You remember how passionately I wrote about The Girl Effect?

I am still as dedicated and supportive and also asking myself a few questions.

Yesterday, Annie Q.Syed, @so_you_know on Twitter, sent me this tweet:

After a few minutes wandering around @alanna_shaikh ‘s, @Michael_Keiser ‘s and @kalsoom82’s twitter profiles, bio, blogs, etc…, I opened the link offered to my curiosity and read the article, with some reluctance…

The author, Anna Carella, a PhD student in political science at Vanderbilt University, develops 4 reasons why The Girl Effect Campaign might be damaging to women:

  1. It reinforces perceptions about “women’s work” and “men’s work” by claiming that women make better homemakers.
  2. It’s a myth that women will drive growth enough to pull the poorest countries out of poverty.
  3. Men may feel threatened by the singular focus on women.
  4. The girl effect reinforces the perception of women and more generally people in developing countries as needing “saving.”

Gulp. All these reasons are valid, especially the third and the fourth ones. They raise questions that need to be addressed. I want to spend a little time discussing each point:

  1. It relies on the essentialist view that women are innately more nurturing than men, and that women’s natural strengths lie in the home as the “chore doer” and “caretaker.” I quite agree it would be fantastic to start a double revolution, both for girls and for boys. Teaching boys & girls to share chores at home, to be both caretakers and nurturing. It would be great to « address the structural factors that underlie men’s apparent disinterest in the health and education of their children ». It’s another cruisade, it may take longer to change the representations of masculine and feminine archetypes. It is necessary and also compatible with the Girl Effect campaign. Not antagonist.
  2. « What poor countries need to stimulate sustainable growth are not women taking out loans to buy cows, but better governance and better terms of trade with rich countries. » Again, why being so exclusive? What if both movements converged to a better result for all? It reminds me of J.F.Kennedy’s Inaugural Address « Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. » Change will come in many shapes and endeavours, individual and collective. There’s not a single solution coming from better governance, on a shining armor, that might alone solve the problem. Let the girls begin now!
  3. I do agree with this one fully.« The greatest subordination felt by women is within their own home, yet the girl effect has nothing to say about domestic violence, rape, the wage gap, or the many other systemic problems underlying and reinforcing gender discrimination in poor countries (and rich ones too!) ».Yet, what’s best? To leave the girls within their home or to give them the opportunity to stand up and build social relationships, start to exist for themselves as individuals and contributors to the village and society? Yes, taking one step out and bravely asserting oneself requires courage and may trigger fear and jealousy from men. Or it can be done in a spirit of cooperation and creative collaboration, including boys and men in the Girl Effect Movement. Food for thought…
  4. « It’s drawing on a stereotypical image often conjured by Westerners to depict sad, impoverished children in developing countries. Such images perpetuate the dichotomy of modern Western world vs. the backwards, charity-dependent rest of the world. In the slideshow, Westerners are invited to “fix this picture,” and told that if they invest in girls they will change the course of history. This message gives more agency to Westerners than to the girls it claims to be empowering. » Again, here, I fully agree, that was my only concern, from the start of my small involvement in the campaign, and I will explain it further on.

This discussion is challenging, the consequences and risks are real. Yet, it should not prevent us from being actively supportive of the girls and the women around the world, starting here and now. The situation is already so critical that I believe in every single initiative and step taken towards solidarity and cooperation. Such a campaign should be encouraged and improved by constructive criticism, not discouraged and accused of damaging women.

The idea is to first look at ourselves, « developed countries » and stop « fixing » women. By focusing only on girls and women as « victims » and minorities, we reinforce the stereotypes. We also need to stop the » gender apartheid online », as Ruth Rosen suggests.

 » Success, in my view, will come when women’s news is mainstreamed. News about women is linked to the health of the planet, the education of half the world’s population, the reproductive opportunities for or constraints on half the world’s people, the hidden injuries of sex, the violence against girls and women, and the poverty of women and children. By now, most international organizations have embraced the fact that elevating women’s status though education and reproductive choice results in a higher living standard for an entire population. Sadly, that widespread and obvious consensus has not yet penetrated the news media. We will know we’ve succeeded when every magazine asks of every news story, as IPS Gender Wire does, What does this mean for women and girls? » Ruth Rosen in Alternet.

How can we make an impact, here and now, without damaging women?

  • Starting by HERE

Here, yes, here in Europe, Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan.

The Girl Effect pictures girls from Africa, India, South America, Asia.

It’s also happening here, in the so called « developed countries ».

Three examples:

  • America

« Slavery is not dead in America. Human trafficking – forcing people to work against their will – is the second-largest criminal industry in the world; illegal sale of drugs is first. The money raised by trafficking girls for sex is used to purchase illegal drugs and guns, two commodities that bring in more money and wield more power for the men who possess them. The girls sold for sex don’t get any of the money they earn.

Don’t kid yourself if you think this doesn’t happen in America. Don’t fool yourself into thinking this doesn’t happen in my town. Don’t you believe that it only happens to ‘bad’ girls. Human trafficking occurs daily in cities and towns across this country. Human trafficking takes many different forms. Asian girls are forced to work in low cost nail salons. African girls are forced to work in hair braiding parlors. Even American girls are treated and traded like a commodity. Human trafficking occurs from San Diego to Ohio. »

Read what Pamela Ferris-Olson has to say about it. Her nickname is IntheHeartland and she blogs at Women on The Verge.

