With the re-launch of eckSERMONATOR we’ve decided to do something a little different. This blog exists to encourage the evolution of your thinking; to challenge your beliefs and stir you into action if necessary. With that said, in this post you’re about to read, Myra will present a series of questions to Dan Johnson, founder of girls campaign.
Girls campaign is a work that is set to go public in mid-March.
Girls Campaign exists to identify and equip and empower girls and women in the developing world.
As you read through these questions and answers, allow yourself the opportunity to ask, “What can I do?” and then act on it. – Jason Hess, eckSERMONATOR.com
Myra: What was your motivation for starting girls campaign (GC)?
Dan: GC is a specific initiative that deals with girls in the developing world. The catalyst came when I read the book, Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. The way to change the world is to empower girls and women. Put resources in their hands and their families prosper. Educate them and they get married later, have fewer children. Half the Sky led to my “aha moment.” Going to see Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch writer and women’s advocate, was part of the journey as well. But my thoughts on equality go back to seeing some of the traditional teachings on women play out in my faith tradition. And working with women leaders, knowing they constitute the majority of Christians for example, yet are noticeably underrepresented in executive leadership positions.
Myra: For those that need to be brought up to speed: What is it like for girls in the developing world?
Dan: The term, “Developing world” refers to economically underdeveloped countries primarily in the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America and Africa. Common denominators: Poverty, high birthrates, and economic dependence on other countries. Girls in developing countries are in trouble. They face systematic disadvantages including health, education, food, participation in the labor force and the burden of doing most of the household tasks. Many of these girls are forced to marry young and are extremely vulnerable to HIV, sexual violence, and physical exploitation. The root here is gender bias, “generationally-mediated” attitudes in which many girls are seen as unworthy of investment or protection by their families.
Myra: How does the book, Half the Sky, connect with GC?
Dan: It gets people up to speed, so to speak. We are working with the same narrative, the same philosophical approach. It’s not a road map but it is a Manifesto.
Myra: Why start another non-profit? What makes GC unique?
Dan: GC is not a new non-profit. It is a reevaluation and recalibration of our work with leaders that began in 2004.
Myra: How can I, or anyone for that matter, get involved?
Dan: That’s the question we’re fleshing out now. We have this idea of targeting 1,000 girls and training them in leadership, taking sponsorship and ratcheting it up a notch. Suggestions are welcome. Current directions include:
- Buy the bracelet (In design and soon available online and in stores, schools, etc.)
- Partner w/a child (Buy them a leadership kit: Booklet, backpack, shoes and stay connected via computer).
- Put a girl in school for one more year.
- Sponsor an anti-FGM1 curriculum in a specific village.
- Donate to an awareness campaign. What PETA did for animals, we’d like to do for FGM. People aren’t aware. And if they are, they’re not experiencing the story viscerally. We’ll be partnering with Tostan, Girls Ed, the State Department and a few other organizations.
Myra: If I were to contribute to GC how would my donation be used?
Dan: A small percent will go to administration. The largest share goes to a specific project of your choosing. We’ll have these up by mid-March.
Myra: What role will social media play in spreading the word about GC? Other than the website are there plans to take this initiative to Facebook and Twitter?
Dan: As we’re seeing across the Middle East, the role of social media is significant. We will utilize Facebook and other venues. The thing that intrigues me is the distribution of cell phones to girls in the developing world. There is so much empowerment in connecting people with the rest of the world. We are working with Tostan who is beginning to do this and it’s really exciting.
Myra: Last question. In our social media driven society, if someone asked you to explain GC in 140 characters (i.e. Tweet) what would you say?
Dan: Girls around the world are the secret to economic, political and spiritual renewal. But they’re in trouble. And if you don’t help them, who will?
- FGM = Female Genital Mutilation ↩