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!

Nobel Prize-Winner Takes on Gendercide

“You have to begin with the optimism that you can make a difference.” As Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen concluded his speech, the audience rose to its feet, honoring him with thunderous applause for sounding the alarm on sex ratio imbalances and advocating for the world’s poorest, most voiceless women. Professor Sen addressed the subject of gendercide at the University of Texas at Dallas on Friday, April 24 in a lecture entitled “Women: Survival and Empowerment.”

Amartya Sen’s Distinctions Include:

Nobel Prize in Economics, 1998
“World’s 50 Most Influential People,” Time Magazine
“Third Most Influential Thought Leader of 2014” GDI
Professor of Economics & Philosophy, Harvard  University
First Scholar to Measure Gendercide

Much of Sen’s work has focused on the economics of poverty, famine, and development. Equally important, Amartya Sen was the first person to measure the number of “missing women” in the world. In 1990, using data from the recent world census, he estimated that an astonishing 100 million women were “demographically missing” from the human population, meaning that they had perished abnormally as compared with men. The United Nations Population Fund then took on the task of tracking and monitoring this problem. Presently, they put the number of missing women at 117 million.

Event Highlights

Sen pointed out that gender inequality takes several forms. In some instances, it is an outright hostility of mindset that sees women as “a different type of human being.” In others it is “deprivation of women’s effective agency,” attributable to the fact that women lack the freedom to think, the freedom to question, and the freedom to do both of these in an informed, critical, and independent way.

Turning to the subject of women’s empowerment, Professor Sen focused on a trio of solutions — girls’ education, paid employment for women, and maternal/reproductive healthcare. These are measures he suggested decades ago and continues to champion.

Our Partners

The Gendercide Awareness Project is proud to have organized the coalition that engaged Amartya Sen to speak on this subject. Wonderful teamwork with the UT Dallas Asia Center, South Asia Democracy Watch, and the UT Dallas School for Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences turned the dream into a reality.

Moving Forward

Photo Credit: Gendercide Awareness Project
Photo Credit: Gendercide Awareness Project

Amartya Sen’s appearance in Dallas was successful beyond our wildest dreams! Over seven hundred people attended despite a tornado watch! We had a packed hall, two standing ovations, visitors thronging our exhibit, and so much energy and enthusiasm from the attendees! Many people approached us afterward to say they wanted to help or get involved.

Amartya Sen energized us. Working with the our presenting partners, our sponsors, and the nearly 20 university and community organizations who supported us in this endeavor, we plan to leverage this energy and enthusiasm and turn it into action. Professor Sen’s appearance marks only the beginning.  To see how the Gendercide Awareness Project is tackling gendercide and women’s empowerment, please read our post below or go to our website. And please follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Harmful Traditional Practices: A Great Barrier to Women’s Empowerment

Harmful traditional practices (HTPs) exist in many different forms. These traditions reflect norms of care and behavior based on age, life stage, gender, and social class. While many traditions promote social cohesion and unity, others wear down the physical and psychological health and integrity of individuals, especially women and girls. Some of the major HTPs practiced in Africa include female genital mutilation (FGM), early/child marriage and son preference. These have received global attention due to their severe and negative impact on the health and well-being of girls. Efforts to alter or eradicate these practices are often met with suspicion or hostility from those communities practicing them, particularly when efforts originate from outside the community.

Infographic c/o Plan International
Infographic c/o Plan International

According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation (FGM), a procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons, is practiced in 28 African countries. Cutting ranges from removal of the clitoral hood to its most extreme form, infibulation, involving removal of the clitoris as well as some or all of the labia minora. The labia majora are then sealed, leaving only a small opening to allow the flow of urine and menstrual blood. Infibulation is practiced predominantly in Somalia, the Sudan, and Djibouti as well as in some parts of Ethiopia and Egypt.

Between 100 million to 132 million girls and women now living have undergone genital cutting.

In some communities, FGM marks an important rite of passage into womanhood, in others it’s believed to guarantee virginity, curb female sexual desires, maintain hygiene, prevent promiscuity, and increase fertility. In most cases FGM is performed without anesthesia and one instrument is shared among all girls who are being circumcised at that particular time. This results into such consequences as sickness or death due to infection, hemorrhage, tetanus, or blood poisoning.

Unfortunately, many women are not aware that the health problems they experience later in life are FGM related and, as a result, problems go unreported. For women and girls, the distress of the procedure can cause long-lasting psychological and physical scars such as:

  • Obstetric fistula
  • C-sections
  • Tearing
  • Menstrual problems
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Repeated FGM due to unsuccessful healing
  • Psychological trauma
  • Infertility
  • Prolonged labor and complications in delivery
Infographic c/o Girls Not Brides
Infographic c/o Girls Not Brides

Child marriage is another major HTP in Africa. In many cultures, the tradition of marrying girls at a young age, often to older men, is very common. In such marriages, girls have little to no power and sense of self-determination. Those who marry early cannot stay in school and often have little motivation or family planning ability. They are deprived of their sexual reproductive health and rights. Some of these cultures believe early marriage guarantees a long period of fertility and that child brides may need a smaller dowry.

