Women and girls rising: let’s be “bad”

Last week we celebrated International Day of the Girl.  Were you as inspired as I was seeing the news coverage of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl shot nearly dead by the Taliban simply because she championed the right for girls to be educated?

*This week’s Pinspiration*

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She survived. And less than a year after her ordeal, she is dazzling the world with her courage and her practical, loving approach to world peace.  In fact, even though she didn’t win, she was the youngest person ever nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

If you’ve yet to meet Malala, 16, please enjoy this interview with Jon Stewart. I can’t stop thinking about it.  Or put down her book I Am Malala.

Today I want to consider what we can do in this “dark hour of adversity” to help the astounding number of girls — 66 million worldwide — who should be in school but aren’t.

But first …

Wise women in my life — Anne Gallagher and Trudy Taylor

No matter what scares me or how I feel on any day, I rise and shine because of the women in my life who cheer me on and lift me up day after day.  And that is my dream for you here, too, at Women on Fire.  And it is my wish for the millions of women who struggle in this world.

I’ve told you in the past about Anne Gallagher and Trudy Taylor, two very wise women I rely on for wisdom and support.

Anne is one of the biggest champions we have at Women on Fire, never missing an opportunity to tell her vast network of friends — and anyone she meets, really! — about us and the importance of supporting each other.

And, Trudy, 90, is the matriarch of the famous musical Taylor family (yup, James Taylor is her son).  Trudy always tells me, with a twinkle in her eye, to “be a bad girl!”  What this wise woman who has traveled the world and studied many cultures means is this: to be bad is to be big and bold and brave. To go beyond what is expected and to stand up for what is right.

Last week to celebrate International Day of the Girl, Women on Fire sponsored the powerful movie Girl Rising.  If you haven’t, you must see it to understand the dire plight of girls and women on this planet.

Some of the Women on Fire on Martha’s Vineyard who attended included Anne Gallagher, Ann Graham, Elaine Pace, Lara O’Brien, Daren Stinson, Wendy Taucher and Yvette Peterson along with many young school girls.

None of us, whether we were 8 or 80, walked away without being deeply touched and determined to stand up and reach out to change these harsh and alarming facts for the world’s women and girls:

1. 66 million girls are out of school globally.

2. There are 33 million fewer girls in school than boys.

3. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive beyond age 5.

4. Every year, 150 million girls are victims of sexual violence. (50 percent are under age 15.)

5. 14 million girls under 18 will be married this year. That’s 38,000 child brides married today alone. 13 in the last 30 seconds.

6. The #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 in the world is childbirth.

7. Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school.

8. A girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult.

9. A girl on planet earth has a 1 in 4 chance of being born into poverty.

10. If India alone would enroll 1% more girls in secondary education, their GDP would raise by $5.5 billion.

The answer is not complex. The world’s girls must be educated.

We know that if a girl is educated, she can break the cycle of poverty in one generation. The Malala Fund and World Pulse, chaired by Woman on Fire Ellen Wingard are excellent organizations to explore how you might help as are the resources at Girl Rising.

This year, and for as long as it takes, I hope you will join me in working toward doing what you can, in whatever way you can, to help educate girls. At Women on Fire, we will be increasing our efforts to align with opportunities and causes that you can become involved in.

It’s time for all of us to be “bad.”  To bring light to this “dark hour of adversity.”

If Malala can stand up to the Taliban with a brave, courageous and spirited heart, and millions of women can survive the atrocities of their difficult lives, the least we can do — those of us who’ve never had to think twice about our education — is beam and blaze our love, support, expertise and financial means to our sisters in need.

Many of you already are giving incredible support to women and girls. I hope you will share your experiences and comments here on ways you’re involved so we can be inspired to do the same.

A rising tide truly lifts all boats on this one.