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Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Girls

I have as my desktop a photo (below) of five little girls we met in the townships of South Africa while doing research for our project – I call them “Sarah’s girls” as they fell in love with Sarah when we were there. They were spunky and spirited and full of life. Likewise I think of the "tween" boys I met full of smiles. They are the daily reasons my heart keeps me on this project.
Through them I am reminded that in South Africa 1 in 4 females (all ages included) is raped and every 6 days a man kills his spouse. I am outraged by the news out of the Congo where rape is being used as a tool of warfare.

In my email box today was a link to the Economist about Afghanistan. Driving into work I had been listening to the results of yesterday’s election there. Though turnout was low hope was in the air. This email however was about the child brides of Afghanistan. It is a poignant collage with narration by the photo journalist who created the story. One particularly powerful image looks as if it is the young Virgin Mary in blue and white. Another is of 11-year old Ghulam Haider glancing apprehensively as she sees her middle-aged husband for the first time. Yes the girls have not even entered puberty when married to men much, much older – not the vision we think of when we imagine Disney’s version of Aladdin. As one can imagine many of these girls die in childbirth or from other atrocities.

These examples are from around the world, but I am also driven because I fear for our daughters and my students here at home...

This week a reminder came via my dentist’s office. The hygienist, about my age, and I got to talking – mom talk (yup photo above is my mom, daughter, and my new niece camping this summer)! Our daughters are both college students in New England. We are both very proud of them – mine studying Biology, hers studying Finance. Both of ours are dating wonderful young men. They face a bright future. Her daughter returned to Vermont for her final year. The reason being she was raped last year in her apartment by a boy whom she repeatedly refused to date.

At the Emergent Media Center our Champlain students and our partners PMC and the UNFPA are working hard to stop the problem at the root cause – misguided cultural stereotypes – and the men who believe them. Our game project is for young men and boys. It is a soccer (football) game. Through this game the player’s cultural beliefs are challenged through a storyline. Within the story disrespectful behavior for girls equates to lack of success on the soccer field. Though this may seem a stretch in real life, it really is not.

Boys who grow up to become abusive men do not lead full, productive lives. Likewise abuse is directly linked to economics. The UN as one of its Millennial Goals points to ending gender inequality, violence as its worst manifestation, as a key requirement to ending global poverty. The way I see it, it is a line of dominoes. When violence in the family ends then reason and knowledge rule instead and are passed on generation to generation. Only then does violence itself come into question and peace truly has a chance on a global scale.

These are the reasons our game has such potential to create real change. We are directly speaking to the cause of violence – both the boys and the culture. The strategy for the message delivery is based on the proven success of the Sabido Methodology. We are crafting an experience that stands on the shoulders of a globally hip and popular sport. It’s fun and the boys will love playing it – yes a spoonful of sugar with the medicine – only in this case a spoonful of medicine with A LOT of sugar. If done in time we can take advantage of the timing of the FIFA World Cup. Its web site is the most visited web site in the world!

We were successful in raising the amount of money needed to continue pre-production through the Summer. We are about to enter production this Fall to make that FIFA deadline but we need a bit more of a hand. Help us continue the great work of our student teams and partners! We still are seeking donations to keep our team working this Fall. So if you have pledged, please send in your gift, if you are considering a gift now is a very good time, and if you know of others that would be interested in our project pass the message forward.

This weekend the New York Times will devote its entire magazine to the issue of women and poverty around the world. There is a powerful and positive interactive slide show that gives a sneak preview by New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof. See it at:

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