Justice denied: Women & Girls
"To be born a daughter is a lost life." - Nepali proverb
The challenges facing women and girls begin before birth—hundreds of thousands of girls are never born thanks to parents who only want a boy child. Even if she makes it into this world, a girl’s problems aren’t over, as she often encounters discrimination, violation and/or lack of education in nearly every area of the world.
NCP is committed to exposing the many obstacles women and girls face, and to affirming and empowering them in every way possible.
Some 800,000 women and girls enter the global sex trade every year. This $37 billion industry enriches crime syndicates while inflicting social, mental and physical injury on its victims.
While sex trafficking is carried out in nearly every society, South Asia is often seen as a locus of this illicit activity. Some nations there find it in their economic interest to overlook it, as it brings in foreign exchange in the form of sex tourism. Wherever it is practiced, it is typically lower caste, under-educated girls from impoverished communities who are exploited.
In Nepal, as many as 13,000 girls a year are trafficked to nearby India into the sex trade. Girls are often first lured to Nepali cities to work in the entertainment sector, which serves as a gateway to being sent abroad. In other cases, vendors prowl villages looking for vulnerable girls, or a man may court a girl, marry her, then take her to India for sale into a brothel.
NCP partner Shakti Samuha is a Nepali organization comprised of former sex workers that is helping girls who have been trafficked find a new life once they return home. NCP supports Shakti’s work through grants, Learning Tour visits, and sending Solidarity Workers.
Sixty million workers—mostly young women—are involved in the global garment industry: jobs with long hours, low wages and little future. Pay is typically in the $1.25-$4.00 per day, even as the CEO’s of the clothing corporations make $11,000 to $17,000 per hour.
Being paid a pittance is not the only issue facing these women; former garment workers in El Salvador told an NCP Learning Tour that harassment begins at hiring time: the young women seeking jobs are lined up outside where the bosses pick the pretty ones. Once inside, this harassment continues, plus there is so much pressure to meet quotas that the workers avoid drinking water, which leads to dehydration. Why? They are afraid to leave the production line to go to the restroom—if they fall behind, they can be fired.
In addition, these jobs are often housed in unsafe buildings where employers regularly deceive safety inspectors sent by the clothing companies. Forewarned of “surprise visits,” owners temporarily unlock doors and unbar fire escapes. Once inspectors have departed—often with glowing reports, as they are paid more when factories pass inspections—it’s soon business-as-usual: the doors are once again locked and fire escapes blocked. Then when there is a fire or other emergency, calamity ensues.
NCP works to educate US consumers about the situation of these workers and our complicity as consumers and shareholders in their plight. We also give young women other options by providing financial support for microloan projects to help them launch their own businesses and by marketing fairly-made products from Burma, Guatemala and Uganda. See our Give a Girl a Chance page for more info.
In many countries, less than 25 percent of young girls finish primary school, much less high school. The reasons are many: bias against girls, poverty, the girls are needed to work at home, teen pregnancy, lack of hygienic materials, and even not having separate girls’ restrooms at school.
Dropping out of school often leads to early marriage, life-long poverty, and lack of self-esteem—and a greater chance of being sent into the sex trade or domestic service. And women have told NCP delegations that not being educated and having marketable skills often consigns them to being stuck in abusive relationships. “I want my daughter to have an education in case she gets a bad apple,” said one Honduran mother.
Our Give a Girl a Chance program provides scholarships every year for 300 disadvantaged girls in Burma, Nepal and South Sudan, along with hygienic kits for many more.
In the Poor World, women are central to every phase of providing food for their families. They grow and harvest 80 percent of household food, and then either take it to market or prepare it for their families—which of course involves hours a day gathering wood.
So women (in their role as food providers) are particularly affected by factors such as conflict (displacing them from their gardens) and climate change, which brings drought, floods, displacement and lower yields.
Our Special Funds support women’s gardening projects in South Sudan and organic gardening workshops in Nepal, and NCP microloans help women in Burma start food marketing businesses. Many of our US programs and especially our Sustainable Living Center promote climate-friendly transportation, food production, household living and over-all less consumption—all key elements of turning down the heat on the planet—and our sisters who are working hard to grow food on it.
Ordinary tasks are debilitating or dangerous—or even deadly—for women. Rural women and girls may spend 5-7 hours a day gathering water and wood. Fumes from indoor cook fires are responsible for the deaths of some 3 million women and children every year.
NCP supports reforestation in an effort to improve local environments and to provide closer wood sources. We also work with indigenous communities in Guatemala to develop wood-conserving, lung-preserving cook stoves.