Last week, the #GirlsUp summit was held in Washington D.C. The summit’s mission states: “Girls are powerful. When they’re educated, healthy, and safe, they transform their communities” – a statement that clearly dignifies that girls are at their best when they go to school, when they have access to good healthcare and social programming.
Interestingly, it is being funded by corporations directly responsible for the destruction of all the aforementioned! A company whose Israeli Commander stated and I quote, “Without selling a single bomb, gun or F16 fighter, Caterpillar has been supplying the Israeli military with its ‘key weapon’.”
How is it that a company that bulldozes the homes of girls in Palestine, is a sponsor for the #GirlsUp summit?
Maybe, this in consonance is a result of the premier sponsor of the #GirlsUp Summit, The United Nations Foundation, not being au courant or not up to speed about this corporation, Caterpillar’s behaviour. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food says: “Caterpillar’s D-9 bulldozers have been responsible for destroying agricultural farms, greenhouses, ancient olive groves.” As well as numerous Palestinian homes and sometimes, human lives. This includes the infamous death of Rachel Corrie who was in Palestine to walk girls to the footpaths of their summit – school.
I know, what is one example when measured against the all endearing good, right? So, we probably shouldn’t point out that the summit is in partnership with Girl Rising, which is sponsored by who? USAID! Well, you might ask, what’s the big deal after all? I guess aside from Palestinian girls not being able to #GirlUp, rural Dalit women can’t rise, because: “their wombs are inflated with bicycle pumps” in sterilization camps.
It’s really hard to rise after you’ve suffered a brutal operation where you had no clue what you were being subjected to intentionally. Where you have no informed consent to what happens to your own body. It’s hard to rise when you have a deadly infection, as a result of, as noted in Reuters, medical professionals using “dirty equipment or contaminated medicines“. Nonetheless, if you survive all of this and were somehow able to rise, you actually might be unlucky to be one of the few administered with painkillers and antibiotics “tainted with rat poison“. All sponsored by, whom? Oh that’s right – USAID. By the way, who sponsors the Caterpillar equipment to Israel to do all that damage? Again it’s USAID.
It’s great though that Michelle Obama is speaking at the conference. It’s great because one of the conference’s target summits is Guatemala. Guatemala is a great framework to project the future of many so called developing nations, or should we rather say recovering nations. Recovering from colonialism, liberalization and neoliberal colonialism.
So now, the question comes, what can they expect to see under Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement? This is an agreement which thrives on structural adjustments manoeuvred through USAID. A trade agreement whose passage was assured by knocking Malaysia off a list of top tier nations as hubs for slavery, which happens to disproportionately encircle the lives of young girls and women. A deal that will prop up slave labour sweat shops and make generic medicines impossible to ascertain in recovering nations, especially for the poor. I did read something in the mission of #GirlsUp about health and education.
So, Mexico and Guatemala are in reality great examples because as noted by Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano in “Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas“, the social program that lost all funding because of these programs, in conjunction with the loss of minimum wage labour for survival fuelled slave wage jobs, induced poverty, with no safety net for social security leading to Violence Against Women and transgender people in both Guatemala and Mexico. So, Michelle can go back to the White House after the conference and relay to Barrack that it would be really useful for the summit’s mission if he doesn’t promote a trade deal that will dismantle what the girls rose up to do for the past four decades, in the long pursuit of their rights.
Nonetheless, I guarantee you that none of the girls who participated today, none of the women from Wesleyan who asked their questions, were made aware of these facts.
Just Stop.Stop undermining the endless potential of girls. Stop discouraging girls by disrespecting their courage to come forward, to transcend all man made barriers of social privilege. The barriers that try to mute their existence and understanding of the world where girls have rights that need to respected to realise their endless potential. The notion that basic human rights can be enjoyed by some people and not ‘others’ is the most fundamental element of the diverse means of patriarchal subjugation that have totally undermined the message of rising girls in the summit. Any girl should be able to look down upon her accomplishments and find a landscape reflecting the equality to ecology, resources, autonomy, agency, education and justice.
Now, we need to take notice of women’s rights activists around the world from Kavita Krishnan, Asha Kowtal, Chaumtoli Huq, Bree Newsome, Alok Vaid Menon, Shahana Hanif, Carmen Perez, Synead Nichols, Umaara Elliott, Muktasree Chakma Sathi, Banda Pedroza, and Rania Khayyat who step out of the shadows of a genetic historical truth that women have led revolutions, founded universities, moved STEM fields forward and have given us what understanding we have today of justice, liberty, self determination in pursuit of equality.
Today’s champions aren’t celebrities, they aren’t involved in commercial media or government, and they are acting out in courage against these institutions to find a way forward from our present discontents of caste, race, gender, economic rights, housing rights, land rights, ecological preservation and labour rights.
I want to dedicate this article to all the young girls and women who have died in pursuit of this dream and those who are fighting for it today. And especially to Chaiti Bai who was only 22 years old when she died on the floor while recovering from a botched sterilization sponsored by USAID.