This is a fashion and beauty blog.
Style and fashion are forms of self-expression that women take for granted in many developed countries. For some women, style and self expression are so far away from anything they could spend their time thinking about as they struggle for basic survival and self-worth. That is why I want to publish the following article, which I recently wrote about something that can first change a woman’s life, and secondly, change our whole world far more profoundly than style or fashion. This may just be more a matter of common sense than instinct.
So please, excuse me while I digress.
The Philanthropist’s Guide to Solving World Issues
To educate is to change.
To educate a woman is to change everything in the world, irreversibly and for the better.
It is possible to directly reduce world hunger drastically and to bring the train of overpopulation to a standstill before it runs off the cliff.
Then why do things look so damn hopeless?
CHANGE HER LIFE AND YOU CHANGE EVERYTHING.
This iconic photo from National Geographic, 1985
The problem begins at birth. When a male is born, congratulations and gifts are given to the father. His son will grow up to get a job to help support the family and eventually inherit the property. When daughters are born, it is so unrewarding for the mother that she may end up in tears. A girl is considered an expense since she will depend on a father or husband her whole life.
In Japur, India, infanticide has become such a problem that in a population of two million, over 3,500 sex-determined abortions occur every year. It is not unheard of for a mother to kill her daughter soon after childbirth out of the belief that dying would be better for her child than growing up and having a miserable life as a female in a patriarchal society.
In many developing countries, the ratio of men to women has become drastically out of proportion. It is natural for marginally more females to be born than males in any country, but since the government in China has begun fining households for having more than one child as a way of controlling overpopulation, girls have been disappearing immediately after childbirth. When this occurs, it is often so that the parents will have a second chance at having a son. In 1997, the World Health Organization stated that upwards of 50 million women were missing from the Chinese population due to neglect and murder, and more than that in India. Many years after that particular study, China’s government has admitted that many more Chinese girls have vanished from the population. The rate of males to females is now almost 118 to 100, meaning countless Chinese men will die single.
An article from the Globe and Mail dated January 15, 2013 notes Chinese families are saving up dowries for their sons in the once-traditional but now archaic (and in this situation, backwards) idea of buying a spouse. It would be accurate to say that those parents who once gave their daughters up so eagerly for foreign adoption are now cursing their untimely decision.
The newspaper quotes 24-year-old Wu Jinsong from a rural part of China, who says “I have no demands. I’ll accept any woman I can find.”
Marriages in China are becoming more and more stressful to even contemplate. The article states: “Men who have managed to get married say it costs them and their families upwards of 100,000 yuan – cash, plus goods, plus the cost of the wedding itself – to seal the deal.”
Women in many developing countries are considered servants of the household and accept that their standing in the world is set in stone. The men do not realize that although they are the ones who get the paycheck, they couldn’t actually live without their wives and mothers since the women are the ones making their meals and raising their children. Somehow, men have deceived themselves into believing that women are a burden.
In India, a dowry still resembles the more traditional meaning. As defined by Dictionary.com, a dowry is “the money, goods, or estate that a wife brings to her husband at marriage.” However, it is recognized in some parts of the world as payment for taking the burden of a woman. A UNICEF study states that approximately 5,000 women are killed every year because of insufficient dowries.
Men, by default, are entitled to more than women. More and better everything. Food, most importantly. Females eat last, and only what their husbands, brothers and fathers reject. The healthcare system for women is all but non-existent in many parts of India. Women are often not permitted to get an education, let alone a job. Thus, they are unable to support themselves or their children, and therefore must rely on fathers and husbands.
As a general rule, abuse in any country is despicable, however a survey reports that 45% of Ethiopian women admit to having been assaulted. If a woman thinks to choose her own husband, flirt in public or ask for a divorce from an abusive husband, she will be “disciplined”. This often includes execution by the girl’s own family.
