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Saving the Girl Child

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Trigger warning: Some links within this post may be disturbing and can potentially cause emotional and psychological stress. Please indulge in positive self-care if you experience such reactions and seek out a friend or professional to talk to.

There is a public video on Facebook that depicts what appears to be a young Desi woman beating a young baby. The video is heart-wrenching as the taped abuse goes on for more than four minutes. It can be inferred that the abuse started before the taping and that it continued after the taping. The woman perpetrator seems to be egged on by another woman to beat the child. I watched the video, outraged and sad. I wished that I could have saved the baby from the heavy blows of the pillow that mashed her face into a blanketed surface, hard face slaps, kicks, pinched limbs and the hands that tossed her to and fro.

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Every day, somewhere in the world, a girl child struggles to live. In a world that still prefers the value of a male over a female, the girl child is already a miracle if she exists long enough to be born. Unfortunately for a girl child, the miracle of being born is weighted with the burden of being the nucleus of hate. Milestones for the girl child include but are not limited to physical, sexual, reproductive, spiritual, economic and politically structured violence to overcome.

Symptoms of the aforementioned violence infiltrate a girl's life from the start. Physical and sexual violence can happen within and outside the home. Examples of reproductive violence include breast ironing and genital cutting. Later, the catalyst for the violence she will suffer is the maturity of her womb. Socially a woman, a girl can experience new waves of violence that include isolation during her menses cycle because of the perception that she is unclean and defiled. An example of isolation during menses is the practice of chhaupaudi in Nepal.

When she can technically bear children, the girl child is in more danger of an early marriage, maternal mortality or an obstetric fistula condition if she survives a painful birth. The girl child can also experience spiritual, economic and political violence in her life via a number of avenues, including the pressure of guarding her virginity so she can get married and her family can receive a good bride price and the politics of restricting female social mobility. To sum it up, a girl child is exposed to a continuous, vicious cycle of violence that resembles the morally bankrupt logic of a cherchez la femme murder mystery.

UN Women notes that 1 in 3 women in her lifetime will have suffered violence. This statistic relies on reported incidents. In the field, we know that what is reported is usually a portion of what is really happening. Many factors can complicate reporting. Some obstacles women and girls must face to reporting the violence they suffer are self-blame, stigma, religious conviction, financial restraint, mixed emotions, obligation to family, abusers and/or the community.

It is a fair ascertain that the majority of blame for the violence women and girls face are at the hands of men. Or is it? Certainly, men have a large role to play in the violence that happens in women's lives. Male preference in virtually all sectors of society that allow upward mobility and wellness continue to exacerbate barriers to female empowerment and solidify male privilege world-wide. Yet, the gatekeepers of male entitlement are also women.

Recall the scenario of the beaten baby girl. The egging on of the beating was by a woman. It is beyond my comprehension of what a little baby could have done to warrant such treatment. I question if a baby boy would have received the same treatment?

Internalized misogyny is not only passed from father to son, but from mother to daughter and mother to son. Whichever came first -- the male hatred for women or the female hatred of women -- is as irrelevant as the chicken or the egg debate. What matters is that the seething effects of misogyny requires for women to take as much responsibility as men for the transference of violence in our and our daughters' lives.

How do we save the girl child? I think the key lies within the quest for true peace that happens when we realize as women that we hold power in the arduous struggle to live harmonious lives with all genders. It means to say no to early marriage. It means to resist sexual boxes of the whore or the madonna, to demand rights to safe abortion and against child labor, as well as refusing to allow our girls' genitalia to be cut. Saving the girl child means to resist sending our girls into trafficking or domestic housework in exchange for currency that ultimately does not uplift us out of poverty. It means sending our girls to school and it means telling our girls that they are beautiful just as they are.

For some, saving the girl child means funding the movement to end the violence in all its forms and legislating for the protection of succeeding generations. Saving the girl child also means giving other girls and women a chance to get out of poverty by providing livable wages, increased skills and exposure to avenues some other women have been fortunate enough to enjoy. Perhaps most important, saving the girl child means raising boy children that are indoctrinated with the positive value of girls and the importance of having a humane reverence and will for living in respectful harmony with her.

Saving the girl child does not mean that the onus is completely on women, but it does mean that women and girls have a vital role in it. Resistance is never easy and we must have men and boys that do the same alongside us. Let us not forget also that offenses against women and girls cannot go unchecked. Whereas consequences to violation cannot be a sole remedy for the long-term, it is a part of a collective recipe for success. Saving the girl child will take time, just as it took time for the collective violence she suffers to reach staggering proportions. Do not wait for a tragic video to get you to spring into action; start saving the girl child now!

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Creative Visions Foundation. Personal opinion of the author only.