Keep girlsglobe.org Raising Voices in 2018!

We have a very exciting announcement!

Girls’ Globe is launching a crowdfunding campaign to allow us to continue to amplify the voices of women and girls in 2018.

We don’t know about you, but here at Girls’ Globe we feel it’s more important today than ever before to invest in spaces where the experiences, opinions and ideas of girls and women can be shared, heard and appreciated.

In light of the events and politics that have dominated our news headlines and social media feeds throughout the past year, from Women’s Marches taking place in almost every corner of the planet, to attacks on women’s health, to a global outpouring of solidarity against harassment with #MeToo, there can be no doubt left in anyone’s mind – a single voice holds great power, and a chorus of voices can change the world. 

It also feels more important than ever to take more time to sit back and to listen – not just to any voice, but to a voice that sounds different to the ones we’re used to hearing day in, day out. Girls’ Globe offers not only a platform to amplify the opinions and ideas of our global community of feminists, advocates and change-makers, but also an invaluable source of information for anyone, anywhere, who is looking to learn and find inspiration to take action of their own.

We are a tiny team supporting a big network of brilliant, creative and passionate people who voluntarily contribute their time, skills and talents. Girls’ Globe runs with almost no overhead costs – our team work remotely all over the world using low-cost, innovative digital tools.

But for us to continue to run girlsglobe.org in 2018, we’re asking our beloved readers and supporters to help us become financially sustainable (there are lots of perks in it for you, too!).

If Girls’ Globe has been useful, informative or inspiring to you, please take a minute to keep us publishing articles, amplifying women and celebrating progress.

Any donation – big or small – is hugely valuable.

You can also support us by lending your networks and social media reach, so please share our crowdfunding campaign as far and wide as you can! None of us can do it alone, but together, we can create a world that is fairer, more equal, and more united. If that sounds like something you’d like to be part of, donate today.

Street Sexual Harassment Needs to Stop

In light of the massive unveiling of what may have been Hollywood’s biggest secret, sexual harassment is a topic currently trending in all spheres of social media. Harassment is a reality that most women (and men) have encountered at some stage in their lives. It exists in all manner of forms – in the workplace, at school or even in the streets.

Growing up in Zimbabwe, street sexual harassment was familiar and common within my community. I would often read stories of women wearing what was deemed ‘inappropriate’, and subsequently having their clothes ripped off by complete strangers – gangs of men who were self-appointed morality officers. It was quite horrifying to read about such incidences.

My first personal encounter with street harassment may have been at the tender age of eleven or twelve. As a pubescent pre-teen feeling the awkwardness of my changing body, I would find myself fearful of walking in public wearing anything that accentuated my budding breasts or widening hips and buttocks.  I lived in baggy T-shirts and pants. I would make sure to avoid walking past a group of men, or any male for that matter, as doing so often seemed to be understood as an invitation for unsolicited conversation. I would hear jeers and remarks such as “sister”, “sweetie”, “ baby”.

I feel strongly that no one should have to experience sexual harassment, and especially not on a regular basis. Yet that is the reality for many young African women and girls, especially if they rely on public transport or work in male dominated spaces.

Many young women, myself included, are constantly seeking measures that can be undertaken for prevention and protection. One young Dutch woman used social media to capture images of her street harassers and call them out publicly on a worldwide platform. Though this seems very bold for me in my context, I commended her efforts because it brought a spotlight on what is a global issue for women all over the world. 

Wherever you live, there are steps that can be undertaken to address street harassment (while making sure your personal safety is always your first priority!). For example:

  1. Respond to the harassers in a calm, assertive manner – “Stop it. No one likes it. Show some respect.
  2. Name the behaviour, especially if it’s physical, and make a command – “Your hand is on my leg. Remove it now.
  3. Be an active bystander and intervene if witnessing harassment
  4. Share your experience with others

It’s also important to have men as allies when it comes to street sexual harassment. We need men to realise the damaging and traumatic affect it has on women. We need men to realise that they have no entitlement to female bodies or spaces, and – importantly – we need men to speak out against harassment when witnessed and not to turn a blind eye.

My hope is that very soon, all people everywhere can walk confidently in public streets and spaces without fear of physical, emotional or verbal sexual harassment being inflicted upon them.

Toilets are a Feminist Issue

You might laugh to hear that it’s World Toilet Day this weekend (19 November). Of all the things to have their own day, the toilet is not the most glamorous.

But the humble porcelain bowl which so many of us take for granted is essential to our rights as women.

Being able to shut ourselves away, lock the door, flush, wash and forget – when nature calls, and during menstruation – is a fundamental part of our right to be healthy and secure in the places we live, work and study.

WaterAid’s Out of Order: State of the World’s Toilets demonstrates that for 1.1 billion women and girls around the world, decent household toilets are still out of reach.

This is more than an inconvenience: it means women and girls are still having to search out private scrubland or a dark corner to relieve themselves, making them more vulnerable to harassment and attack. It means having to brave filthy makeshift toilets which spread infection. It means doing your business into a plastic bag because you are too scared to leave the house at night – and it means leaving your community littered with such bags in the morning because there’s nowhere to dispose of them properly.

