On a brisk Sunday afternoon, I sat down with two true human rights advocates. These two women shared countless reasons why educating children particularly girls was important to the recovery and betterment of a nation. And why girls need quality education just as much as they need basic necessities even in volatile areas. Annette Scarpitta, Program Founder and Director of Rwenena Kids and Solange Nyamulisa, Communications Specialist at the UN, talked for hours about the countless reasons why we need to pay closer attention to the affects of conflicts on girls and women.
I have never experienced the trauma of war, so I can only imagine the level of dysfunction in a country ravaged by a 20 year conflict. I asked Solange to explain to me exactly what was occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo and she told me about the various rebel groups vying for power and wreaking havoc throughout the eastern portion of the country. But more importantly, she explained how a prolonged conflict tears the community and economy apart and leaves women and girls extremely vulnerable even when they are seeking refuge. She explained that the idea of sending a girl to school is an afterthought because girls are considered part of their husbands’ future family; thus, they are less likely to contribute to their parents’ household once they are married. As she talked, I tried to wrap my head around this idea. What if my mom told me:
Your hopes, ambitions and dreams are worthless; you were just placed on this earth to get married and be a mother. Besides that, you have no identity, no voice and nothing to contribute.
Would I be where I am today, if I had been told that my entire life? Probably not. When you strip someone of their ability to hope and grow as a person you slowly destroy that person. So how can you rebuild a nation, if such a large portion of its population is being mentally, physically and spiritually violated? On this International Day of the Girl, Annette asks that you remember the forgotten ones. Remember the ones that live in such a remote portion of the country that their town (Rewenena, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) is often missing from the maps. Remember the girl that knocked on the door of the school until she too could have a seat at the table. Conflicts don’t just impact the political, economic and social structures within nations they also impact communities, families and children for generations. On this International Day of the Girl speak up for the girls whose voices are muted.