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My New Year’s Wish

In my last Girls Globe blog post for 2015, I talk about my wish for 2016. It’s a wish that I’ll be actively working toward.

Girls' Globe

Last night at a holiday party, amid Christmas cookies and carols, I was thinking about child brides. To be honest, I didn’t want to think about child brides; I just wanted to enjoy the party. But child marriage became personal to me in Ethiopia. Since that moment I’m constantly aware of how very interconnected my life is with that of the millions of girls forced into marriage.

Child marriage became personal when I was conducting a life skills program with young women. After asking about the women’s expectations, one particularly engaged woman stood up and told her story. Married around age 11, she was repeatedly raped and beaten by the man who is still her husband. “I just want to know,” she said with a firm but emotional voice, “how to make my life bearable.”

About two years after her marriage, she gave birth to her first child. I…

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Violence against child brides

Check out my latest from Girls’ Globe!

Girls' Globe

We don’t know much about the lives of child brides. But we do know that married girls are often subject to sexual, physical and psychological abuse by their husbands.

Child brides are the poorest girls in the poorest communities. While culture and tradition sometimes play a role in their marriage, often they are forced to marry adult men because their families are too poor to continue to raise them.

When a girl marries, she typically leaves her parents and goes to live with her husband. Here she faces a very new reality: suddenly she is no longer being raised by her parents. Instead, her husband is raising her to be the kind of wife he desires.

If she wants to go to the market, she must ask her husband’s permission.

If she wants to listen to the radio, she must ask his permission.

And when she does something wrong…

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Davos, can you hear them?

Check out my latest Girls Globe post

Girls' Globe

Davos, do you know this is happening? Photo Credit: Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp Davos, do you know this is happening?
Photo Credit: Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp

I once had a conversation with a thirteen year old girl in Amhara, Ethiopia. Two nights prior, her best friend was forced to wed an adult man she had never met. “She screamed and hung onto the doorway of her house,” she told me as she recalled what had happened to her best friend since first grade. “But her uncles pulled her away and forced her to stand at the altar.” As I listened, I asked the inevitable question of why. “They couldn’t feed her. She said she would rather starve than be married, but her parents couldn’t handle that. So they forced her to marry.”

As the world’s financial leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland this week for the annual World Economic Forum, I can’t help but wonder if those meeting in that famous ski resort town can hear…

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Where have all the girls gone?

And another Girl’s Globe post…

Girls' Globe

Girl in Gaza. Violence against women and girls is a pandemic. Girl in Gaza. Violence against women and girls is a pandemic. Photo Credit: Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp

In June, Gloria Steinem noted that this is the first time we’ve had fewer females in the world than males. And it’s because of the pandemic of violence against women and girls.

The symptoms of this plague take different forms across countries and cultures. While Asia is known for female infanticide, which is the selective abortion of female fetuses and the killing of newborn girls, the practice takes place in many African communities. Honor killings occur throughout the Middle East and intimate partner violence take the lives of women and girls throughout the globe, including in the United States and Europe. The United Nations Population Fund notes that pregnancy and childbirth together are the leading cause of death of adolescents in lower income countries – and that the overwhelming majority of these pregnancies occur…

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Beyond reading and math: Enhance Worldwide

Check out my recent Girls Globe blog on my organization, Enhance Worldwide.

Girls' Globe

When girls in this part of Addis Ababa can't go to school, they usually end up collecting firewood for 1-3 dollars a day. Photo Credit: Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp When girls in this part of Addis Ababa can’t go to school, they usually end up collecting firewood for 1-3 dollars a day.
Photo Credit: Ashley Lackovich-Van Gorp

A year ago I sat at a health post in Amhara, Ethiopia, surrounded by adolescent girls. Some attended school; others did not. The difference between the in-school and out-of-school girls struck me: those who went to school were confident enough to approach me and make conversation. Those who didn’t stayed away, averted their eyes and ran when I asked them their names.

Education is the difference between navigating reality and running from it because education goes beyond reading and math and teaches life skills.

When a girl is educated, she develops traits like assertiveness and confidence. She learns to make use of resources and respond to challenges. She reflects and makes informed decisions. She can identify danger, navigate tough situations and negotiate…

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The difference between cotton and lace

Girls' Globe

Thea, Plan Norway's 12 year old bride Photo Credit: Plan Norway Thea, Plan Norway’s 12 year old bride
Photo Credit: Plan Norway

A 12 year old Norwegian girl, Thea, started a blog. She wrote about horses, music and friends. She took selfies with stuffed animals. Her dream was to be a veterinarian.

Thea also posted a picture of herself with her 37 year old fiancé, Geir. He towers over the middle-schooler who, despite make-up, cannot be disguised as an adult. In the picture she wears flowers in her hair.

Thea is navigating this slippery bridge between daughter and wife. She posted pictures of a woman in lingerie next to one of herself in pastel pink and blue pajamas. Looking ready for a sleepover, her face reveals confusion over the difference between cotton and lace, between girl and woman.

But Thea isn’t real. Plan Norway created her to advocate on behalf of child brides.

The campaign worked: outraged Norwegians called the…

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When eating evokes a revolution

When eating evokes a revolution.

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