October 11: The International Day of the Girl Child, and why I care

IMG_1147We all thought it was obvious. Something was clearly visible between two blurry black and white legs on the screen. It was the first time we’d seen this growing human; the first time we laid on this small growing body that was moving inside of me before I could feel it.

But, at sixteen weeks, our Doctor told us that the ultrasound just wasn’t clear. We would need to come back again.

So we returned, four weeks later, my heart prepared to become a mama to a precious boy child.

The mark was gone. “It looks like we’re expecting a little girl!” the Doctor said.

I’ll admit my first emotion was shock, the first picture had convinced us all. Before I realized it, warm tears blurred my vision, as I lay staring at the screen in front of us. Oh for the words to describe the first time we heard her rapid heartbeat and the awe as we caught our first glimpse of this life we had a part in creating.

That was the day my pregnancy became real. It was also the day I began to care more about women.

I believe that I had cared before. I could only make it through half of Half the Sky while living in Nairobi. The horrifying realities of women in the third world was too much of a reality for me to read about at night, when the day found me driving into the slum. I sought something less… present. I needed uplifting, encouragement, rather than to learn more about the stark reality around me.

But when we learned that we were expecting a girl child, my compassion reached new depths as I realized the world that she would be growing up in. A world of pressures to conform to American culture, while living in a country where women in general are not given the opportunities that I have known. A world with the confidence gap.

Things are different now. As we made decisions to prepare for her delivery in malawi, I became acutely aware of the lack of options for those around me. We were suddenly faced with birth statistics that, though improving, are impossible to track because of incomplete record keeping of village births and deaths.

Suddenly my reading material was dominated by female voices. I read Katherine Boo’s depiction of life in the slums of India, and Sarah Bessey’s words of how Jesus is a feminist. I was simultaneously challenged and entertained by Rachel Held Evans Year of Biblical Womanhood, while plunging into the writing depths of Annie Dillard. My list grows weekly of words to read; female voices to be heard as Ryan and I raise a daughter that we pray photo (1)can also

find her voice and place of creating beauty. Conversations with women here are more challenging than in Kenya. Language and literacy barriers climb high between conversations that could lead to speaking life. But small simple questions, smiles shared while babies bounce, nurse, laugh and fuss – these things connect us as I learn more about their world – this world I have entered into and introduce my daughter to.

 

Today is the International Day of the Girl. Girls who will grow up to be women, but whose voices develop long before they reach adulthood. What will we do to allow them to be heard?

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