because I am a girl

Along with Emma, our press officer, on Tuesday evening I went to an enlightening and shocking evening – the launch of the book ‘Because I am a girl’. This collection of seven stories is written by famous authors who travelled to poor countries around the world (unpaid, no less) to speak to young women and girls about their lives, struggles and hopes. All proceeeds from sales of the book go towards the ‘Because I am a girl’ charity run by Plan that aims to transform the lives of the world’s poorest girls. It’s a wonderful charity that we hope to do more with in the future. With over 90% of our small businesses being run by women, it helps us understand the needs of women in the UK and we’re keen to support Plan to learn more about the lives of women around the world.

There were readings from authors Kathy Lette and Deborah Moggach and actor Larry Lamb, videos showing the difficulties that girls can face in poorer countries such as Brazil, Uganda and India and a talk from Marie Staunton, Chief Executive of Plan. The evening gave a real insight into the positive work of the charity and the difficulties that poor girls around the world face in their lives. It was shocking to think how everyday things that we take forgranted like schooling, running water, contraception, safety and healthcare can be absent from the lives of many girls around the world, and how their gender can be a real disadvantage and, too often, a life or death situation. One of the main aims of the book is to break the cycle of uneducated mothers giving birth to underweight babies who in turn grow up to be unhealthy and uneducated. It really was heart-breaking stuff.

We had lots of questions during the evening and author Kathy Lette was happy to give us some answers (she also made us laugh a lot throughout the evening, adding humour to highlight the plights of young girls in the country she visited, Brazil):

How did you initially become involved with Because I Am A Girl?

I think women should be each other’s human wonder bras – uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better. In the developing world girls are fed last and least. They’re pulled out of primary school , put to work and often end up in prostitution. They become runners up in the human race.

Why is the charity important to you?

It’s a man’s world. It’s bad enough in the West. Women still don’t have equal pay (we get about seventy five pence in the pound) and we keep getting concussion hitting our heads on the glass ceiling (plus we’re expected to clean it whilst up there) – but in the Developing World women are second class citizens. Lack of education and contraception mean that girls are little more than a life support system to their ovaries.

During your trip to Brazil, what was the one thing about women’s lives that stood out as being so easily changeable with education and funding?

Contraception. Because Brazil is a Catholic country, copulation means population. Do you know what you call people who use the Rhythm Method? Parents. The young women are forced to play Ovarian Roulette. Fathers are U.F.O’s – Unidentified Fleeing Objects. The only way out of the cycle of poverty is to break the menstrual cycle. Plan runs health care centres which offer free condoms and advice on contraception. They build local schools so that girls aren’t raped on long journeys to school.

What impact do you hope the book has on its readers?

I hope it inspires people to donate time and money to Plan to help our less fortunate sisters escape poverty and violence.
Plan immerse themselves in communities, building long term support and empowering women so that they no longer end up in that giant missing person’s bureau. And who is missing? The girl with potential – the girl she was B.C. – Before Childbirth.

You can buy the book here or in any Waterstones around the country.