Females’ age at marriage is slowly dropping in Sub-Saharan Africa as young virgins, considered less likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS, are sought as child brides. Early/child marriage and childbearing are closely linked to low educational attainment, causing severe consequences for the health of both the mothers and their babies. For example, babies born to young mothers are up to 80 percent more likely to die within their first year of life than are babies born to mothers ages 20 to 29. Similarly, maternal mortality rates are twice as high for women ages 15 to 19 compared to those ages 20 to 29.

Early marriage is an increasing focus of reform for governments throughout Africa. While laws outlining minimum ages for marriage have been enacted in some countries, the laws often fail to prevent forced marriages of the very young. Legal limits on age at marriage typically apply only to unions lacking parental consent; however, marriages arranged by parents can involve children well below a country’s legal minimum age. This clearly shows that despite laws and policies being in place, implementation is still far much behind.

Preference for sons is still a powerful tradition that results in neglect, deprivation, and discriminatory treatment of daughters to the damage of their physical and mental health as well as female infanticide and prenatal sex selection. Son preference adversely affects girls through inequitable allocation of food, education, and health care. Male preference begins early in life. Parents with fewer resources may feel that it is more important for male children to survive and be educated as they will carry the family name. Girls in such settings are often fed after boys and receive food of lower nutritional value. Despite significant increases in the number of women who have attained at least seven years of education, there are far fewer females than males enrolled in secondary schools in many countries. This disparity between males’ and females’ access to education leaves women in lifelong positions of economic and social disadvantage.

Cultural traditions are powerful, and only careful efforts will alter or eliminate them.

Efforts to change harmful traditions are most effective when they originate within the culture that practices them. It requires the cooperation and understanding of community leaders, policy makers, and the people who have experienced or witnessed hardships these practices cause. Women’s groups, human rights activists, governments and international organizations must work together with traditional and religious leaders to most effectively advocate against such practices.

Also, community education is very important in increasing public awareness of the negative consequences of these practices and changing societal norms. Public education campaigns should be encouraged as they make open discussion of these practices more acceptable.

Governments, civil society organizations and the international community must put extra efforts towards the following:

  • Eliminating all forms of discrimination against the girl child and the root causes of son preference;
  • Increasing public awareness of the value of the girl child and concurrently strengthening the girl child’s self-image, self-esteem and status;
  • Improving the welfare of the girl child, especially in regard to health, nutrition and education;
  • Enforcing and creating laws that condemn harmful practices.
Image c/o Flickr Creative Commons
Image c/o Flickr Creative Commons

More Girls’ Globe articles on harmful traditional practices:

Female Genital Mutilation

Child Marriage

Son Preference

Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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Gendercide in India: Interview with Nyna Caputi, producer and director of documentary film “Petals in the Dust”

Petals in the dust 2Nyna Pais Caputi, the producer and director of the film Petals in the Dust, is originally from India and currently lives in the Bay Area. She founded the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls in 2010, which is an international awareness campaign on “gendercide” in India that has taken place in over 25 cities and five countries. Caputi’s film, Petals in the Dust, is a documentary that brings to light the tragic murders of millions of Indian girls and women due to a preference of sons among Indian society. The film explores the roots of misogyny, the experiences of women across socioeconomic and political lines, and the efforts bring an end to gender-based violence. The upcoming film’s trailer has been screened in numerous cities in India, Canada and USA, and is quickly drawing attention from people. Girls’ Globe catches up with the woman behind the camera.

Jasmine: You are an activist and founder of an international awareness campaign on young girls. How did you come up with the idea of Petals in the Dust? What does this mean?

Nyna: I had always wanted to do a film on social justice. I travelled to India and was looking to adopt a little girl. A supervisor in one of the orphanages told us about how they used to drown baby girls in the lake close the orphanage. I went home and did some research, and discovered that 50 million girls had been killed in India. I interviewed women in India who have faced discrimination across the socio-economic strata. I interviewed activists and found that sex-selection was happening even in the big cities, across geographic, socio-economic and religious barriers, and that women face violence from the womb to the tomb. I then chose to do a film on gender-based violence. I chose the name Petals in the Dust since it is creative and indicates the plight women face when they undergo such violence.

 Jasmine: Tell us a little about your documentary. How does it address the issue?

 Nyna: My documentary has three parts. The first part makes people aware of what the problem is, why it is happening and what the consequences are for India. It then moves to solutions. I have shown activists talking about what they see as solutions.  The documentary includes several NGOs in India. I also interviewed an orphanage that educates and feeds girls. I spoke to Varsha Deshpande, founder of Led Ladkiyaan, an organization that fights against sex-determination and does undercover research on sex-selective abortions.

Jasmine: What did you find after speaking with violated women in India? How did you have them open up to you and speak about their experiences?

Nyna: I spoke to a woman in India who had killed every single female child she had given birth to, until she conceived a boy. It was after talking to her for a while that she told me that she had been raped herself. She didn’t want her daughters to face the same pain and stress that she had faced when she was a child. She didn’t have to worry about her son.

Jasmine: Much of your focus is on the fixed mindset of people on female feticide, even among the elite in the country. How does abortion instigate this discrimination?

