In response to the overwhelming emotions I felt after watching Half the Sky, I wrote the following post to my daughter….originally on my personal blog:
Dearest Firstborn Daughter,
Like thousands or millions, perhaps, of others, I just finished watching the 2 part PBS documentary, Half the Sky. I lost count of how many times I cried. I am still fired up in the depths of my soul with inspiration and zeal.
And I can’t help thinking about you. God gave me three girls. Why? Its simple. To change the world.
I don’t say that arrogantly. I don’t say that with a sense of entitlement. I say it with urgency. I say it with fervor and conviction.
Dealing with gender based violence and exploitation and slavery IS the unfinished business of our century. And you and I are here, in this century, for such a time as this.
Sex slavery is gender based violence.
Female circumcision (genital mutilation) is gender based violence.
Exorbitant female maternity mortality is gender based violence (when its the mutilation and lack of freedom to seek medical attention or help that contributes to the death rates).
Child sexual exploitation is gender based violence.
AND IT HAS TO STOP. This isn’t a “cultural sensitivity” issue. This is a fundamental human rights issue. There is no cultural norm that must simply be accepted out of “respect for the culture” if it leads to widespread exploitation and enslavement of an entire gender population.
If I was a mother in Cambodia, I would have been congratulated when you were a girl, because that meant I would have financial security in the ability to sell her body to foreign sex tourists. When I would have had THREE daughters, I would have been considered the luckiest mom in the village… this is a cultural norm that must be aggressively and tirelessly resisted and reversed. (*find out more about parental complicity in child sexual exploitation in Cambodia in the film NEFARIOUS)
If I was a was a prostitute in India, and gave birth to you, I would believe I now have a companion in my “old” age once I couldn’t sell myself anymore. I would not want you to go to school, because even I knew that if you were educated you would leave me and look down on me… this is a cultural norm that must be challenged and reversed.
If I was a wife and mother in Somalia, not only would I arrange for the brutal mutilation of your genitals, which I knew would lead to a lifetime of pain, complications and quite possibly death, but if I had a son, I would not allow him to marry a girl unless she was “cut” as well… this cultural norm must be exposed for what it is, VIOLENT OPPRESSION, and courageously fought against.
You know me, you know my love of all things cultural. You know I would be the first to step up and try to educate others about cultural sensitivity. But this is where I draw the line. This is where I say that its not cultural ITS EVIL.
You have said you want to be a missionary. At six years old. This is your dream. I pray to God it is your reality as well. You are wired and created uniquely to care for others… to bind up, heal, and comfort those in pain and distress. I pray you will be a champion of women and girls in your lifetime and beyond. I hope I can model that for you in my lifetime. Victims of gender based violence are voiceless. You and I are not. Victims of gender based violence are marginalized and hidden in the darkest recesses of our globe. We can go to them with the Light of the love of Jesus… the only Light that can and will defeat and dispel the darkness. I painfully but excitedly release you, you whose middle name means SHINING AND LUMINOUS, into those dark recesses. You have the Light within you, and with that, my daughter… you can change the world.
My dear Adelaide Zahara, its not by “luck” that you were born as a girl into the West. Its by design. With great privilege and wealth and opportunity come great responsibility. I don’t even have to tell you this, though, because you were born to give, to love, to comfort, to heal. And you know this already, even at the ripe young age of six years old. I see it in you. Others see it in you. This world will be blessed, will be better for you being born in such a time as this. We have sisters and daughters and mothers in the world that need us to be their voice. Need us to cry for their freedom, their empowerment, and their opportunity. I hope we can and will use our voices for GOOD together. I hope your voice goes further and louder than my own. I hope you will always “let your light so shine before men [and women] that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” This was the verse God gave me for you… I am starting to understand that is was to prepare me to to let you GO and shine in the darkness, where His Light is needed most. I love you so much. I am so proud of who you are. I am already learning so much from you… May you always know you were born for a purpose, you have a magnificent destiny, and you are loved immeasurably. May your arms, your life, be full of those who need your love, your light, your comfort and your voice. Open them wide. Give freely. Love fully. Shine brightly. Speak loudly.