As someone who grew up in the 1990s, fighting for women’s rights and gender equality never crossed my mind. I, as an American girl, did not have thoughts such as “Can my family survive if I go to school today?” nor did I ever have to cope with an inevitable disparity in employment wages, financial or social security. I grew up in a world where the Women’s Suffrage Movement was just a lesson in American history. I hardly ever faced discrimination for being a female. I never had to give up my education to walk 2-3 hours from my home to fetch clean water. I celebrated when school was cancelled. How was I to know that such liberties aren’t even offered to women in developing countries?

Women’s Rights is still a movement being fought for in developing countries. Pakistan is one of those countries. Pakistan is an Islamic state located in South Asia.

Does anyone remember the case of violence and injustice against women in Pakistan that was all over news a few years ago? A woman, Mukhtar Mai, was harassed and publicly humiliated in punishment for her younger brother’s alleged crime. Fourteen men were involved in the case, but only one was sent to prison. She was given compensation money by the Pakistani government. She used that money to build two schools for girls in her village. Mukhtar was an uneducated woman because there was no education available for women in her village. She changed that. Mukhtar is an inspiration because instead of shunning the village that had wronged her, she chose to improve it.

In the world I know, the bad guys get put away. The good guys and the victims win. Then again, my world involves watching melodramas such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Mukhtar is an international hero for women. She is the beacon of hope for the oppressed. She had strength and spoke out in a society where her words were not welcome.

International Women’s Day is on March 8. I think we should all try to contribute to the fight for women’s rights in other countries. Did you know that while the legal age of consent for marriage is 18, parents or legal guardians can marry off their daughters? If I was placed in a situation where I found myself married to a man because my parents wanted me to, I would become irate. I would feel stripped of my dignity and my rights. I would fight it. But you know what? The women from Mauritania can’t fight it. They’re legally restricted. They are considered minors under the “personal status” code. It’s something that twists at my gut whenever I think about it. I am a woman who has flourished under the freedoms of our country. I am a woman that makes my own choices without needing to defer to the head of my family (although I still ask mommy and daddy for their wisdom). I am a woman who took my immediate and mandatory access to education and clean water for granted until I started becoming involved in Public Service and not-for-profit organizations. I went to Catholic School up until college. My grade school was big on volunteering and charity. My high school was an all-girls school. We were very big on women’s rights and had a Global Concerns Club. It was through the Global Concerns Club that I learned more about these situations in the world. I am inviting everyone to become more involved – there is plenty someone can do to help.

The things we can do to help:

We can educate ourselves.
We can be supportive of organizations that promote women’s rights.
We can increase awareness.
We can read about it.
We can blog about it.
We can talk about it.

You can read more from Therese Janelle Ngo on her blog.

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