By the age of 10, I was still unable to communicate with my father’s side of the family because I didn’t speak English. I went to an average school where they tried to force me to be right handed, and generally squashed independent thought, thwarting my self-esteem as a budding girl. I assumed I’d never speak with my family without my father as translator.
My grandparents thought this unacceptable and from then on sponsored my education in a small, nurturing international school where I would learn English. The effects of that generosity vibrate within me everyday as the doors to the world flung open, allowing me to speak with you today. Regardless of family ties, the implications and impact someone’s generosity in the developed world has on a girl in the developing world will ripple across the globe as I use the results of this gift to help others.
Where I was fortunate, others are not. Poverty is a barrier to good education in Venezuela. This is especially problematic for girls, as they become tethered to the supply and demand chain shackling uneducated women to performing housework at very low wages. There is a racial divide there, a racism that breeds a classist society resembling a cast system, with lack of education at the root of the problem. Most are very young, and they’re not presented with Indigenous or Afro-Venezuelan female role models in the media. Their mothers do this work and their daughters follow in line, the cycle remains unbroken.
Something must be done to change these perspectives across the class/racial divide. I tried counseling a 16 y/o worker and my mom tried to teach her to read, but we were too little too late and she was pregnant before the age of 18. She spoke of a girl in her barrio (shanty town) who at 15 was chugging beers while pregnant with her second child, she was not the exception. I became resolute to attend film school and make sex-education films for them. But I now understand that real impact begins much sooner, with nurturing education from a very early age.
We’ve heard, “the revolution will be led by a 12 year-old girl” (girleffect.org). Yet can she do this without an education? I believe this revolution will be aided by the work of the women right here on World Pulse. The organization Seejane.org says, “If she can see it, she can be it,” we may not be making TV shows but we can demand better images women and girls in the media, and we ourselves can set the example of the power in strong educated women, so let’s be it so she can see it.
With so many seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the way of girls’ education, from sex trafficking to gender preferential treatment, an individual with limited time and funds may be at a loss about how to make a difference. Changing the media, laws, law-enforcement, creating campaigns to incentivize parents to send girls to school and eradicating poverty require large political movements. But there is something we can do right now.
This is a call to action inviting you to sponsor ONE girl’s education. If too expensive in your country, sponsor a girl in another country where your currency is worth more, there are many organizations online that make this easy. If too expensive, consider donating what you can. Or team up with friends to pool together the funds to sponsor one girl. Meet up with strangers at crowdfunding sites where you create the cause, and others help you fund it. Consider mentoring, tutoring whether through an established program or the girl next door. Donate school supplies, used books or glasses. Host a party and share your ideas to get others involved, use Facebook, use World Pulse!
We don't have to take on the impossible goal of creating a seed. All we need to do is plant it. Someone else can water it, another will fertilize, others can prune and soon enough we will all enjoy the fruits of this combined labor. The significance of the gift will not only transform her world, her attitude towards life and herself, but will awaken a desire to give back as she has received. It has the power to spark an interest in “the other,” in people from afar, people who are different, for it was someone far away that made that gift possible and an interest in other cultures and helping each other regardless of race or heritage will be solidified.
Gratitude will flow, creating a riverbed of peace.
The world will be her oyster, and she will be it’s pearl.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.