Art Exhibit Shows Scale of Female Gendercide

The Gendercide Awareness Project premiered a giant art exhibit in Dallas, Texas to demonstrate the scale of female gendercide (also called female genocide, femicide, or just gendercide).

The Problem

The global loss of females results from:

  • sex-selective abortion
  • female infanticide
  • gross neglect of girls
  • entirely preventable maternal death
  • lack of food and shelter for older women
  • socially sanctioned violence against women

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that currently 117 million women and girls are ‘missing’ in the world due to these causes. That’s 3.4% of the world’s female population – missing as a result of human choice and behavior. Gendercide has claimed more deaths than World Wars I and II combined.  Without exaggeration, gendercide is the largest atrocity the world has seen.

The Exhibit

Our exhibit uses 11,700 pairs of baby booties, each pair representing 10,000 missing women and girls, to depict all 117 million missing females. We arranged the baby booties in a vast floor-to-ceiling maze to demonstrate the scale of gendercide. Watch our video!

Artists Respond

To enhance the art installation, we invited 27 professional artists to contribute pieces that expressed tribute, solidarity, hope, or personal reactions. Here’s a sampling of their remarkable, powerful work.

Left: Johannes Boekhoudt, The Scape of Lana

“The name Lana means “Beautiful Flower” in Swahili. The painting depicts film frames repeating over and over again the gendercide that must be stopped.”

Right: Letitia Huckaby, Sarena

“The basic premise behind my work is faith, family and legacy. It is a time capsule for the African-American experience. I am always looking at how the past relates to the present, and whether or not things have changed or remain the same. There is always a history built into the pieces, whether through process or actual materials. I often use heirloom fabrics, and I think that is why so many people can relate to my work.

This piece is a statement of solidarity with women worldwide. I hope that in their traditions, they find the solidity and cause for hope that I find in mine.”

See more art pieces here.

Empowering Women

We at the Gendercide Awareness Project believe that raising awareness must lead to practical action. We ourselves took action in two ways. First, we commissioned 500 at-risk women in sewing cooperatives in 30 developing countries to make the baby booties, paying them fairly for their work. Some of these sewing coops were created to help women in the most extreme circumstances.

We asked the women to make the baby booties using materials traditional to their own cultures if at all possible, so most booties reflect the artisanal traditions of the women who made them. Our refugee women, lacking materials, cut plastic bags (or their own clothing!) into strips and crocheted those strips into baby booties. The opportunity to work with dignity through sewing and knitting was of incalculable value for these women.  Read more about them on our website and blog.

Educating Girls

Our second form of action was using the art exhibit to raise funds to educate girls in five developing countries. We believe that educating girls is the best long-term strategy for ending gendercide. In a beautiful arc of giving, the at-risk women who made the baby booties are, knowingly or unknowingly, helping the next generation of girls so that they don’t have to be at risk.

In nine months, we have raised enough to send 30 girls to primary school for a year (or 15 young women to college for a year). This includes tuition, three meals per day, health care, transportation, and school supplies. We work with five education partners who educate girls in Cambodia, India, Nepal, Uganda, and Guatemala.

Partner with Us!

The solution to gendercide is to raise awareness and empower women. In six years, we have educated 3.7 million people through newspapers, online media, radio, films, speakers, and our traveling art exhibit. That’s not enough, though. Please work with us to continue raising awareness and educating at-risk girls overseas!

If your nonprofit group can help us find a high-traffic venue in your city, please contact us. Please bear in mind that the exhibit should stay up for six to eight weeks, as shipping, set-up, and take-down involve significant cost and labor. If the mission of your nonprofit group aligns with ours, we’ll use the exhibit to help you raise funds.  Partnership is a beautiful thing!

Education is the Answer

Education enables girls to achieve their rights.  It empowers girls with confidence and independence.  It provides girls with a path out of poverty, and it gives girls hope for a better life. Education is a silver bullet for empowering women and girls worldwide.  Education is the ANSWER.

But girls need access to education.  The primary barriers preventing girls’ access to education are lack of schools, distance to schools, conflict, hunger and poor nutrition, school fees, disabilities, and being the ‘wrong’ gender.

Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady Delta is one of the poorest-of-the-poor regions in the country.  Access to education is severely hampered by typical barriers as well as weather, geography, and natural disasters.  Cyclone Nargis wiped out 60% of the schools in the southeast portion of the Delta in 2008.  Villages in the Thabaung district are flooded half of the year from monsoons and the Delta’s low lying lands just 3m above sea level.  Children typically travel to school by boat, frequently traveling through shark-infested waters.

