Teaching a Girl to Fish Means Reclaiming Your Inner Bitch

In researching for the chapter titled "B is for Bitch" for our next book, A is for Alice (working title) yesterday, I was following a sanguine Sunday breadcrumb trail from one blog post to another. Link after link I found myself deep into the double standard that accompanies women and power and serendipitously came to rest on the Girl Effect.

It's our mission at She Negotiates to teach negotiation to women; to give them the keys to the castle and a hope chest full of power tools that don't rely on a White Knight to operate. For the most part, we attract executive women and entrepreneurs who are a privileged lot. They may not always have the salary and income they desire, but they have access and education. Hang on to that last part.

We say this: "Here's our stake in the ground: The 33 cent wage and income gap is unacceptable and unnecessary. So is the cliché glass ceiling. Bottom line, our daughters and granddaughters around the world are watching and together we can blow the lid off and get busy being brilliant, powerful and creative. Humanity will be grateful you started with you."

And so...yesterday I landed on Desiree Adaway's post When You Teach a Girl to Fish, Everybody Eats. She tells us the story of Addis, a young woman from Ethiopia who was married at 11. She writes:

There are millions of young girls all around the world just like Addis that cannot attend school and its heartbreaking when you think of all of that untapped energy and potential. A conservative estimate shows 75 million children who should be in primary school are not, and at least 55 percent of those – nearly 41 million children – are girls.

41 million girls who should be in school are not.

There are many reasons why girls  do not attend school:

Families in developing countries often rely on their daughters to be caregivers, homemakers and laborers. When an 8 year old is needed to bring in income then her learning to read becomes a luxury.Girls may not be safe or secure at school, and families fear for their welfare.Poor families struggle to prioritize their meager resources to pay for books, uniforms, supplies and school fees.Civil conflicts, natural disasters and chronic diseases like HIV & AIDS force families to shift their focus from learning to more urgent, basic needs like food and shelter. Young mothers stay home and care for their children instead of going to school.

Source: Center for Global Development

This is not a whim, something that happens by chance. Girls around the world face a systematic denial of their right to education. In addition to the loss of opportunity for each individual child, denying education to girls corresponds to lower family incomes, higher maternal and child mortality. Girls truly have the power to change the world, and girls’ education provides perhaps the single highest return on investment in the developing world.

So what are we to do for the Addises of the world? For starters we can wake the hell up. For those of us around the world who have relationships and families by choice, and careers of our own design, we can start by getting our houses in order. We can move from abject, to-do list subsistences to the sustainability of carving out a life and livelihood of purposefulness. And when we are really, truly awake, we can use our power, our voices for the benefit of women around the globe.

Ironically, we women prefer to negotiate on behalf of others. Statistically, we fare much better in negotiations in which something larger than ourselves is at stake. This may mean something as simple as asking for your daughter to be placed in a higher math class, or something as dire as lobbying for clean drinking water. 

So as we awaken from our narcissistic slumber, one place we can focus our attention is on the Girl Effect. Blogger Tara Sophia Mohr recently launched the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign to help us in our awakening for the benefit of girls around the globe. In her first post, Mohr invites us to revisit a time when we knew we could change the world:

Go back. Go back to your early desire to be a force of healing in the world. You are old enough now to trust that the cynics are no greater authority than you are on the way of the world. As a savvy and wise adult, reclaim your childhood desire to make change. Mix it up with your education and your hot vocabulary and your know how and then take action to make a difference.

In her followup post, she tells us we are also now our own Girl Effect.

Our posts about The Girl Effect were filled with heartbreak about what’s happening to children around the world. They expressed love for daughters and granddaughters, and appreciation for the freedoms they have. They were filled with action — campaigns to raise funds and spread the message. [...]

And then I got it. We, in the developed world, are in the midst of our own Girl Effect. Beginning generations before our own, women were granted access to education, political rights and employment. The world I live in, one with two women senators representing my state, bookshelves full of women writers, music with women’s voices – all of that is the fruits of our own Girl Effect, of investing in women’s education and employment. As a result, women have been empowered to share their gifts, provide a better life for their chidlren, and create a more balanced, healthy society. That’s our Girl Effect. We’re on the other side of the timeline with it.

So let's take our voices into the marketplace and into the world, and get loud and boisterous and demanding. Because if we're going to teach girls to fish, we've got to reclaim our inner bitch. 

Add your voice to the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign here.