This, in turn, means you can’t work or care for your family when you become ill. It means you have to spend more time nursing children with diarrhoea – and illnesses become a strain on entire healthcare systems – draining a country’s economic prospects.

The impact on women in particular is painfully clear in the places in which WaterAid works. In Nigeria, for instance, women who have fled violence in Borno state frequently find themselves sheltering in makeshift camps without sanitation provision.

Rahab Peter, 20, escaped from violence in Borno State and now lives in a camp for internally displaced people in Abuja.

We go to the toilet in the bush. There are many germs there, and it is risky as there are snakes, and I have also experienced some attacks from boys,” said Rahab, 20, who escaped from Borno only to encounter new dangers in a displaced persons camp in Abuja. “It is not safe early in the morning or in the night as you can meet anyone. They drink alcohol and will touch you and if you don’t like it, they will force you. If I see men when I go to the toilet, I go back home and hold it in.

And in Tanzania, student Naima, 14, missed classes nearly every month once she began menstruating because her school had no decent toilets or washing facilities where she could care for herself, so she found herself dashing home each time she needed to change her sanitary towels instead.  “Previously, I would go home to change when on my period, and I missed many classes, meaning I fell behind with my studies. The toilets were very dirty so it was easy for diseases to spread. Many students used to get diarrhoea and there were also cases of cholera,” she told a WaterAid researcher.

This should make us angry, because it’s all preventable. If countries like the United States and the United Kingdom could deliver safe sanitation systems for entire cities in just a few years – as happened in London in the 1850s when the government was forced to act after being nearly driven out of the imposing new Parliament by the stench of raw sewage floating in the River Thames below its windows – then it’s possible everywhere. But it takes political leaders to step up and decide to make sanitation a priority, and to dedicate the funding to match.

When they do, girls’ and women’s rights are transformed. Naima, the student in Tanzania, says she no longer falls ill with stomachache now that she has access to clean water and a safe, private toilet at school, and is now passing her exams because she isn’t missing her lessons.

In Bangladesh, student Ishrat, 13, can now ask her teacher for a sanitary pad and use safe, clean toilets at school instead of rushing home – or instead of simply staying home and missing lessons due to the fear of the humiliation of leaks.

So this Sunday, 19 November, when you find nature calling, pause and take a moment to be grateful for your toilet, and maybe take a moment more to help those who are without this path to better health, education and security, by writing to your local government representative or by donating. Women and girls everywhere will not realise their rights while they are still suffering this injustice.

Burn the Dowry, Spare the Bride

India – a country of contrasts – shows you a myriad of colours. It is home to many highly educated and intelligent people, as well as to many who are illiterate, poor, hungry and troubled. India boasts the beautiful Himalayas, deep blue seas, green forests and glistening rivers, but also acres of slums and dry and parched lands.

The country is also famous for its big, fat Indian weddings – a major and thriving industry. But in India, the dowry system is an ever-present menace which frequently changes shape to adapt to society. Increasingly, dowry is being masked by more socially acceptable norms, such as gift-giving.

A car for your daughter to travel in.

A house for your daughter to live comfortably in.

Gold jewellery to give her security in the future.

These lines by a groom’s family mask dowry demands as gifts. How difficult would it be to understand that this was extortion? The bride’s family had no intention of giving such ‘gifts’ to their daughter. But now they have been made to make them!

The girl’s family may find it easy to turn a blind eye, and to tell themselves that they are simply gifting their daughter. Who else did they earn money for all their life? Their daughter needs to get married after all! It is the most important identity for a woman. She may be well educated, earning enough to feed an entire family, raising the bar at her workplace, but if she’s unmarried she is viewed by many as incomplete.

For some, it ends on the wedding day. The groom and his family’s ego have been appeased. The newlyweds go on to live a happy life. But for some others, the demands continue. The first festival, the first child, the naming ceremony, the first house that the new couple build, and at every other occasion – the bride’s family must gift again. Sweets, clothes, gold, cash – the list is endless. If the parents are unable to provide, the woman is often packed off back to her mother’s house, not to return till the demands are met. Some are physically and emotionally abused; beaten, starved and even burnt.

India has had a long battle against dowry – an unsuccessful one. Legislations have been made and amended. But the practice seems to be growing. It has spared no economic or social group. The battle lines must now be altered. What can be done when law has not eradicated the problem? Why not focus on the one link that can be our biggest asset? The bride’s parents!

This is a call to parents of every girl child in every country where the dowry system is flourishing. Why should we not say no? It starts with the birth of our daughters. Let us give them a good education, a good upbringing, a happy and safe environment at home and combine all this with a good dose of self confidence and self esteem. Let us say no to any potential groom and his family who talk about marriage like a business transaction. Let us stand strong and firm so our daughters learn from us to say no.

Let us teach them that life throws us many challenges. That we are all supposed to enjoy the journey of life – marriage is never the final destination. It is one part of our journey. Let us give our daughters the confidence to walk out of a marriage where they are being abused and harassed for dowry, knowing that it is not the end of the world. Let there be no more burned brides, hanged brides, poisoned brides or strangulated brides.

Maybe the power has been with us all along. It is time to exercise it. To show the world that every single woman’s life matters. Let us bring forth a change, and let us start at home.