published in Women / Girls on April 9, 2021
Mother’s Day … or Company Manager?
You are needed now to protect a child like Aswat from the dangers threatening young girls.
When I met Aswat, she was 10 years old.
Her family had fled Somalia, but the only life she knew was a refugee camp.
Aswat won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day with her mum … because her mum died giving birth. She was only 15.
This is the danger that threatens girls like Aswat too.
Forced into marriage when they have their first period. Childbirth before their body is ready. Sexual assault. Dropping out of school simply because they have no sanitary supplies.
If any of that happens, the life Aswat dreams will be lost:
“I would like to be a businesswoman.
I will be a company manager, and do export and import.”
That’s why this Mother’s Day our ALWS goal is to protect 1,000 girls like Aswat from this danger … and support them to build a life where they can lead their community.
You will support very practical help, including:
- Dignity Kits for girls in school
- Training in reproductive health and contraception
- Use of menstrual cups*
- Building separate toilets for boys and girls
- Girls and women’s rights and leadership
WHY YOUR HELP MATTERS
Aswat knows what she wants to do with her life … and why:
“When I make profit, and have money,
I will help the people who are disabled.”
You see, Aswat’s auntie also died in childbirth. She also was too young. The child survived, and Sabrine is now 20. But the difficult birth left her with a disability…
… and now, Sabrine and Aswat live with their grandmother, 80 year old Hawa.
Hawa is blind in one eye.
She was out collecting firewood to sell, the only job she says she can do, when a chip flew up and struck her in the eye.
Too poor to afford treatment, Hawa lost her sight. Hawa told me:
“For me, I do not know how to write anything.
My mother did not take me to one single day of school.
I cannot write, and I cannot read.”
This is the threat that faces Aswat, unless you and I together can help provide the schooling that offers a way out.
SCHOOL IS CRITICAL FOR GIRLS
Without schooling, girls may be seen as cost-free labour.
Or be forced into early marriage.
Or ‘recruited’ to be child soldiers, reward ‘brides’, slaves. (Often, this is why families have fled their home–and become refugees, seeking safety in the camps you support through ALWS.)
Girls are at risk of sexual assault.
They face Female Genital Mutilation. (According to UNICEF, in Somalia 98% of girls aged 5 – 11 suffer this mutilation.)
Giving birth too young can cause fistulas that rip apart a young girl’s body so faeces and urine leak uncontrollably.
All of this is why your ALWS action works to show communities that girls have the right to go to school.
Hawa looks at Aswat, and says:
“… now I understand how important education is.
That is why my grandchildren must go to school.
Without education, what do you have?”
Your Mother’s Day gift can help make sure girls don’t miss out on school, and be forced to become mothers too young.
NO GIRL DESERVES TO SUFFER THIS …
Girls can miss out on school simply because they have no sanitary supplies.
One girl told ALWS that teen girls like her had to use rags.
When they washed the rags, and hung them out to dry, it was a signal to men that they now had their periods and so were ‘ready’ to be ‘married’. This increases the danger of sexual assault.
Another danger is that if rags don’t dry properly when washed, they can cause reproductive tract infections.
Girls may stay home from school for 5 days each month to avoid the shame that can come from not having proper private toilet facilities at school. Girls fall behind in class, and then simply drop out.
This is why, through ALWS you help provide menstrual cups, Dignity Kits and training in reproductive health.
WHERE YOU HELP GIRLS
Your donation supports action for girls most at risk, in places like Somalia, South Sudan and refugee camps in Kenya.
You also work in Nepal where, in some communities, girls and women menstruating are isolated and shut out from their families in a horrible practice known as chhaupadi.
All this is a world away from life in Australia.
Yet, as Australia (at long last) faces up to the disaster of sexual abuse and violence against women in our country …
… it is vital that girls and women in the countries where you help people through ALWS, are not forgotten.
That’s why your Mother’s Day donation is so important.
You can see here examples of what your Mother’s Day donation can do:
- $79 can support a girl in South Sudan with training in menstrual hygiene and a Menstrual Hygiene Kit, to protect against forced early marriage and childbirth
- $1,600 can provide Dignity Kits to 100 girls in a Displaced Persons Camp in Somalia, to help protect against Female Genital Mutilation
- $26 can support a refugee child in school for one year
- $59 can run Gender Awareness training for a class at school in Nepal, so girls don’t miss out on their right to eudcation.
Whether the girls you help become company managers like Aswat … start their own business in tailoring or catering or farming … lead their community through management training …
… you can be certain you make a life-changing impact.
STAND ON MY OWN FEET
I still remember a 14 year-old girl – Nilam–I met in Nepal ten years ago.
Nilam faced the threat of chhaupadi, and early marriage, but was fighting back with the support of people like you through ALWS:
“People here are doing early marriage. They also do not have any knowledge about birth control. So they have a crisis.
People are not educated, and that is why they have this problem.
I will give education to change this knowledge, so people who are poor in our community can have a good future.
I will do marriage only after I complete my education and stand on my own feet.”
When I met Nilam, she was the same age as Aswat’s mother.
Nilam is a passionate, educated community leader. Aswat’s mother died in childbirth.
The difference for these girls’ lives is your kindness.
Dignity Kits. Menstrual Cups. Reproductive health training.
As you and I look towards Mother’s Day, I ask you to also look at girls like Aswat – girls who should not face the threat of being mothers before their time. Who should be free to be company managers, teachers, community leaders.
Please help set these girls free with school, so their community can benefit from all the gifts they have to offer.
MUM’S FAVOURITE RECIPES
When you send your donation, the people you help want to thank you – with food! (Just like a Mother’s Day lunch!)
We have collected a bunch of Mum’s Favourite Recipes from countries where you work through ALWS. There are Sourdough Pancakes from Somalia, Selroti from Nepal, Cassava Stew from Burundi.
You receive Mum’s Favourite Recipes with your receipt!
Thank you for walking with me through this disturbing journey of hurt faced by girls like Aswat.
I’m sorry if I’ve been clumsy in any way, as a bloke, writing about these things – but I think, for change to happen, all of us have to be engaged.
As you give your Mother’s Day donation, I trust that when you see a girl like Aswat aspire to be a company manager …
… you also see how your help now is a blessing ALWayS! Thank you!
Community Action Officer
This is a bell-shaped piece of silicone, around 40mm wide. It folds down to be inserted. It is washable, re‑usable and can last up to 10 years. Achol, from South Sudan, is one of the girls who benefits from this practical help you give:
“My mother told me about getting periods. I was 15 when I started menstruating. My mother heard about the LWF training and told me to go as they would help me.
I like using the Cup. The first time I felt fear, but now I feel happy. I can save money because I don’t have to buy pads. I can use this money to go towards my school fees.
I am in Senior 2 class and I would like to finish Senior School. I think school is important. If there was an opening, I would like to work for LWF!”