BY RUTH LESMANA | WRITER
“When I was a child, my parents wouldn’t let me walk at night by myself – because I’m a girl.”
“If a man attacks me then I won’t be able to fight back – because I’m a girl.”
“When I get married, my husband will work and I’ll stay at home – because I’m a girl.”
“Even if I don’t agree, I’ll do what my father/brother/husband/boyfriend says – because I’m a girl.”
“I don’t think I would be as strong as them – because I’m a girl.”
These are just some of the statements we hear from students and friends in the community in which we work. Each time, my heart sinks.
There’s no doubt that in some cases, they’re surrounded by cultural and safety complexities. But when girls are not ‘allowed’ to do certain things, or ‘warned’ against them – simply because they’re girls… I want to ask ‘WHY?’
Why is this a good enough reason to limit what girls can, and should do?
What good does it do, to raise girls who grow up in fear and cower at new opportunities?
When will this statement speak of possibilities and positive expectations, instead of limitations?
Not to mention the educational, health, and leadership sectors of our world; did you know that in the majority of countries, it has been reported that 40% of women who have experienced violence sought help? It’s been said that in many countries, both women and men believe that wife-beating is justified.*
They’re expected to stay silent, because they’re girls.
We need to continue working hard to equip communities to look beyond this. If girls continue to believe this, it will seep into every other part of their lives. They need to know that they can ask questions so that it broadens their future options, rather than box them in. To build teams and support networks that believe in themselves, because that’s what creates change. When individuals are encouraged and equipped to pursue their own growth, it spills out onto others.
For every student that learns to operate a sewing machine, to avoid or survive violent encounters, to share their personal stories so that they can begin to heal from traumatic experiences, to provide better care for children, and to set and achieve goals… they’re changing their understanding of this statement, “Because I’m a girl…”.
“I stand up for, and make wise decisions about my own future – because I’m a girl.”
“I show, and expect to be shown – respect, by others – because I’m a girl.”
“I’m strong, capable, and loyal – because I’m a girl.”
“I’m fierce, compassionate, and loving all in one – because I’m a girl.”
“I’m contributing positively to society – because I’m a girl.”
These are the statements that should come to mind when we hear those four words.