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Because I Am A Girl

June 11, 2010

Across the world, girls face the double discrimination of their gender and age, leaving them at the bottom of the social ladder. They are denied access to basic health services, education, and face extremely high levels of violence, abuse, and harassment.

Because I Am A Girl Report, Plan International

Because I Am A Girl is the name of an education program currently touring schools across Western Canada. A joint project between Plan Canada and the 411 Initiative For Change, the program delivers the message that all girls deserve the opportunity to be educated, healthy and successful. Using music, videos and interactive theatre, girls from around the world share their struggles and successes in effecting change in their communities. They discuss issues like gender equity, access to education, self-esteem, early marriage, child labour, and violence against girls.

The program hopes to inspire students to become leaders in their communities, and to help improve the lives of girls around the world. It also introduces students to successful and empowered role models, including a live performance by Masia One, a female rapper from Vancouver.

As Lexi Krause, a grade seven student in Waldeck, Saskatchewan explains:

I couldn’t believe how much women are discriminated against around the world. Even in Canada women can do the same job as men but get paid less and media is making all girls want the perfect look. The presentation was really interesting and the music was really good too.

While the program expects to reach more than 15,000 girls during its tour, it sounds like a presentation that all young people should have the opportunity to see. I still remember a scene from my high school sociology class when one of my female friends foolishly dismissed the women’s rights movement, charging that gender equality had been achieved. Her ignorance stemmed in part from a lack of information about the causes of inequality between men and women, and the day-to-day practices that maintain these inequities. It also demonstrates the importance of girls’ rights education, like the “Because I Am A Girl” program.

Of course discrimination against women and girls still exists in Canada, but we also have a lot to be thankful for. Educating young people about girls’ rights not only teaches them to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities they enjoy in Canada, but also helps them gain a better understanding of their peers in other parts of the world (and identify struggles they have in common). As my friend’s misguided comment proves, it’s all too easy to forget that girls and young women across the world struggle to obtain basic health services and education, and suffer violence and abuse. Yet, empowering these girls is of critical importance to the entire world. After all, according to Plan International’s Brad Henderson:

Study after study confirms that if young women are economically active and healthy, their countries’ economies grow and all members of their families benefit.

My only criticism of the program is that it’s not part of the curriculum. Although the presentation is for girls, boys also benefit from girls’ rights education. After boys attended the presentation at a Winnipeg school, grade seven teacher Erin Daniels observed:

They boys said that fundraising towards charities that are aimed at women is something they should be doing. They also said that in terms of behaviour that they would be more respective and mindful to girls in the school.

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