Tag Archives: girls

I do? Not.

Try to imagine for a moment…you are a 14 year old girl who hasn’t tasted life yet!  You’ve just begun to blossom.  You want an opportunity for an education.  You want to play.  You want to have a voice that is heard.  You want to be healthy and feel safe.  You want to be counted, literally.  But you aren’t.  You don’t have a birth certificate.  There is no record that you exist.  You rely solely on your family to make decisions that will impact the rest of your life.  You have no choice.

Your husband was chosen by the time you were 5.  You are lucky that you were able to stay with your family until you are 14.  But now, it’s your wedding day.  Your groom is 37.  You’ve never had a conversation.  He doesn’t know that you’re good at math or interested in medicine.  He doesn’t know that you like to read or paint or play an instrument.  He doesn’t know that you are already tired from all the work you do for your family every day.  He doesn’t realize that you are still a child.  This is normal.  This is life… in the developing world one in seven girls is married before the age of 15.

According to Girls Not Brides, “Child marriage is a global problem that cuts across countries, cultures, religions and ethnicities. Child brides can be found in every region in the world, from the Middle East to Latin America, South Asia to Europe.  Region by region, half of all the world’s child brides live in South Asia where 46% of girls are married before they reach 18. Child marriage rates are 66% in Bangladesh, 39% in Afghanistan and 47% in India – where the sheer size of the population, at over 1 billion, means that many millions of girls are affected. Every other region is affected too, from Sub-Saharan Africa, where the child marriage rate is 38% overall, to Latin America and the Caribbean, where the rate stands at 29% (UNICEF, 2011).”

Working to end child marriages means addressing major issues such as poverty, traditional values, gender roles, and security.  The solutions lie in empowering girls, educating communities and families, improving girls’ access to education, providing economic incentives and changing laws.  Child marriage violates girls’ fundamental human rights.  The time has come.  We must work together to put an end to this practice and protect girls around the world.  “We can end child marriage NOW.  Let girls be girls, not brides,” Desmond Tutu.

At a recent thinkpeace meeting girls learned about this practice and were deeply affected.  We have reached out to various organizations such as Girls Not Brides, Girl Up and DoSomething.org to learn more and to become a part of the solution.  Thinkpeace girls played at getting married:  they fashioned wedding dresses out of crepe paper, had wedding cake, laughing with each other all the while.  But then they were shown photos of their “grooms” and were told they’d have a baby within a year.  The fun ended when reality hit.  There are tough issues to discuss surrounding child marriage but we know that together, we can make a difference.  Talking about it is just the beginning.

Imagine…you’re a 14 year old girl with a future.

The wedding photo




who are you, who who?

Without self knowledge, the understanding of the universe remains incomplete. -Deepak Chopra

You probably think you know exactly who you are right now, today.  It’s easy enough to define yourself with labels.  When I was in high school I would have said:  I am a blonde girl.  I am a cheerleader.  I am a good student.  I am sensitive.   I am creative.  I am somebody’s girlfriend.  I am a sister.  I am a daughter.  If you asked me to go deeper I might have said:  I am messy. I am overweight.  I am afraid.  I am confused.  That would have stopped me right there; I wouldn’t have wanted to go any further down that road.  The negative attributes I assigned myself would have made me realize that I preferred to identify myself as a bubbly blonde cheerleader.  That felt better.

The problem with not really knowing ourselves is that until we do, we can’t really understand others.  So how do we get there?  I have to tell you:  it’s hard.  It’s especially hard when you’re trying to fit in.  I was talking to a high school guidance counselor the other day who told me that 9th grade is the hardest year, in her opinion, for girls in high school.  “They so desperately want to fit in somewhere that they will define themselves just to fit the characteristics of a group– so they feel that they belong somewhere.”  The result is that girls will often change who they really are deep inside just to fit this idea of what they should look like, act like, be like… They will suddenly change their hair color or start smoking.  They’ll carry the same tote bag as every other girl in the group and wear the same clothes, no matter how it looks on them.  They’ll get a boyfriend, because everyone has one.  They’ll pick on other kids in the cafeteria, because that’s how to look cool.  They’ll join teams, not because they love the sport, but because it gives them an identity– and an established group.  It’s understandable.  It feels better to belong than to walk alone.

If we stop and ask ourselves, do I want to dress like everyone else…  If we ask ourselves, how did I feel inside when I saw that girl getting teased at lunch and I said nothing to stop it… If we ask ourselves, do I like myself better when I’m in a posse, with a boyfriend, smoking on the corner… what would the answers be?  Where and when in our lives do we get to be our true selves?  How would it feel to JUST BE YOU?

At thinkpeace workshops we often ask girls, what stirs your soul??  Too often we are met with blank stares or hung heads and “I don’t knows”.  We want you to ask yourself questions, constantly.  Are you creative?  Are you a people person?  Do you get absorbed by a good book?  Does performing light a fire in you?  Do you feel outrage at social injustices?  Do you feel lonely sometimes?  Do you love to create masterpieces in the kitchen?  Is a soccer goal the best feeling in the world to you?  Does your pet soothe you and make you giggle?  Does music make you emotional?  Do you want to dress like a hippie or a rebel or super comfy or all blinged out or all of the above?  Do you want to sit at lunch with the kid being picked on?  Are you living the life YOU want to live?  WHO are YOU?  Really, people are like snowflakes:  no two are exactly alike.  So why do we try so hard to BE alike?

The thing is, when you truly know yourself (remembering that you are always a work in progress and always changing!), you’ll see that there is so much to like and that there are things that will frustrate you or make you sad.  None of us are perfect; we are all flawed.  That’s actually what makes us more interesting.   And it’s how we tap into our compassionate selves.  The girl who knows her passions and her goals and what makes her giddy can reach out to another and say, try this!  The girl who knows her sadnesses and anxieties and insecurities can reach out to another and say, you are not alone.  It’s the girl who knows herself who will change the world, because she understands it and sees herself in it.