05/19/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2014

What's a Woman Worth? What's a Girl Worth?


It is glaringly obvious that we are living in a world that doesn't value women and girls. If we did, the following examples would not have happened. Or they would be front-page news until an answer is found and changes are made.

Why did it take two weeks for the international community and the media to report that in Nigeria, more than 200 girls were kidnapped to be sold into slavery just because they dared to go to school? Why, as Nicholas Kristof, author of Half the Sky said in an interview, are the lives of these girls not being treated with the same urgency or value as those who have presumably died on the Malaysia Airlines flight 370? Why has the recovery of these girls not been given the same media attention and resources? Why has the international community been sitting on their hands and only when their lack of action became an embarrassment did they react?

Why has the American university campus become unsafe for women? How have the universities been able to silence the growing epidemic of rape and sexual assault suffered by female students? And why are they only now starting to do something when they are being named and shamed? Why is the well-being and safety of female students less important than a university's reputation?

Catharine MacKinnon writes in Are Women Human? that every year in America, about the same number of women are killed by men they know and love as those who died in the twin towers on 9/11. Why are the lives of these women deemed less valuable than those who died in the twin towers? Why aren't these repeated attacks on innocent women being given the same resources that America uses to prevent terror attacks? Aren't the lives of women worth that?

The answer to these 'why' questions is this is what sexism does! It seeps into our foreign policy, the media, religion and organizations, and it creates a justification for ignoring one, two and then many female voices because making money, securing reputations and believing in sexist doctrines is much more important than the life of a woman or girl.

These examples may feel disconnected from our individual lives, but they're not. There is a direct connection between women being undervalued and women internalizing this attitude and undervaluing themselves. There is a direct connection between women's freedom and human rights not being respected and women tolerating relationships and workplaces where their needs and voices aren't heard or valued. These Nigerian girls are our sisters because when one woman or girl isn't valued it affects all of us. When one female life is valued, all female lives are valued.