Raising the status of women one girl at a time

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Building Park Mountain School

It Just Takes an Education: Ending Gendercide by Investing in Girls

Imagine walking into a room and finding your newborn baby daughter dead—and knowing someone in your family was responsible. That is the fate of many women around the world, simply because they have given birth to daughters. Women are mistreated and killed around the world every single day because they are not seen as valuable members of society. The United Nations estimates that there are over 200 million girls “missing” from the world today as a result of gendercide (GirlKind Foundation).

Gendercide is the systematic killing of unwanted girl children through sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. It occurs in many countries throughout the world, including in Canada, but it is predominant in India and China. In places where prenatal gender testing is available, some women choose to abort female fetuses or are pressured by their family or physician into having an abortion so they can try for a boy instead. In China alone, 35,000 female fetuses are aborted every single day—that’s just under 13 million sex-selective abortions every year, about a third of Canada’s population (All Girls Allowed). More troubling is what happens in areas where mothers can’t abort female fetuses before birth, known as infanticide. In some places, mothers or other family members use a wet cloth to suffocate baby girls soon after birth (It’s a Girl).

Besides the obvious evils of gendercide, it also causes devastating damage to the societies where gendercide is prevalent. There is a wide gender imbalance in both China and India right now, and it’s only going to get worse over time. Currently, there are 120 boys born in China for every 100 girls. Even if we ended gendercide in China today, there will still be 40 million men already born who will not be able to find wives in the future (Economist). Studies have shown that such a severe gender imbalance leads to a vast increase in human sex trafficking, forced marriages, and rape. The killing of girls is not only bad in itself, but it also means that the women who survive will be treated even worse.

The solution to the cycle of gendercide is to educate girls. Educating women raises their status in society, gives them greater credibility in the public sphere, and increases their economic power, undercutting the factors that motivate gendercide.

Lack of education is both a cause and an outcome of the low status of women. When women aren’t valued, they aren’t sent to school, and then their lack of education is used to justify their low place in society. Providing education to women is the only way to break the cycle. Women who are educated have a better intrinsic sense of their own value, and are better able to recognize the value of other women. They also receive increased respect from society as a whole. With an education, a woman has more autonomy and more choices, including whether or not to abort a child or kill an infant daughter. As women gain status, gendercide becomes less prevalent as the killing of females becomes less justifiable in her eyes and in the eyes of her society.

Educated women also have a greater ability to speak up for themselves and for the girls who are being killed. With greater education comes a greater facility for public and political speech. A woman who is educated not only knows her own value and the value of other women, she has the tools to effect change in her family and her community. There are many undereducated women who know gendercide is wrong, but they may not have the knowledge, experience, or social capital to stop it. Education gives women the tools to stop gendercide.

Education also raises a woman’s economic output. Currently in China, a son can be counted on to produce four times as much income as a daughter (All Girls Allowed). In a society where parents rely on children to look after them in old age, gendercide is not only a social, but an economic choice many families make. When women are able to attend school, their earning potential begins to rival that of men, removing the economic pressure that leads to gendercide. An educated woman earns at least 10–20% more than an uneducated woman (CARE Canada). As more women achieve equal economic status with men, their power within the family and within their communities also increases. Education is the best avenue for women to achieve economic equality.

Contrary to what many may believe, even the families who practice gendercide agree that killing girls is wrong. Unfortunately, social and economic pressures compel them to participate in gendercide. Educating women remove those pressures, eliminating the root causes of gendercide. As policy-makers and families begin to see the value of women, they will begin to see daughters as assets to the family rather than burdens. Just as countries such as South Korea have eliminated gendercide through educating and valuing women, India, and China can stop the cycle of gendercide. It just takes an education.

New School for Park Mountain

Park Mountain Primary School needed a new building. It was originally built in 1937 and it was in poor condition.

Girls Helping Girls teamed up with Food for the Poor and Helping Hands Jamaica to give the community a new school building, with GHG contributing the funds (and some workers!), FFP providing the infrastructure, and HHJ recruiting most of the volunteer builders. It was a great partnership!

Newsletter #1

Dear Friends of Girls Helping Girls,

I am so happy to send you the very first GirlsHelpingGirls Newsletter!  It has been an exciting  year for GHG and I want to share the impact your support has had this past year. GirlsHelpingGirls is officially registered as a Canadian non-profit organization committed to raising the global status of women. Your donations and unwavering support are helping empower girls through a three-pronged approach to girls education that includes educational scholarships, teacher training, and safe learning environments.

Girls have the power to transform, because they play a vital role in their families and communities.  When you educate a girl, you help her pull herself, her family, and her community out of poverty.  I believe that educating girls is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and raising the status of women everywhere.

I want to thank you all for supporting this mission but I want to especially thank my younger sister, Linda Manziaris, founder of Body Bijou Jewelry for her enormous contribution to Girls Helping Girls.

My passion and ideas are growing…I thank you again for all your support and look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Susanna ManziarisWarmest Wishes,
Susanna Manziaris
Founder
Girls Helping Girls

In this Issue

Your Impact

Kids sitting at tableIn 2013, GirlsHelpingGirls established 18 scholarships in three different countries: South Africa, Kenya, and Jamaica.

