CEDAW Act** The following blog post is written by Colleen Burroughs as she is currently traveling to Malawi for Watering Malawi. We ask for your prayers for her and the team that accompanies her. 

In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a bill of rights for women called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Heard of it? Me neither. Thirty years later, the women it was written to empower still haven’t gotten the memo. Why is that? And why is a bill of rights for women needed anyway?

Extreme poverty in Malawi has resulted in one of the world’s highest rate of child marriages. Marrying young girls off is seen as a solution for their care when families can no longer provide for their daughters.

UNICEF suggests that basic education for tomorrow’s mothers in sub-Saharan Africa could reduce the number of child deaths by forty percent, or nearly 2 million. Another study suggests that if a girl can get a 5th grade education her children are 85% more likely to survive past the age of five.

How in the world does an illiterate adolescent girl intellectually or emotionally navigate the intimacies of her changing body and sexual demands of an adult partner? Most often her family’s water source is at the end of a long walk and involves hauling it back to the house for everyone else; surely she wonders why she does all the work. My kids argue about whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher.

Women’s “rights” around the world are far more basic than what we who live in the first world can even comprehend.It is the same story, but the opposite end of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In conversation. The CEDAW act is about women’s rights to be paid fairly, to learn to read, to choose who or when or if they will marry. It is the right for a girl to be able to write her own life story.

She will need a pen. She will need a desk to sit at and the time to sit there. She will need a safe bathroom at school where she will not be made fun of when she turns twelve. She will need water to wash her hands. She will need a light to read by at night.

As Watering Malawi meets with our partners in Malawi this week, we will be talking with people who understand that combating extreme poverty starts with (in their words) “the girl child.” As we visit wells, school bathrooms, mother’s clubs and gardens, we will listen for the ways that Living water can invites young girls to dream up new futures full of hope.

Specifically we will talk with World Vision* about the following six strategies related to their conversation called Strong Women, Strong World.

  • Providing Channels of Hope
  • Justice and Protection
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Education
  • Economic Development
  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

I’m curious about the connections between the work we are doing with water and the continued empowerment of the women and girls. Strong Women, Strong World: is not a campaign, it is an answer. Let me know if you are interested in participating in the celebration and the empowerment of the girl child!

*I know what you’re thinking. World Vision? Yes. World Vision. Regardless of your personal opinion about recent news that left this internationally-respected NGO wrestling with a public relations nightmare, the great work they are doing in Malawi continues. Thousands of children lost sponsorship because Christians disagree. Sadly, children remain the innocent victims of a war among adults, even “holy” ones. Watering Malawi’s partnership with World Vision Malawi is strong and will continue.

You can follow our story on Twitter @WaterMalawi & Instagram @WateringMalawi !

The Girl Child.