Transport by boat to school. Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
Transport by boat to school.
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

Educational Empowerment, in collaboration with Helping the Burmese Delta, recently built a primary school in the village of Khin Tan to provide access to education for girls and boys.  We’ve all heard ‘it takes a village’.  This is especially true when constructing a school in these remote villages.  All materials must be brought in by boat and strong backs.  The school’s concrete feet, raising the level of the school floor to 10 feet to withstand flooding, is literally the first step.

Htan Kyun School Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
Htan Kyun School
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

Villagers donated land for Htan Kyun School and committed to building and maintaining and nurturing this symbol of hope for their children.  Their school district is unique. Local administrators actively support education as a priority for boys and girls.  Although not yet officially government certified, Htan Kyun already has 5 teachers – 3 women and 2 men for grades 1-5.  Forty-three students are currently enrolled, and the number will grow quickly as nearby villagers learn of this glorious school.

As Malala stated at the Oslo Education Summit this week, “a child should not be kept away from the opportunity of going to school, to dream big, to aim higher, without limit.” ALL children deserve access to education.

First-ever art class, Yay Kyaw Toe district. Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski
First-ever art class, Yay Kyaw Toe district.
Photo Credit: Melody Mociulski

If you want to empower girls to achieve their rights,

  • join Girls Globe conversations on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • donate to Educational Empowerment, and
  • let your voice be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

Education: Girls’ Beacon of Hope

Delta Students Read EE's Folktale Books  Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta
Delta Students Read EE’s Folktale Books
Photo Credit: Helping The Burmese Delta

Written by Melody Mociulski, Chair and Founder of Educational Empowerment

Girls around the world today are struggling to achieve their basic human rights – protection from forced labor, early marriage, conflict, and sex slavery; access to education; prevention of needless death from pregnancy and childbirth; freedom to determine for themselves their life path.

In the face of these ongoing and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, natural disasters add yet one more barrier for them to overcome.

On Friday May 2nd, 2008, Cyclone Nargis, the 8th worst cyclone ever recorded, hit the Ayeyarwady Delta in Myanmar.  Approximately 150,000 people were killed, and 20,000 girls and boys were orphaned.

Villagers were starting their day as usual when all of a sudden the wind whipped up the river and the water began to rise.  Trees and houses crashed down and floated away.  Families were separated.  Darkness came.  Although crying of children and animals could be heard, no one could see anything.  The water kept creeping up.  In the morning, all was mud and destruction. Children tried to find their families and make sense of this nightmare.

Nargis destroyed 60% of the schools in the Delta.  And those left standing had no usable sanitation facilities, furniture, or classroom materials. Rebuilding schools and restoring the formal education system in the aftermath of a disaster are crucial to help girls in disaster-stricken communities regain a sense of normalcy and security, and obtain the psychosocial support needed to overcome such a traumatic experience.

Since 2008 post-cyclone reconstruction has been slow, hampered by near impossible logistical access and lack of electricity and fresh water.  Parents in the Delta understand the importance of education, and they readily relocate to a village that has a school.  The most effective way to address society’s costs for future hazards is to invest in expanding the knowledge of girls and boys. Without an education, girls in the Delta are doomed to a continued life of extreme poverty.

In partnership with a local non-profit organization, Educational Empowerment is building a primary school in the Delta to empower Burmese girls through education. During a trip to Myanmar in January, I will attend the school’s dedication celebration.  I am excited to hear stories first hand from girls who survived the cyclone and now have a chance to learn to read and receive an education – their beacon of hope for the future.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls’ Globe in the conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.

Conflict and Displacement: Impact on Girls’ Education

Halockhani IDP Camp  Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Halockhani IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Can you imagine living as a refugee – or as a stateless person with no nationality?  Camps overflow with cramped quarters, no privacy, insufficient latrines, and scarce school options.  Girls are tasked with gathering firewood. They easily become prey for assault when venturing out at dawn to gather wood.

The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced and stateless people worldwide has, for the first time since World War II, exceeded 50 million people.  80% are women and children.

Failure to resolve and prevent conflict is the number one cause of this displacement.  And it’s the primary barrier preventing children – especially girls – from realizing their right to education.

Myanmar has been immersed in civil wars and conflict since the 1960’s. At that time the military junta enacted the Four Cuts policy, consisting of “attacking villages, forcing ethnic villagers to move into heavily controlled relocation sites, destroying their homes and crops, and planting landmines in their former villages and farms to prevent their return”.

