A seven-year-old girl in the Congo, with braids and bright eyes who knows about the harshness of her land but has yet to experience it until now. A child bride who wears henna down her arm and color on her eyes but refuses sex with her 40-something husband because she doesn’t understand it and in result, is beaten. A woman, to pay off her family’s debt in Iran, is sold to another family and is abused every single day by her in-laws, sexually, physically, emotionally. A teenager who is sold into the sex trade in Cambodia and forced to please more than 10 men a day, often without any sort of protection, and will ultimately contract AIDS. On her way to school, just like any other 13-year-old, a girl in India is gang raped by men repeatedly until she nearly dies…and will never be able to have children. And a girl you may know, of any age in any state in the United States, is raped, sexually abused or prostituted. Usually by someone she knows. Usually by a romantic partner.
This may be a little much for your morning coffee but this is life for an incredible amount of women worldwide.
In the Congo, a woman is victimized every minute. Cambodia’s illegal sex trade generates $500 million a year. More than 55,000 women and children are sex slaves in Cambodia, 35 percent of which are younger than 18 years of age. If you go to Thailand or India — you can purchase a girl and essentially free her from slavery for as little as $100.
And yet, less than 1 percent of U.S. foreign aid is specifically targeted to women and girls. (Though the Violence Against Women Act did pass Congress and President Obama signed it yesterday, which is amazing.)
As a rape survivor myself, when I read alarming reports and statistics about violence against women, I’m completely flabbergasted. It often seems like a problem so big and so vast and so incomprehensible that its easy to turn away. To close out this blog window and play on Pinterest or Facebook instead.
And you’re right, that’s easier.
But there are things you can do, every single day with little effort, with little money that can dramatically change the life of a woman you’ve never met. And probably never will. Today is International Women’s Day and in honor of the day, I challenge you to do something to help. Every year, I pick a local charity in a place that’s extremely dangerous for women and I give a portion of my salary to help their efforts. It’s not a lot but I hope that somewhere, some wonderful girl who never had a chance — has one.
Below are some great organizations that are really working in a grassroots, hands-on way to make big changes. I hope you’ll celebrate every woman you know by contributing — or at the very least, read more about violence toward women across the globe. (Half the Sky is a great, eye-opening place to start.)
American Assistance for Cambodia
They fight trafficking and work to keep girls in school and out of the rings.
They battle sex trafficking in India. They also welcome volunteers, anytime, to help and become teachers.
Averting Maternal Death & Disability
Helping expecting moms get the care and consideration they deserve.
Network of groups fighting child prostitution in Southeast Asia.
Global Fund for Women
This organization provides capital for poor women around the world to start their own ventures.
Find a project — from disaster recovery education — that you’re passionate about.
Helps poor and trafficked women in Sudan.
Microlending helps women in abusive marriages and relationships find a way to start their own trade business, make a living and change their husband’s culturally-accepted perception of a woman. Oftentimes when a wife starts earning an income, she has more power and balance.
This organization helps women and children prostitutes in India. They also welcome volunteers.
Pennies for Peace
Greg Mortenson’s organization that provides education for girls in Pakistan & Afghanistan.
Somaly Mam Foundation
A sex trafficking survivor herself, Somaly Mam started this organization and it fights sex slavery in Cambodia.
Women’s Dignity Project
Facilitates the repair of obstetric fistulas in Tanzania.
Worldwide Fistula Fund
They work to help moms in Niger.