In Kenya we have proudly partnered with Free The Children to support one girl named Daisy Molel Chepkemoi attend school. Daisy is a student at Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School in the Narok South District of Kenya. Kisaruni is an exceptional school where girls’ self-confidence and esteem flourish, empowering them to become exceptional leaders.

In South Africa we partnered with NOAH, an organization that helps children orphaned by AIDS. Here we are already supporting six girls to attend four years of enriched secondary school, and we’ve recently committed to supporting five more girls there.

Susanna with kids in JamaicaIn Jamaica, we are supporting six young girls to attend early school education in Treasure Beach with the help of our partner, Helping Hands Jamaica. GHG has also helped to raise funds together with HHJ to build two primary schools providing two communities clean, bright environments in which their children can learn and grow.

More recently, we partnered with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, through their Lantern Fund, which provides teacher training and resources for women in the region, we are providing quality educational training for two teachers who will go on to teach hundreds of students.

Awareness Campaigns

it’s a girl campaignA large part of the GHG mandate is to create awareness about the low status of women and the positive effect of educating girls. With this in mind, GHG hosted two free documentary screenings in 2013 that explore these themes.

Back in the spring of 2013, we hosted the screening of the documentary film It’s a Girl at Havergal College for students, parents, staff and faculty. This film explores the reasons why there are an estimated 200 million girls missing in the world today—gendercide. Shot in India and China, It’s A Girl reveals the issue and explores why this is happening and why people have done so little to save girls and women.

Susanna and Linda speaking at an eventIn the fall of 2013, GHG organized the screening of the documentary film Girls Rising, a groundbreaking film directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins. Girls Rising showcases the strength and power of education to change the world. Again, it was well attended and inspired many to get involved and learn more about the benefits of educating girls.

This past year GHG was also invited to speak at various events and gatherings, including media interviews. These were wonderful opportunities to educate and deliver the message that educating girls is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. These events include the Helping Hands Jamaica Gala, Food For the Poor Annual Luncheon, Wine Conservatory Women’s Networking night, Corus Women in Toys night, and the Greek Community 70th Anniversary Gala Dinner.

Susanna and Linda with interviewer

GHG Club

Susanna with junior club leadersIn September of this past year GirlsHelpingGirls became an official community partner of Havergal College, a leading independent University preparatory day and boarding school for girls in Toronto, Ontario.

With this recognition GHG started its first GHG Club at Havergal College. With over 120 senior student members, it is one of the largest clubs in the school. This past fall the GHG club successfully ran a pin campaign and raised $700.

More recently, the junior school at Havergal College also started a GirlsHelpingGirls club led by grade six students Margo Dent and Lauren Rosenberg.

Our Corporate Sponsors

Linda making jewelleryWe are very happy and proud to have several corporate sponsors committed to supporting Girls Helping Girls.

Body Bijou Jewelry, founded by my younger sister, Linda Manziaris, has partnered with Girls Helping Girls to educate girls around the world. Body Bijou donates 50% of net profits to GHG. To help bring awareness to our cause, we have done several media interviews on TV, newspapers and on the internet.

Jenny WitterickJenny Witterick, author of best-selling novel My Mother’s Secret, is generously donating all proceeds from her book to causes she feels passionate about. We are very proud that Girls Helping Girls is one of Jenny’s charitable partners.

More recently, Right at Home Reality announced that they have chosen GirlsHelpingGirls as one of their charitable partners. Right At Home is Canada’s largest independent real estate brokerage with more than 2,300 salespeople. Chairman Ron Peddicord was the very first donor of GHG and I will always be grateful for his energy, enthusiasm and words his words of encouragement to “change the world.”

Volunteer Trips

Susanna with two girlsVolunteer trips are wonderful opportunities to meet and connect with people from different parts of the world, while building a deeper understanding of the joys and challenges that different people and communities face.

In July 2012, I took the opportunity to join a volunteer trip to Kenya with Me To We to build a school in a rural community in the Masai Mara region. I loved mixing the mortar, fetching water, and building the school walls side by side with the locals. Working in this environment granted me the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the issues of the community.

Painting the schoolLast summer I travelled to the Parish of St. Elizabeth, Jamaica with Helping Hands Jamaica. Here we built a primary school from start to finish, providing children with a clean, bright environment to learn and grow in. With much anticipation, GHG is very excited to return to Jamaica with our partner, Helping Hands Jamaica, to build a new school.

Goals for 2014

Little girlIn the coming months GirlsHelpingGirls is looking forward to growing and expanding awareness around the issue of the low status of women and the benefits of educating girls. We are also looking forward to raising more funds to further the GHG three-pronged mission for girls’ education: creating more scholarships, providing more teacher training, and helping to build and equip schools for girls and their communities. We are especially excited about the Girls Helping Girls School Build which will build a brand new primary school for a community in need.

This spring, GHG will be hosting the screening of the documentary film called Honor Diaries. This is a new film that features nine courageous women’s rights advocates with connections to Muslim-majority societies engaged in dialogue about Gender Inequality.

We are also very excited to consult with the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean about scholarships for girls at two schools in Grand Goave.

GHG is also looking forward to developing new GHG chapters that can inspire more youth to become involved thus helping to create a larger movement. If you know of any students who might be interested in starting a GHG club in their own school please contact us.