Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Global Mom Relay: Bringing Every Good Thing to Our Daughters

March 13, 2013

This post is part of the Global Mom Relay. Every time you share this blog, $5 will go to women and girls around the world. Go here to find out more.

Not too long ago, my daughter asked me to talk to her Model UN class. Call me a geek, but I love it that my kids learn about things like the Millennium Development Goals

When I was in school, the two biggest continents in the world rarely registered in the curriculum. My children know so much more than I knew, and I am sure they will do amazing things with the knowledge they’re gaining now.

When I visited class, I asked the girls to imagine their future. Fun times with friends. Choosing a college. Maybe travelling. Deciding on a career. Building a family. 

Then I told them that if they lived in Niger, a West African country I visited last year, they’d be preparing to get married in the immediate future.

In Niger, 75 percent of girls marry before they turn 18. Niger is small and has the highest rate of child marriage in the world, but there are large countries (including Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, and Tanzania, with a total of 1.5 billion people) where more than 40 percent of girls become brides.

My daughter and her classmates calculated the odds and realized that by random chance they were more likely to be a child bride in India than a high school graduate in the United States. When they figured this out they were eager to have a conversation about how to help less fortunate girls around the world.

That’s why I’m excited to be supporting GirlUp for my leg of the Global Mom Relay, and I’m also enthusiastic about the other campaigns that are part of the Relay, including Shot@Life, Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. I’ve also included GirlUp on my Catapult page, a new crowdfunding site that helps fund projects that are improving the lives of women and girls around the world. 

GirlUp helps hundreds of thousands of girls in the United States build leadership skills by engaging them in important issues affecting their counterparts in poor countries around the world, issues like child marriage. The result of these campaigns is better, richer lives for girls everywhere through the nurturing of a common bond – the desire to determine their own future.

The bond I feel with the mothers I meet when I travel is what motivates me to do the work I do. I like to tell the story of the mother I met who said she uses contraceptives because she wants to “bring every good thing” to one child before she has another. We all want to bring every good thing to our children. 

My daughter and her friends want to have the power to choose a rewarding future for themselves. Girls in countries like Niger want the same thing. The only thing that’s different is their ability to get what they want. 

We can honor our common humanity while minimizing the tragic differences between us by bringing girls together to seek empowerment as one.

 
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