(To view a short VIDEO of my favorite day click here)
I take many things for granted. If you asked me what things I take for granted, I could give you a list, yet there are some things I take so much for granted I would not even think to put them on the list. On August 6, 2010 I added to the list an item that was previously missing: education.
In January, I began working with Across, a Christian organization that labors alongside communities in southern Sudan to improve education, health and livelihoods as well as to strengthen local churches. At the time Sudan’s civil war ended, access to basic health and education services was extremely limited for people in the south. Additionally, educational opportunities for girls were further restricted by the cultural practice of early marriage and negative attitudes about sending girls to school. In 2005, the “primary school completion rate for girls in southern Sudan hover(ed) around one per cent” (Unicef, 2005). Five years later, “in South Sudan nearly half of primary school age girls do not go to school” (Sudan Tribune, 2010), a statistic that reflects improvement yet remains alarming.
Until the thirtieth year of my life, I took for granted that my opportunity to attend school was not limited by my gender. Not any longer. I have been transformed by the voices of young girls crying out to their parents, leaders, and community, pleading for an opportunity to learn. Last month, Across organized a celebration of girls’ education, which gave students an opportunity to share a powerful message in the town’s open-air market. The girls addressed those gathered with the following words: “You look at us, and you see cattle,” (a reference to the dowry price paid for a wife), “but, we want to go to school.”
In Boma, a daughter usually leaves her home and becomes a part of her husband’s family at age 15. Therefore, many parents do not view educating their daughters as a useful investment. The students gathered in the market for the celebration, however, urged their community to think differently.
“Pilots, nurses and presidents for southern Sudan are among us!” the girls promised. “I am a girl-child,” they chanted, “I can do what the boys can do. I can write. I can read. I
The enthusiastic students sang, danced, and recited poems clad in new yellow t-shirts with bold black letters stating: “Educate a Girl, Educate a Nation.” Their energy and confidence filled the market as they displayed the benefits of education to all who were gathered. With words they fought their fears that parents may pull them out of school, with joy they persuaded other girls to join school, and with courage and strength they convinced their leaders to listen. They shared a burden which now weighs heavy on my heart, and I am thankful.
A short video of the celebration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm1CXxcFlqU