Why I Do What I Do
My stories are about girls from around the world kicking ass and beating evil, while still enjoying the things girls love, from fashion to food to cute guys. And why not? Life’s not just about survival, but about growing and thriving and laughing and living, isn’t it?
I’ve lived in seven countries on four continents and traveled to countless more places and many nations since I was a young girl, so I write from my own experiences and observations. I write to entertain, but more importantly I write to empower girls, especially those who live in the darkest corners of our planet. These are sad places where a girl is born with few rights, if any. Their rights are taken away by archaic customs and traditions, by their own families and communities and in some cases even by law.
Did you know that in some parts of the world a little girl can be bartered in exchange for clemency when a male member of her family commits a crime? That little girl is “married” off to the other family, only to be abused in horrific ways that if we truly knew would keep us all awake at night for the rest of our lives.
Hard to believe this is happening today, in the twenty-first century, under our own watch, isn’t it?
Contrary to some beliefs, however, girls aren’t disposable or useless or a burden.
Girls are the last and greatest untapped potential on this planet.*
- Child mortality decreases by 9.5% for every one additional year of education given to women of reproductive age.
- Educated women are more likely to resist abuse such as domestic violence, female genital mutilation and discrimination at home, the workplace or in the society.
- When girls over 16 and women earn an income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families and their communities, compared to men who only reinvest 30-40%, with a majority of their income going toward personal entertainment, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, prostitution, and other such use.
- Every year of primary school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10-20%. An extra year of secondary school increases her wages by 15-25%.
- Every 1% increase in the proportion of women with secondary education boosts a country’s per capita income growth by 0.3 percentage points.
- Picking just one country – if India enrolled 1% more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion.
- If the employment participation gap and the wage gap between women and men were closed around the world, it would translate to a global value of $17 trillion USD.
Girls are also the most vulnerable people in our world and the most abused on our planet.*
- 38% of girls in developing countries are married before 18, with 15% of all girls married before 15. Yes, you read that right. Married before the age of 15, usually to men 20, 30 or more years older.
- In 2012, 70 million women 20-24 around the world had been married off before the age of 18.
- In a single year, an estimated 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence, and 50% of all the sexual assaults in the world target girls under 15. These are children.
- The number one killer of girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide is pregnancy and childbirth complications. These are children having children.
- 100 to 140 million girls in the world have experienced female genital mutilation, a practice considered a human rights violation by the UN. Most girls go through this between infancy and 15 years old.
- Women and girls make up 80% of the people trafficked across borders annually, with the majority trafficked for sexual exploitation.
- The average age of entry into prostitution is 13.
- 75% of HIV-infected youth between the ages of 15-24 are girls. In sub-Saharan Africa, girls aged 15–24 are eight times more likely than men to become HIV positive. Imagine being 15 and being HIV positive?
- There are 65 million fewer girls than boys in elementary school today. Girls’ primary school completion rates are below 50% in most poor countries because they’re pulled out by parents for domestic work or to be married off.
- More girls under 16 years old are in domestic service than in any other type of work.
Let’s not forget behind all these numbers are real live girls with blood pumping in their veins and bright eyes that look up to the skies in wonder, their hearts filled with emotions, wishes and dreams. They are just like how you and I were when we were little. But as you can see, so many girls have their hearts and bones broken on a regular basis around the world.
This horrifies me. It’s for all these reasons I write. And also because I was a little girl once and know what it’s like to grow up in this world as one.
It’s high time to turn this around. It’s high time to eliminate these abuses. It’s time to say no to harmful, regressive traditions. It’s time for us to work together to nurture the millions of our little sisters and daughters around the world to create strong, courageous, smart young women who can stand proud and become happy, contributing members of our communities, our societies, our world. Yes, it’s time to stand up and rebel.
For those who still wonder why we must care, I have a simple poem for you. A poem I hold dear to my heart.
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Martin Niemöller, German Anti-Nazi Activist
Regardless of where you identify yourself in the political spectrum and whether you agree with any of the belief systems mentioned in this poem or not, one thing holds true. The day we stop fighting for what’s right, is the day we give up on ourselves and on humanity.
The Rebel-ution Foundation
I will donate 10% of book proceeds to a girl empowerment or education charity that you, my dear readers, will choose. When you subscribe to the Rebel Diva tribe, you’ll be invited to take part in an annual poll. Then on 31 December every year, I’ll send that year’s donations to the charity you chose, on all of our behalf. I will switch these organizations every year so as many grassroots groups that work in the field of female empowerment will have an opportunity to gain from our collective generosity.
But this is just one small step. This is just the beginning. We need to do more.
I personally pledge to use as much of my resources as I can to empower girls and women in need around the world, and I believe entrepreneurship is the path to freedom, not just for myself, but for young women everywhere. Yes, becoming a businesswoman is difficult, scary and can come with pitfalls, but the upside can be amazingly freeing, and I believe is a large part of the solution to emancipating women in the developing world.
I’m exploring the idea of a collaborative global platform on entrepreneurship, where women in this part of the world can become role models and business partners to support and engage in business with our sisters across the planet. I don’t know exactly what this will look like or even how to make it happen yet, but I’m looking for fellow heart-based entrepreneurs and community leaders to brainstorm solutions on what we can do to support our sisters and empower women in the harshest parts of our planet.
A Message to my Sisters Around the World
To all the vulnerable little girls everywhere, I say stay strong, fight for your rights, find ways to learn and become who you truly dream of becoming. With all the advances in technology and reach of information these days, there has never been a better time to be bold and grab on to your dreams. So yes, you too can grow from the little acorns you are now, to magnificent, giant oak trees.
Anything is possible, my little sisters.
I want you to know you’re not alone in your endeavor to claim your rightful place as human beings, to be respected and valued like any other. We will change this world together. We will make the world aware, and we will make them care.
And if no one else will, I promise you, you will find me standing with you. Always.
“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard.”
Youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Malala
*Sources: www.girlrising.com / www.icrw.org / www.allgirlsallowed.org / www.planusa.org