Where you don’t want to be a boy…

I’ve been hibernating a bit over these past few weeks, but after what seemed like endless papers and four exam essays in two and a half hours, I think I’m finally ready to come out of hiding…

A few weeks ago I added an entry in response to an article about different countries in the world where you wouldn’t want to be a girl. I recently read a follow-up article, also published by World Vision, entitled “5 Tough Places for Boys to Grow Up” (lifestyle.sympatico.msn.ca under their “Charitable Living” section) and thought it might also be appropriate to respond to it here!

Sierra Leone (Infant Mortality Rates) – More children, both boys and girls, die before their fifth birthday in Sierra Leone than in any other country. For every 1,000 births, 270 children will die, due to malnutrition, poor maternal health, malaria and AIDS for a few examples.

Chad (Child Labour) – Child labour rates vary worldwide, but Chad has the second highest. In Chad, 54% of boys between ages five and 14 are required to work. They are slaves, beggars and soldiers and their world negatively impacts their health, development and education.

Lesotho (Lack of Education) – This is one African country where more girls attend school than boys. In high school, 30% of girls attend compared to only 19% of boys. From as young as age seven, boys are often required to drop out of school to leave home and work for months at a time.

Myanmar (Children in Conflict) – Human Rights Watch reports that there are more child soldiers in Myanmar than in any other country. As many as 70,000 boys, some as young as 11 years old, serve in the state army and as many as 7,000 in opposition military groups.

Like with the issues with girls, there is also hope here. Families are being trained to provide healthy food for their children. Orphaned and vulnerable boys are being supported so that they don’t have to work to survive.

When I first started working at World Vision, I worked in the Customer Service Department answering calls in response to our television programs. I was moved by the compassion of so many calling to sponsor a child and genuinely desiring to sponsor the most needy. There were many interesting requests: children with specific health concerns, children from villages or countries where donors grew up, children with the same birthdays as one’s own children and children from countries like Canada, to give a few examples. However, the most common request was definitely to sponsor a girl.

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And I can identify with these donors; when I try to compose a picture of a needy child in my mind, the face is often female. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman that I think this way and maybe it’s because I sponsor a girl myself, but there is something in me that is naturally drawn to the plight of girls. I try not to, but wonder sometimes whether I am forgetting the boys.

In so many countries, boys experience numerous advantages over girls and girls really do need the support over boys. Some may even argue that this happens in North America. But that’s not the case everywhere. I’m certainly not trying to judge those who I spoke with who sponsored girls, because those girls may very well have needed the support more than many boys, but I am saying that we must not forget the boys.

Is the plight of girls really more attractive to us? Has our culture given poverty a female face? Is this accurate and beneficial or is it a barrier to development?

Until next time…

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