Nyna: From ultrasounds to sex-selective abortions, gendercide is a billion-dollar industry. Doctors are quite greedy. Abortion Petals in the dust 3after the first three months of pregnancy is illegal in India and can only be carried out if the mother suffers a health crisis. Doctors are known for aborting baby girls under the pretext that the mother would suffer a nervous breakdown if she had to give birth to a girl. The law is often circumvented and activists in India have told me that even the police and government officials believe that a woman should have a son. Very few law-breakers are imprisoned or persecuted for sex-selection.

Jasmine: I’ve heard of cases in the rural areas where daughters are often killed since they do not contribute financially to the family. Why do you think female feticide and infanticide occur in the urban areas and among the Indians who are above the poverty line?

Nyna: It’s more than just a lack of protection that causes people to discriminate against their daughters. It has now become a status symbol for people living in the cities to demand fancy cars as dowry when their sons get married. Women feel a sense of social incompleteness when they only have daughters as children. The more money people get, the more materialistic they become. Smaller families who don’t have many children, either for financial reasons or otherwise, want to limit their single child to a son. If a family has one daughter, they usually want their second child to be a son, and when they conceive, they have so much technology available to them to make that sex-selection possible. Educated men have told doctors how they don’t feel like a man if they don’t have a son. The mindset is passed on from generation to generation.

Jasmine: You say that sex-selection is often carried out by the educated people. If education isn’t an end to the practice, how can it be curtailed?

 Nyna: Education doesn’t seem to hold any weight with the issue. Doctors, engineers and lawyers have been known to discriminate against their baby daughters.  What we need is gender-studies to be taught to people across the board. Schools should have a mandatory class on gender studies.

Jasmine: What are the responses you are getting? If there is something you want your viewers to take back from your documentary, what would it be?

 Nyna: The trailer is in the process of reaching out to more people. I’ve had people talk about what has happened in their families. We have had walks in over five countries and have received correspondence from various NGOs and non-profits. Many of the protestors are girls as young as 15 years of age in Chennai. If I can motivate young girls to join my cause, my work is already done. I want the way women are looked at in India to change. That starts with discussions on gender equality. Often girls grow up with the belief that they aren’t equal to their male siblings First and foremost, girls need to understand that they are equal to boys. When these girls grow older they prefer having a boy to a girl. We all need to learn to respect women.

 Learn more about Petals in the Dust by visiting http://www.petalsinthedust.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Petals-In-The-Dust/270181765444

All photos courtesy of Petals in the Dust.

 

The Girl Child

The girl child. Why is she unique?

In this year’s United Nations’ resolution on the Girl Child, the General Assembly, and thus, the international community has recognized, noted, and expressed their deep concern on issues of discrimination of the girl child.

There are many issues at stake. Girls are more likely to be discriminated and abused. Girls are more likely to be forced into child marriage, leading to a greater risk of an early pregnancy and maternal death. Further, girls are less likely to attend school, complete an education, and the list continues.

Girls’ Globe would like to highlight the existence of complete discrimination against girls. In some parts of the world girls are unwanted, undesired and seen as unnecessary. The effect is large-scale abortion of female fetuses and a systematic murder of female infants.

Noting with concern that in some parts of the world, men outnumber women as
a result, in part, of harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital
mutilation, son preference, which results in female infanticide and prenatal sex
selection…”

Girls’ Globe would not only like us to note with concern, but would like all readers to take action. Take action to raise awareness, encourage grassroots movements and influence policy-makers to take a stand against this “gendercide”.

  1. RAISE AWARENESS. In the coming year, Shadowline Films will be releasing the documentary film, “It’s a girl!” They say these are “the three deadliest words in the world”. Girls’ Globe would like to thank Shadowline Films for raising awareness on this issue. See the trailer here:
  2. ENCOURAGE GRASSROOTS MOVEMENTS: Design for Change is a movement encouraging children to shape the society they would like to live in, and to make a change that benefit others. One of the winners of India’s Design for Change school challenge was created by school girls who had decided to take a stand against the lack of girls in their village. See their introduction here:
    We would like to thank Design for Change for encouraging children to take action. It is fantastic to see.

Awareness and encouragement can change social norms, leading to a change in society. A society were the girl child is wanted, desired and far more than necessary! These are just two examples of what is being done to change the situation for the girl child. We will keep you posted on this issue. Let’s give the girl child the attention she deserves.

And the international community continues:

“Urges all States to enact and enforce legislation to protect girls from all
forms of violence and exploitation, including female infanticide and prenatal sex
selection, female genital mutilation, rape, domestic violence, incest, sexual abuse,
sexual exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography, trafficking and forced
migration, forced labour, and forced marriage, as well as marriage under legal age, and to develop age-appropriate safe, confidential and disability-accessible
programmes and medical, social and psychological support services to assist girls
who are subjected to violence and discrimination…”

Let’s keep our leaders accountable and work together towards a globe free from all forms of discrimination of the girl child.

Do you have other movements you would like to share with us? Or do you have knowledge of other organizations working to raise awareness on discrimination of the girl child? Please post links in the comments field below.