stir up the pot and make the family stronger. Yes, even their youngest daughter is in school by now.
Deq, my ex, is a blind man from Somalia who still went to school in Kenya. Even while he’s a guy, his education will create a ripple effect with his wife and children. He married a refugee woman, and I hope together their children, once grown, will be educated as he was despite his blindness. Deq will share his story with his future daughters, and they in turn will learn that even a physical handicap can’t stop them from going to school.
All blind students should be taught Braille, of course, something that girls and boys at the Thicca High School for the Blind all learned. Deq did not, however, fine tune his computer skills. Blind people both male and female should be honing their computer skills.
Why is education so important? Not only because it’s a safety issue, but it’s a matter of life and death. Had Nadifa’s daughters been stuck in Kenya, in a camp, not schooled, they would have likely been among the millions of teenage brides forced into marriage, labor, or prostitution. Though Muslim, these young women would still have to make a living, right? In Kenya, life sucks if you’re both blind and a woman, depending on your luck, family, and support system. What if Deq had been a girl? Would the support of his Uncle Aden been the same? Would I have heard the same thing from Aden as I heard at his CCB (Colorado Center for the Blind) graduation? Aden says that just because the eyes don’t work, that doesn’t mean the whole body is broken. That philosophy carried through Deq’s future and education, but really. What if he had been a girl?
Girls in Somalia are ten times more likely than boys not to be educated. In the southern half of the whole Somaliland, girls don’t usually go to school, but if they do, something good happens. They can get jobs, and there are jobs abounding in places like the United States, a lot safer for women. Hey, I think women would make good drivers for Somali and Muslim women who would request a female driver.
Drivers in cab and transit companies need a lot more than just basic English. They need to know medical terms at the intermediate level such as what the hell a stroke is, or what a heart attack is. Maybe some of those male drivers can lead by example and show their daughters what education in a night school looks like. These guys should be encouraging their lady folk to go to college, be doctors, nurses, etc. Nadifa’s midwifery skills will play a vital role in her community, and Denver needs more gentle hands like hers to assist and be a role model to other girls out there.
As far as girls in developing nations go, they have a chance to change what is wrong. If they are educated and learn how to advocate for themselves whether on or off disability pensions, the girls will have a greater impact in the world. Afghan girls need more money for good school supplies. Imagine an Afghan lady coding an app with a Google Chromebook. Imagine that same Afghan girl becoming a woman and working for Google. I don’t think that’s far fetched, don’t you?
In honor of International Day of the Girl, here are some solutions to the problems of poverty and child marriage and lack of access:
First off, teach the guys. Like the medical drivers in Denver who don’t know what blind women are comfy with, a lot of guys are illiterate and don’t know the value of education for their daughters. So why not? Send an old grayhead to school for a week. Why not have a Take Your Dad to School Day for the girls in these nations. Even in the United States, refugee men should go to school, and maybe that will motivate them to educate their daughters. Let’s picture a father in Somalia going to his daughter’s school, learning about code, and the girl showing him a rented Chromebook. That would totally blow her dad away. The dads would be invited to a class where they learn basic girl to father interactions, and how to empower, not squelch, their daughter’s voices. Take Your Dad to School Day would be the reversal of Take Your Daughters to Work Day, something my dad took pride in. But because education is important, I think we have to start with the males who don’t get it, and why not take away their bombs and their tanks and guns and give them books and Chromebook computers instead? Show them what their daughters are learning, and how it can break the cycle of poverty.
Secondly, let the girl choose what she wants. Give her basic choices, even if you’re AMerican and reading this, give her the choice to be herself. Let her wear clothes she likes. LEt her express her feelings safely in words, and don’t use violence against her, including the sexual stuff.
Thirdly, nations should be encouraging their governments to strengthen policies on education. Both males and females need education, and it’s a safety hazard if they don’t learn. I don’t think basic English is gonna cut it. Afghan women can learn the Latin root terms for a heart attack: myocardial infarction, and they can also learn what the hell PRN means which I had no idea where the hell they got that from. It’s from a Latin phrase meaning, “as needed.” So when your friendly doctor or nurse says, “I’m going to prescribe you a little antianxiety med PRN”, you will also know she means, “as needed.” Education changes everything, and it should start with families at home. LEt the girls draw pictures, take selfies, write a blog. Whatever happens, let the girls do what they want, and if marriage happens, let the local police deal with it.
I think all boys should have a basic civics to help my sister course, and girls should know the law as well. Girls should be able to have a whole lawbook so that they can be direct when they say, “I don’t want to get married.” IF the family is poor, girls should find ways to reach out and say they are, they need help, etc. IF a girl in the U.S. needs help, then she should say so.
Girls and guys need education equally, and boys should protect their sisters with every bone in their body. Older men who have fluency in English can get better jobs here in this country, thus their girls get better opportunities to live their dreams.
And the best part? If we give guys and younger boys eighteen to twenty an education in full on English, including medical terminology, I will be safe in these guys’ hands. Women should indeed participate, and they could also get better jobs. I won’t have to call 911 even when I’m rear ended and the guy can’t speak much English.
And disability education can teach men and women alike that disabled people are not things to be grabbed, groped, and pulled. Right? We should start them learning as young as possible.