Saturday, 11 October 2014


I am a girl (or at least a young woman),
I have my own history, I'm living my own life.
Which is strange because if you ask me what it means to be a girl
I will answer you in statistics and stereotypes.

I will talk about things that have never happened to me
In an attempt to educate and open your eyes.
If you feel privileged,
I hope that these things will be easier to grasp.
So at least something will make a difference in your mind.
Even if you can't see any discrimination in your own life.

I hope that at least you will listen when I speak
About female infanticide and a baby girl being left to die
In the scorching heat.
When I speak of FGM
And only getting one meal a day when her brother gets three.
I hope you will understand the injustice when I explain
That girls drop out of school to collect water,
Or because their period's come and the shame is too much,
Never mind the lack of cloths.
Or because their teacher touches them and they have no choice
But to use the same toilet as the boys.
Or because a natural disaster comes and their parents only have enough
To send one child to the new hut
That constitutes a school,
Which once contained all a girl's dreams, but nothing now,
Because she is not the one child,
That privilege belongs to a boy.

I hope the reality will sink in when I talk about
Child marriage
And incest, by her father or brother or uncle
Taking away any safe space she ever had
And anyone to whom she could come for cover.

And rape.
And being forced to marry her rapist because of her family's shame.

Or choosing to run and being caught at her most vulnerable by a man offering 'easy money' which seems like a good idea at the time because she knows she is worthless anyway and she needs an escape, but she ends up being sex trafficked across the border.

One of the many types of slavery she could have been sold into in her lifetime.

A forced marriage that leads to an unwanted pregnancy,
A labour she almost dies in.
A contraction of HIV from her husband who is three times her age and has had women before her.
Another rape,
Another pregnancy,
Another girl, who she doesn't want, because girls are less valuable than goats, and how will she pay her daughter's dowry?

And the cycle begins again.

Is that easier to grasp?
Easier to accept than me trying to explain
That we all live in a male-dominated world
It just doesn't manifest itself the same
Across all of the globe.

That you have been a victim too.
And while I care about boys and men,
They just don't have it the same.

Yes, the gender stereotypes and roles affect them.
Yes, they are expected to conform.
But the point is, they have all the power
They have all the control.
We live in a male-dominated world.

And this patriarchy, it intersects
with poverty and conflict and climate change
To create a losing game
And it's girls who suffer.

Except it's still easy to say that these are just individual lives, isn't it?
Individual acts carried out to individual girls,
Who were unfortunate in where they were born,
Or who their parents were,
Or the school they went to,
Or the 'choices' they made.

They must have provoked it, right?
They must have led their perpetrators on.
Despite what you say,
This doesn't happen very often.

You're joking, right?

We live in a world of naked women selling perfume and page 3,
Where I am told that my value lies in my body,
And not in my brain.
Or in the things I achieve.

We live in a world where it is assumed I will have children -
And it is everyone's 'right' to ask.
Where my value lies in my ability to reproduce,
As if that is my life's only task.

We live in a world where phrases like 'throw like a girl'
Are used as an insult,
To condemn and scoff.
And where 'boys will be boys' is used as an excuse,
To let boys off.

We live in a world where girls are blamed for their rape,
Because their skirts were too short,
Or they drank too much,
Or "you shouldn't have gone home with him"
Like the rights to my own body do not belong to me,
But to whichever man wants me on my knees.
Like they can't help themselves
For the pain and suffering they release.

I am a girl (or at least a young woman),
I have my own history, I'm living my own life.
Which is strange because if you ask me what it means to be a girl
I will answer you in statistics and stereotypes.

By Amy Graham, for International Day of the Girl 2014.