International Day of the Girl

Let’s pretend it’s yesterday. Why? Because yesterday, October 11 2012, was the first ever International Day of the Girl.

“The day promotes girls’ human rights, highlights gender inequalities that remain between girls and boys and addresses the various forms of discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the globe.” -U.N. Women 

This year, the focus is on child marriage. To learn more about child marriage and the millions of girls worldwide who are wed at early ages, check out the U.N. press release on child marriage. As is bound to happen with any issue so tied into cultural norms, child marriage has already sparked some interesting dinner conversations at our house. Is it wrong if it’s the norm within a culture? What are the rights of children? Who is to decide what is healthy and good? I’ll be honest: I’m still learning about this and don’t have an intelligent opinion to share. But let’s learn together, shall we?

In many places, girl children are discriminated against, sold as sex slaves, discarded at birth or aborted for being female. This documentary, It’s a Girl, seeks to raise awareness about the troubling state of girls around the world. Today, would you take a few moments to learn about the troubles girls face, write a letter to your MP or Senator, sign a pledge, watch a documentary, send money, hug a girl, love a girl, adopt a girl or pray for a girl?


We Do Not Hate

Good Morning!

Today’s post is a message and link from my brother Mark. Please read the following and join us in showing love to our Muslim brothers and sisters!

The last eight days have been for all of us a lesson in the power of hate and the power of social media. A spiteful American has sent a message of hate across the internet. In multiple Muslim countries around the world, people have had their very identities denigrated, and they feel hurt. Citizens, governments, and armed groups have incited protests that are damaging to life, property, and long term relationships. Newsweek responded by attributing the problem to “Muslim Rage”. A French magazine is publishing cartoons denigrating Islam and Judaism.

Just as one may have a right to spread hate, we have a right to counter that. I, for one, won’t have the country that I love represented by hatred abroad. Last week, residents of Benghazi, Libya, demonstrated in the streets to show their support for the American people. They realize that perceptions matter, and so they took the time to make sure that we understand that they do not hate us. Where is our response to them? 

I’ve created a blog called We Do Not Hate, made for one purpose alone: to send a message to Muslims around the world that we do not hate them. The blog is simply a collection of photographs of people expressing their rejection of anti-Muslim hatred. No political discussions, no polemics. Just a simple message. My hope is that people – especially Muslim people – who have been hurt in the last week will see these photos and be reassured that they do indeed have friends in America. 

If you support this message, please do three things:

1. Take a photograph of yourself and post it to the blog

2. Share the link to the blog on facebook with your friends and encourage them to share it too

3. If you have friends throughout the Muslim world who would benefit from seeing this, please share it with them []

The people of Benghazi last week left their work and their leisure to spend time in the streets holding signs. What will you do?
While that video made me incredibly sad, I am quite proud of Mark and his initiative. Will you join us?
If you do post a picture, come share the link in the comments section so we can all see it!

Freeing Children from Forced Labour

Yesterday, Varun and I were reminiscing about how as children, we felt we had all the time in the world. We practiced multiplication, played outside with friends, and lazily watched the minutes and hours march past. We had no idea how long it took to prepare supper, how much working feeding and diapering children was; we had no concept of paying down loans or juggling cash until payday. Like many, we grew up in a childhood bubble of innocence, joy and ease. We were so blessed.

However, for millions of children around the world, adulthood comes too soon. The International Labor Organization estimates that there were 215 million child laborers in 2008. Just to put that in perspective–that’s nearly 2/3 of the US population, all young children, all working long hours in conditions that are often unsafe for wages that are usually unjust.

In Ghana, child slavery is a reality for more than 7,000 children.

“As a mother, it’s difficult for me to imagine my children working 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I’m unable to wrap my brain around the thought of my children engaged in long, hard days of physical labor, eating one meal a day, and then falling asleep at night on a dirt floor filled with other slave children.  Yet this is the daily reality for kids who have been trafficked into the fishing industry in Ghana, Africa.  As with much of Africa, there is a great deal of poverty in Ghana. Unfortunately, this leaves many mothers in an unimaginable position: sell their children to someone who can take better care of them or watch them starve to death.

Most of the mothers are told their children will be given food, housing, and an education. Instead, the kids are often taken to Lake Volta where they become child slaves and their mothers never see them again.  Thankfully, Mercy Project is working to break the cycles of trafficking around Lake Volta by providing alternate, more efficient, sustainable, fishing methods for villagers – ultimately eliminating the need for child slaves.  Because of the work Mercy Project is doing in Ghana, the first group of children will be freed this month from Lake Volta.”

As much as I find it heartbreaking to think of children as young as 5 and 6 working as slaves, I am amazed at the innovation and creativity that Mercy Project uses to ignite hope in communities!

It’s tempting, though, to be overwhelmed by the problems of far away places. Because Varun’s home and family are in India, mine are in the USA, and we live in Canada, our hearts are stretched across the miles. We have become experts at long distance phone plans, calculating time zones and remaining aware of the news and happenings in three countries.

And so, we learn to love those who are near, and far, who are like us, and unlike us. We learn that we can no longer ignore the problems overseas or of people who don’t look like us or live like us. We are learning that every child deserves a childhood of love and joy and play.

Graffiti on the wall separating Palestine from Israel. A haunting and convicting phrase.

As I’m sure you might have guessed, I do not think you need to be in an intercultural relationship to join the fight against child slavery. I think you just need to be a part of the globalized world of 2012. Which you probably are. In all likelihood, you’re wearing clothes made in China, Sri Lanka or Burma. Your iPhone was made in China with parts from 30-some countries. You might have back-packed Europe, or even Asia. Maybe you’ve gone on a missions trip to Mexico. Whether you live in a small town or an urban crossroads, you are part of the world where global is local. Children laboring 14 hours a day, 7 days a week is not the problem of a few thousand Ghanians across the ocean; it’s our problem.

I want to encourage you to watch this fascinating documentary that outlines what a small Texas organization called Mercy Project is doing in Ghana to end child slavery.

I know. You don’t have time to watch another internet video. I thought that too. But this video is moving, humbling and encouraging.

Maybe today you can celebrate Labour Day by joining the fight against forced child labor.

To find out what you can do to help end child slavery-

Watch Mercy Project’s short documentary.

Follow Mercy Project on Facebook.

Connect with Mercy Project via Twitter.

Spend some time on Mercy Project’s website.

• Share about Mercy Project’s work in Ghana with your friends.

We don’t have to be the generation that BBQ’ed and played Angry Birds while thousands of children on a lake in Ghana are robbed of the sunny, innocent days of childhood. We can make a difference by joining with Mercy Project in their efforts to care for the vulnerable.

    “He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the LORD require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
        and to walk humbly with your God?”
-Micah 6:8

*This post was inspired by Heather who writes one of the most poignant and funny blogs on the interweb. Statistics were provided by my brother John, Human-trafficking Fighter Extraordinaire. Photos are courtesy of my brother Luke, taken on his recent trip to Ghana.

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