As March comes to a close, so does Women's History Month. Although I've enjoyed hearing the familiar stories of groundbreaking women, my thoughts have been turning to the vulnerable young girls of today. Women as a whole have made great strides towards equality, but the fact remains that too many girls in the developing world live in circumstances that are unfair at best, and dangerous at worst.
Who are these vulnerable girls?
They are child brides. Roughly one-third of all girls in developing nations are married before they turn 18, and in certain countries the number climbs even higher. What does the future hold for a child bride? A lifetime of illiteracy and a drastically increased risk of dying from complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
They are domestic workers who have never stepped foot in a classroom. Girls as young as five years old perform domestic work for up to 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Some girls' families obligate them to become servants to support the household, but many are trafficked into the job and are essentially slaves. But what all child maids share in common is that they are deprived of an education and a nurturing environment in which to grow up.
They are girls growing up in tent camps plagued by sexual violence and devoid of police protection. As a result of limited privacy and police protection in Haiti's tent camps, the rate of sexual assault and rape has skyrocketed. Girls and women of all ages, including toddlers and the elderly, have been attacked, but antiquated attitudes about rape and a deficient legal system mean that rape prosecutions are few and far between.
Without a doubt, the needs of the world's most vulnerable girls are serious and urgent. That is why The Global Fund for Children is dedicated to seeking out and supporting grassroots organizations with innovative ideas about how to address the needs of girls in their communities. Our grantees have opened holistic schools for girls at risk of becoming child brides. They have rescued and reunited domestic servants with their families. They have increased the safety in Haiti's tent camps by installing better lighting and advocating for justice. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
We have seen firsthand that girl power transforms communities, and we will continue to scout and fund girl-centered programs. We recently teamed up with Catapult to raise funds for a project that will provide 340 adolescent girls in India with basic education and reproductive health programming. But in order to get this project off the ground and transform the target community, we need support from our own community.
As we revisit the achievements of women like Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, and Sally Ride, let's pause to remember that there is still work to do if we wish to ensure that every girl is safe, nurtured, and free to determine her own future. What better way to honor Women's History Month than investing in the women of the future?