Impacts on displaced children are severe – increased risk of human rights abuses, instability, detachment, chronic health and emotional problems, and lack of access to education.  To reach schools, children are forced to cross potential land mined areas.  Girls are at high risk of sexual assault, and twice as likely as boys to drop out of school.

Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Loi Lai Leng IDP Camp
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

Education is essential to fostering peace, reducing poverty, and increasing gender equality. Schools can provide life-saving information, such as landmine awareness and HIV and pregnancy prevention guidance.

Education instills hope – hope for safety – hope for food – hope for school.  Hope is the little voice you hear whisper maybe – when it seems the entire world is shouting no.

Educational Empowerment fulfills that hope for Burmese girls by providing access to schools and books, incentives to stay in school, and support for teachers.

Let’s join together to ensure all girls and boys, especially those living in conflict areas, have hope for education and for a better life.

To take immediate action:

  • Advocate for inclusion of women in conflict resolution and reconstruction efforts.
  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Why Should We Invest in Girls’ Education?

Originally published on The Huffington Post

In developing communities, there are three structural issues that prevent a girl from fulfilling her right to education: Her gender, her zip code, and her economic condition. Deep-rooted stigmas against women’s education, conjoined with region-specific interventions and the heavy burden of tuition costs, form what is commonly perceived as an unbreakable barrier to girls’ education. As a result, child marriage, sex trafficking and forced prostitution become horrific alternatives to education, so-called substitutes to schooling that leave a country ensnared in a labyrinthine web of gender-based violence, economic paralysis, and ill health.

For so many girls in the world, going to school remains a distant dream, an unattainable ecstasy that hovers beyond reach. But as champions for social change, we must understand just what women’s education holds for the lives of the female students we read about – and what it offers for our world as we know it. Exactly what is girls’ education, and where does its significance and relevance lie? Without further ado, girls’ education is a worthy investment as it is…

1. A fundamental right that warrants universal access. Education is more often perceived as a privilege granted to people living in the lap of luxury, rather than a critical necessity that everyone should share (Human Rights Declaration, Article 26). Girls should be able to pursue knowledge in their chosen fields, to have enriching learning experiences and complete their primary, secondary and tertiary education programs, regardless of their gender.

2. A catalyst for gender equality. Gender inequality is manifested in myriad forms, including, but not limited to income disparities, wage discrimination, gender roles assigned in the domestic sphere, female infanticide, and sexual subjugation. By investing in a girl’s education, girls will be given the chance to realize their full human rights and contribute to the very fabric of our society, reaping the benefits of economic, social and political development (US Agency for International Development). They will be able to form the next generation of women leaders, and make groundbreaking strides toward bridging the gender gap.

3. The key to poverty alleviation within less economically developed countries (LEDCs). Educating girls has always been at the forefront of poverty reduction in LEDCs. Schooling not only imbues a girl with the confidence needed for her to stand up for herself and make a blow against social injustice, it also helps foster economic growth and is crucial to lifting households out of poverty (World Bank).

4. Instrumental in bringing about economic growth. Girls’ education eradicates poverty and fosters economic growth. The statistics? Girls who have one extra year of schooling than the national average can earn 10% to 20% more on average, with an 18% return in future wages if they have completed a secondary education. This is significantly higher than the 14% return in future wages for boys in developing regions (Center of Global Development). Furthermore, each extra year of schooling provided to the whole population (females included) can increase average annual GDP growth by 0.37% (Global Campaign for Education).

5. Essential for reducing the number of child marriages. There is a positive multiplier effect to educating girls and women. In Tanzania, women who received a secondary school education are 92% less likely to be coerced into child and adolescent marriage, compared to women who only received a primary school education (UNICEF). Child marriage is a human rights violation, entailing grave consequences for girls, including an increased risk of HIV/AIDS coupled with higher levels of domestic violence and abuse (International Center for Research on Women).

6. A successful formula for individual empowerment. Women who receive formal education become more aware of their rights and are able to defend themselves when their basic human rights are compromised or violated. For women in developing communities, many of these violations take the forms of sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and gender-based violence. The Half the Sky Movement attributes female violence to two mindsets firmly ingrained in many societies all over the world: misogyny and sexism. But education plays an integral role in triggering a change in cultural norms, by shedding light on the detriments that arise from these discriminatory attitudes.

