Monday 9 July 2012

Give Girls Power

I was raised in a time before "Girl Power". I am, sadly, older than The Spice Girls. But I was raised to be a powerful girl. There were two formidable women in my life, who raised me to believe I had the power to do or to be anything I wanted to be. Most importantly these two women made sure I had all the knowledge and resources to make good decisions, and the toolkit to fix it if I made a bad one. I will be forever grateful to my grandmother and my mum.

This is my mum, Frances. Mum was and is a feminist. Not a bra burning, lipstick eschewing, hairy feminist. Mum loves her clothes and make up and jewellery. But mum has always believed in girl power. She taught us about education, and about the importance of contraception. She raised us to believe that our sexuality was important and not to be thrown away with wild abandon. She taught us about periods, about contraception about the different options, and didn't shy away from the hard conversations, even when my sister asked in the middle of a family meal "mum, what's oral sex?"

Mum believed in having fun. We were allowed to go to parties, to experiment. She didn't restrict us but gave us lots of information, support and advice. We clashed, like all teenagers do with their parents, but mum gave me a strong grounding, and for that I am grateful. I have made some crap decisions in my time, but have had her support and advice to put things right.

My grandmother (Nana) lived with us in my teenage years. My nana was a quiet but formidable woman, and also a believer in girl power. She had a very strong belief in me and she thought I could do anything. I remember her giving me a book of Prime Ministers of Australia and that she expected to see me in that book one day, Australia's first female Prime Minister. Back then I thought that would never happen, we'd never see a woman in that position. Thank God I was wrong, and thanks Julia Gillard for taking the pressure off me.

What if, though, you lived in a culture where girls have no power. To be born a girl means being sentenced to life that constricts your choices, merely due to your gender. You cannot make choices because you have no information. If you have the information, you do not have the power. Your mother has no power either, she can tell you about contraception and family planning, but if your father and/or husband over rule her, bang. You have no power.

When I was involved in the Born Too Soon Campaign, I learnt that in the developing world the big risks for preterm birth are different to here in the west. One of these risks are children having babies. There was a shocking statistic in the Metro two weeks ago that the biggest killer of 15-19 year olds worldwide is pregnancy and childbirth. Babies born to young mums in the developing world are at high risk of premature delivery, and subsequently child mortality, as well as putting their mums in danger.

The second factor is, poor family planning, having babies too close together. Women in developing countries do not have the power to plan their pregnancies, and are not made aware of the dangers and risks of poorly spaced pregnancies. We completely take it for granted. Without researching I can rattle of loads of contraception choices, the pill, condoms, IUDS, diaphragms, the implant, depo provera - these options aren't necessarily available, and even if they are, the education must be there to back this up.

Make this change.

"David Cameron is hosting a family planning summit on Wednesday 11 July. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help girls and women make decisions over when and whether to have babies. And we want him to lead the summit to take action on empowerment, sex education and health care as well as providing more contraceptives."

Please sign this petition 

For more information on Give Girls Power please visit Save The Children

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