Defined by Dictionary.com, honor killings are “an ancient tradition still sometimes observed; a male member of the family kills a female for tarnishing the family image.” Considering the honor killings which take place in Islam, it is somewhat surprising to find that the Islamic holy book does not condone honor killings. In Pakistan, a revolting statistic shows that an average of three women are killed every day in honor killings, often including victims of rape, because the woman is assumed the criminal in this situation. All responsibility for sexual misconduct goes to women, no matter the circumstances. This shows that men, as well as women, need to be educated, at least to see that killing somebody is not “honorable.” In our country, we consider killing to be the opposite: we think it is dishonorable in the extreme. If this issue still seems too far away from home to worry about, consider this: there have been 13 honor killings in Canada since 2002 . . . and this number is on the rise.
Education – or the lack thereof – is another huge issue in most developing countries, which is not news to the western world. Most girls in developing counties cannot attend school due to rules imposed by either government or family. If a girl is able to attend school, it is rate that she will even end up with enough education to get a job in her own country, let alone a western country such as ours. Girls will not be graduating and attending a secondary level of education to become part of a skilled workforce. Girls who do attend school are usually pulled out at the age of nine or ten, as soon as they are old enough to handle the day’s work at home. According to UNICEF, over nine million more girls miss school than boys around the world.
Nine million more.
In countries where women are prohibited from being seen outside without a male escort, the loss of the family’s income-earning husband or father is ultimately a death sentence. There is no way for a family of women or for a mother and her children to feed themselves without the right to get a job.
A UN statistic tells us that although women produce over half of the world’s food, they own only 1% of the farmland in the world. Although they work just as much or perhaps more than men do at their unpaid roles, they have little to no recognition for this at the end of the day.
However, in some countries such as Thailand, people do see value in their daughters. Human traffickers may offer a farmer six times his average year’s pay in exchange for his daughter. To a farmer with a meager $150 yearly salary, who already sees no use for his daughter, this looks like a very good deal. She will be only one of many sold and forced into prostitution. According to UNICEF, one third of sex workers in the world are between the ages of 12 and 17 and approximately one million children around the world are entering in the sex trade every year. Every goddamned year.
In India, if a woman is poor but has many children, her husband must decide whether they are to have healthcare. More often than not, the child will not be able to access available vaccinations, even if western countries are providing it. Children die from curable conditions such as diarrhea for which western clinics provide treatment at the fingertips of those who simply ask. Mothers deserve the right to participate in making the decision of whether her children will get the care they need.
If there is not enough food to go around, the father eats first and then decides how food is to be distributed. Where women have the right to decide, the children are always fed because mothers instinctually prioritize their children’s survival.
So how do we get to the point where a woman is allowed make decisions on her own? The solution is education.
“Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you educate a community.” (Greg Mortenson, humanitarian) Statistics show that a woman will share her education with her entire community. Women are the primary educators of the next generation. Countries that prevent women from getting an education also prevent daughters and sons of those women from accessing the knowledge that those women would otherwise pass on.
Countries that need to keep their population ignorant in order to better oppress it already know this. These are countries that can get innumerable young men to strap bombs to their bodies and commit acts of terrorism. An educated population will demand a say in their future. Education is passed through women and changes the way future generations are raised too.
An educated woman will have fewer children, thereby reducing strain on the world’s resources. It is a fact that for every additional year that a woman stays in school, she will have fewer children. The benefits of this impact how well she can feed the ones she has and will therefore directly reduce the number of children who starve to death.
The education of women is of prime importance, although as is obvious from the issue of honor killings and the lack of recognition for the value of women’s contributions, the education of men is essential to the solution as well. It is not that the men in these countries are necessarily selfish villains, but this is the culture which they have been taught for centuries. They know no different and their wives have no voices with which to tell them.
To put educational resources into women is to educate the next generation, to directly reduce starvation and to put brakes on the overpopulation of this planet. And all of this, my friends, has a direct impact on you.