This photo of a girl in an Afghani refugee camp was taken twenty eight years ago. Some time ago I was interested to read the photographer's account of trying to find the girl twenty or so years later. He met a few women who might have been this girl but if I remember rightly he never was able to be sure whether he found her or not. What I do remember is that the women he found who might have been her were old looking beyond their years and told stories of untold hardship: of marrying as children, the deaths of their own children, of servitude, abuse and zero opportunity, not to mention the horrors of famine and war.
Girls in this world are still enormously vulnerable and while we have things like Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, honour killings, child prostitution and child trafficking we really need every day to be the international day of the girl.
The reason why women and girls are so badly treated is mostly, I think, due to the fact that they seem to have less power than men. Girls and women are less likely to have economic power through political or business endeavours, less likely to have power through positions where leadership is conspicuous and power is enforced from a position of superiority.
We need to rethink what power is, to view it differently, if we are ever to place real value on girls. As the gender who have babies and are biologically determined to feed that baby regularly over a period of many months or years, in my opinion, if a woman is to follow the biological and instinctive imperative to be physically present for a child for a long period of time, she is at an automatic disadvantage in the business/political world. In extension of that idea, then she is bound to become less powerful in the traditional sense but what if we view power in a different way?
A large part (50%) of the potential intelligence of a child is realised or unrealised in the womb when stress hormones produced in a mother and transferred to the baby can limit brain development in utero (conversely, the baby of a relaxed mother will experience less stress and better brain development) What kind of power is that, to potentially make a child more intelligent? And what better reason to treat women well.
The baby who is breastfed and continuously, reliably nurtured in it's early life has limitless health benefits both physical and psychological and the child is generally better prepared for a productive life. That factor also means women have enormous power over the well being and success of future generations and all of that power is exercised in the very brief initial years of motherhood but the ability of women to influence their society continues throughout the lives of both the woman and the child.
Girls who are valued, supported and educated don't only confer biological benefits on their own offspring but tend to experience financial benefit and to put that benefit to use for the good of their families and communities, improving health and education from the ground up, producing stronger relationships, and enabling those around them to better find and attain their potential.