7. A proven cause of lowered maternal and infant mortality rates. There exists a consistent negative causal relationship between maternal education and child mortality; as the amount of educated women in a society increases, the amount of infant deaths decreases. Women with formal education will have learned about the importance of prenatal care, hygienic child care practices, vaccinations and high-level nutrition for themselves and their children. In addition, an education will provide these women with ideas of where to turn to for health care advice and medical treatment. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a projected 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if their mothers had a secondary education (UNESCO).

8. Critical to a decline in fertility rates. Educating a girl will not only increase her employment opportunities by dramatic proportions, it will also provide her with knowledge about family planning, employment, schooling and health opportunities for her future generations. Adam Isen and Betsey Stevenson from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania have written that greater “access to education and higher potential wages, combined with improved control over fertility, has altered the incentives that women face”. The stark decline in fertility rates gives rise to more sustainable family units, and this lesser amount of children in a society allowed for more resources to be allocated to each individual child.

9. A steppingstone to improved women’s health. The facts and figures to back this up? Girls with at least six years of school education are more likely to be able to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and other diseases (UNICEF). An additional four years of education will reduce the risk of heart disease by 2.16%, and the risk of diabetes by 1.3%, for either gender (The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).

10. A pivotal force for change in societies and communities. This African proverb encapsulates this idea completely: “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.” In addition to eradicating the deep-seated cultural prejudices against women, educating girls will also engender a culture of education that will transcend generations. Women who have had the opportunities of formal schooling are more than twice as likely to send their own children to school, as compared with women with no formal education (UNICEF).

Join the global movement to educate and empower girls! Start taking concrete action with nonprofit organizations to provide girls with a better tomorrow today!

Featured image courtesy of Starfish One by One.

A Father’s Love

Across India, over 3 million girls are out of school. The state of Rajasthan has 9 of India’s 26 worst gender gap districts for girls’ education. Studies show, in this state, 40% of girls drop out of school before class 5, only 15% primary school children can read a simple story in Hindi, and 68% girls are married before the legal age of 18. Cultural norms and longstanding traditions often serve as barriers to girls’ education, but many other factors also lead to high drop out and low enrollment rates for girls. Educate Girls is working to tackle these issues.

A Father’s Love: Diya’s Story

Shravan Ram* (32), from the district of Pali in Rajasthan works as a laborer in a factory. He and his wife never had a formal education, were married young and have three children – two boys (aged 10 & 8) and a girl (13). Three years ago Shravan removed his daughter Diya* from school while she was in the 3rd grade.  An Educate Girls Team Balika member, Saroj,* who belonged to the same village, approached him to try and understand his reasons for taking his daughter out of school. Shravan explained,

Not many girls are enrolled in school which means Diya often has to walk the distance alone. The school doesn’t have toilets or facilities for drinking water. Since my boys are young, if my wife and I are out for work together, Diya has to take care of her younger brothers and some household chores. It’s better for her to stay at home.

Saroj expressed her understanding of his concerns but insisted on the importance of schooling for Diya. Despite the common belief in his community that education, especially for girls, was a waste of time, Shravan acknowledged that education would benefit his daughter, yet he still had concerns regarding school facilities and his daughter’s safety. Saroj invited Shravan to a community meeting being organized by Educate Girls, which he agreed to attend.

At the community meeting, Shravan learned about the role of the School Management Committee (SMC) in the school system and how he could advocate for better school infrastructure. SMC’s are 12-15 member councils composed of parents, teachers, village leaders and school leadership that are responsible for school governance and administration.  With the help of Educate Girls and Team Balika, these councils are able to prepare and execute School Improvement Plans and conduct school assessments that contribute towards ensuring better school infrastructure and facilities.

Shravan began to understand that encouraging attendance in school for Diya was building a better future not just for her but for their family and community as well. He re-enrolled his daughter in school and volunteered to talk to his neighbors and convince them to send their daughters to school. He was eventually elected to the SMC which, with the training and support received from Educate Girls, was able to get separate latrines for girls and boys installed, as well as access to clean drinking water in the school.

I see how well she is doing in school, and I am proud.” Shravan says of his daughter, now in 6th grade. “The principal at the school is a woman; she is treated with respect and we all call her Madam. My daughter is bright. That could be her one day! I am happy to be a part of the SMC. Thanks to Educate Girls, I know that I can make a difference for my daughter and the other children in the school.

Educate Girls works to mobilize communities to take a stand against gender disparity in schools and prioritize girls’ education.  Our comprehensive program model engages students, teachers, schools, communities and the government to ensure increased enrollment, retention and improved learning outcomes.

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