The title says it all: « Slavery in America’s Heartland? It’s a 21st Century Dirty Secret Affecting Girls as Young as 12. » You can read the full article here.

  • A second example comes from my country, France.Last month, there was a National Campaign on Rape and Shame, called « La Honte Doit Changer de Camp » (Shame must change from one side to the other). Here’s a podcast on France Culture French radio, by journalist Caroline Fourest.

Listen, in French  ICI

–  Less than 2%  of aggressors are sentenced! Rapists get away with it and victims feel guilty.

– No matter if you’re rich or poor , white or black  as long as you are a woman you are a potential target and you know it.

– You have to be a woman to feel this fear , light but always present when you walk in a street and night comes . The noise of the footsteps behind you ring like an alert and this permanent risk permanent conditions you.

– We need to change the way we look at bodies so that we stop depreciating women’s body image.

– Rape is a cultural weapon shaped by centuries of incitation to domination

– Too many women have fallen on the field of what is still called  « le déshonneur »

« It is true what you say about how different things are for women in the “post-feminist” area. Many have and continue to have the benefit of education that improves the chances for bringing their wisdom to the world. Still I can not completely celebrate this fact knowing that there are still thousands of young girls who go to sleep hungry every night in this country that is part of the so called “developed” world, who lay awake in fear of being raped by their fathers, brothers, mother’s boyfriends…little girls who are raised in a world surrounded by images of “beauty” that exploit their bodies and teach them to use their sexuality as a weapon of power to push their way through the “glass ceilings and walls”. There are women who are not able to freely express who they are because they love another women and are denied the same legal rights that their friends, family and neighbours take for granted. They are beaten up, and verbally abused by other women not just men. There are single women all over the country who are struggling every day to protect their children and themselves from being hurt because they have been abandoned by “deadbeat fathers” and the community of privilege who would rather blame than examine how we are exploiting our rights and privilege as educated people to hide and deny how we are contributing to the problem.I wonder if we have really come so far or just become more a sophisticated version of the same thing. What have we really developed?

We need to stop pretending we are « developed » and instead courageously look at how we are contributing to the global crisis.

Bottom line

What does it have to do with business , leadership and corporations? Why do I write about this as an executive coach, in this professional blog?

  1. We have a responsability to share the information.We, women and men,  we have access to laptops, electricity, internet connection in the comfort of our homes and also have the privilege to dedicate some free time to blogging. It’s the least we can do. Share it on our blog, weave data and facts about The Girl Effect with how it affects us, as a woman, as a son, as a spouse, a friend, a collaborator, as a lover of women, as a father or a brother  of girls. We have the responsability to connect as much women and men possible around the world to create this revolution which is happening NOW and HERE.
  2. It’s not enough. I want to do more. I’m translating TED videos from English to French. I told Brené Brown that I was the first on the list when her awesome TEDx video about Shame & Vulnerability gets translated. You can watch the video here,( and ask TED organizers to have it translated into French!) Brené Brown writes a beautiful blog: Ordinary Courage. I’m also translating French articles into English (like the podcast quoted at the beginning of this post, on Shame & Rape at France Culture radio.) If you live in any other country than the US, translate articles and podcasts into English, or from English into your native language, so that the international audience’s awareness grows!
  3. Founding and fostering The Now Leadership on social media and in Corporations. I am getting more and more professionally involved in learning and teaching Corporations to be Gender Bilingual (reference to Avivah Wittenberg’s Cruisade). I’m doing this by creating and developing with Anne Perschell The Now Leadership Blog Carnival. With a growing circle, rather a spiral, we’re writing and researching , Not Only for Women, weaving relentlessly, like contemporary Penelope, men and women’s voices in Leadership.

How will this prevent rape and injustice against women?

I believe that if we reach equal representation of men and women in corporations, it can first:

  • Save our economies and create more wealth
  • Second contribute to sustainable development and redistribution of this wealth in education, health care and environment
  • Give role models to girls and women around the world and make them VISIBLE

What’s in it for you? Let me quote Tara, the woman who courageously started the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign:

« So I ask you: to sit in silence with this, this chorus of 130+ Girl Effect voices, with the strength that gathers all around you, and with the awareness of all that remains to do. And then to ask yourself, “What am I called to do?”

What are YOU called to do, here and now?

I would like to thank Annie (@so_you_know) and Anna Carella for starting this discussion and encouraging me to question my assomptions. I also have discovered Alanna Shaikh and it’s a blessing. She’s an optimistic and a skeptic! Blood and Milk stories by @alanna_shaikh  Not exactly radical, contrarian opinions. But they’re not the story. 

« The future of international development: It’s partnership, where donors and recipients recognize that both gain from the process ».

I know I have the tendancy to tell myself stories and lure myself into believing fairy tales. Growing older, hopefully wiser, I tend to integrate a little more salt and pepper, spices in my honey milk and mix skepticism with optimism too!

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