The Day of the Girl website states:
In reserving a day for advocacy and action by and for girls, the UN has signaled its commitment to end gender stereotypes, discrimination, violence, and economic disparities that disproportionately affect girls... including gender violence, early marriage, child labor, and discrimination at work.Leading up to this day, I knew I wanted to recognize it, honor it and write about it, but what exactly to write challenged me because the struggles, challenges and realities facing girls and women across the world remain so intense, including right here in the U.S. where this statistical reality haunts me - 1 in 4 girls/women in the U.S. have survived attempted rape or sexual assault.
As a mother of two boys and as a woman, these realities overwhelm me at times. It is my job to raise my boys so that they respect girls, so that they will stand up and speak out when they are teenagers and hear other boys speak in a degrading way about their female classmates, so that they will be men who will insist on a world free of gender discrimination. How do I do this? In short, how do I raise my boys to be good men?
I believe it will take boys and girls, women and men committed to change to achieve gender equality and end gender discrimination, violence, forced marriage, child labor, etc. It is my job to raise boys to be the type of men who will advocate for change and who will respect and appreciate their female counterparts in the world. I have been thinking a lot about how I do that.
- Set a positive example - It must start at home with my husband and I sharing household responsibilities and work responsibilities and modeling a respectful and equal relationship in which we honor each other for who we are. Also, as my husband rightly noted, we (especially he) must also ourselves model social engagement through our own efforts to create a more just world.
- Foster compassion and understanding - When I see Wild Thing do something truly kind for someone else (without being told to or prompted to), it warms my heart, and I think that maybe I am getting something right as a parent. Yes, it makes me proud to hear him count or recognize his letters, but if I can teach him to be compassionate, especially to those who are different from him, I know that character trait will serve him well in life and that he can make a difference in the life of others.
- Introduce them to strong females - In real life and through books/stories, etc., sometimes the tendency is for us as parents to get boy books for boys and girl books for girls, while I think kids need to see stories with characters like them, I also think sharing books with my boys in which a girl is the hero is equally important for their worldview.
- Foster generosity - Greed is connected to many of the challenges facing girls in the world as people take advantage of the vulnerable. We teach our children to share, but the adult world still remains obsessed with ownership and the acquisition of stuff. If I can foster a generous spirit in my children, I can raise men who see the importance of giving, rather than taking. I must also set the example by giving to those less fortunate and by living within my means, maintaining a humble home where we are not surrounded and obsessed with our stuff, but are surrounded and focused on each other.
- Fill their lives with proper male role models - When talking about this post with my husband, he shared how valuable it was in his own life to not only have a father who modeled a commitment to equality, social justice and respect for others, but of the value of having other men in his life who were positive role models. My husband noted that what we teach our children through books and discussions is great, but what they see everyday matters much more.
CARE is engaged in work to end child marriage and in other endeavors to support girls.
Jen at Kitchen Counter Chronicles has a great post about the importance of Day of the Girl and about a touching conversation recently with her 6 year-old daughter.
No Time for Flashcards has a great list of books about strong girls.
Now, I want to hear from you. If you are a mom, what do you do to raise your girls to be strong women or to raise your boys to be men who will respect and value women and want them to have equal rights? How do you talk to your children about inequality in the world? Please join the conversation here in the comments or on Facebook at The Good Long Road.