My name is Luisa Khalil and I stand before you in an attempt to speak of a subject that is not something I have experienced but that exists in my country, Mexico, today. I am a lucky individual. I have had the privilege of growing up in an environment that has given me food, clean water, shelter, great education and a supportive family. This is not the case of every single girl in Mexico and this is certainly not the case of ever single girl in the world.
20 thousand girls are victims of sexual exploitation every year in Mexico. Please remember that as I mention these statistics, this is based on what has only been accounted for. What about the poor inaccessible areas?
2 millions of girls go to work everyday to sustain their families, to educate themselves or simply slave under one individual who forces them to beg, work on the streets and sell products whose profit goes back to their ´´owner´´ and they themselves do not see a penny of their hard earned money.
So, what are the problems that girls face in Mexico?
– Lack of Education
Physical and psychological violence have lasting effects on a human person. Effects not only include physical scars but also, psychological damage such as feelings of shame, phobias, anger, depression and suicide.
Every day five women die due to some kind of violence in my country. Twenty thousand girls are sexually exploited every year. In seven of ten cases of relationships between young persons, we find violence against women.
How can we prevent violence? My response to this could be endless but if summarized in a nutshell, we together, in solidarity can prevent violence. There needs to be a fundamental understanding of the dignity of the human person, in this case the girl. In addition institutions must promote and protect the same through strict policy that helps girls flourish in society and create a culture that embraces gender equality. Further recommendations include providing services that help reintegrate victims of violence into society and also punish perpetrators of the crime according to the rule of law.
Extreme disparity of treatment leads to discrimination. This inequity is manifested first in the family. For instance, when a man presumes that the role of a woman, consist of staying in the house, taking care of children and ensuring completion of domestic chores for generations after generations and gives himself the responsibility to go out and fend for the family, roles are assumed, but not necessarily agreed upon by all involved. This assumption is not confined to men but sad to say, society as a whole.
This has a negative impact on society which includes few job opportunities for women, decreased social development and lack of upward mobility into the work place. Unfortunate, 60% of the homes in Mexico are supported by women, most of them single mothers who did not have the opportunity to finish primary school due to prior economic downturn. Women therefore enter a vicious cycle, where they are unable to go school, or if they do go to school, once they get married they have to stay at home, if they stay at home, they miss out on the job market and then if they are later forced to go back to work (in the case of severe economic loss, divorce, passion), they are unable to have equal access and opportunities to jobs.
Woman recalls to humankind its humanity in a profound recognition of the dignity of each person. Woman is the architect of authentic peace from the most basic cell of society to the highest levels of policy and decision making, constructing conditions in which persons are given the chance to live in accordance with their dignity.
Therefore, society, government and organizations must promote equal opportunities for men and women through strict policy and legislation, and promote a culture that encourages opportunities for girls.
Another issue is the lack of specific health care programs to address the true needs of girls such as:
– Affordable medical insurance.
– Prevention of female diseases.
There is an immediate need for the government to set aside funds to create health care programs for girls. Helping girls combat malnutrition is extremely important for their physical and mental development since 3 out of every 4 girls who live in poor families in Mexico are malnourished. With girls receiving proper health care, they will be able to better function in society. Moving forward, girls will be able to educate themselves, and find a job in which they will be able to function in a health way. The talents of girls foster and preserve the beauty of each culture. When girls exercise a key role in building, designing and protecting societies, their participation enriches and sustains the culture for themselves, their family and community and for all generations to follow.
Lastly but most importantly, I believe that giving every girl a good education will empower her and thus allow her to eliminate all stereotypes and gender inequalities. Policies must be implement by the government and followed by all to ensure that every girl as equal access to schools and universities.
All political, social and economic barriers that prevent girls from receiving their right to be educated must be removed. We must remember that education is not a privilege. It is a right.
I would like to conclude by saying that there is no doubt that there have been important advances in my country and all over the world to help girls prosper but I know that there is much work that still needs to be done. No violence should be tolerated. No forms of discrimination should be acceptable. Education must be provided to every single girl. Health is key for a human being´s survival and the government must ensure that this is provided to all girls. Through family, girls experience their dignity, receive their first primary education and are protected from dangers such as trafficking and crime. If we do not protect our girls, we are in turn risking the development of the generations to come as girls have a unique way o loving and through the gift of oneself to the other, girls create a culture of life that is instrumental to societal well-being. Lastly, let’s remind ourselves that girls are human beings. Human beings have inherent dignity and no person or institution can take away this intrinsic worth.