October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl Child, one of the days nearest and dearest to our hearts here at Vista Hermosa. Since the UN designated this day in 2012, it has aimed to highlight and address the unique needs and challenges that girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.
This year’s UN theme to mark the occasion is “GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable”, recognizing that girls are moving from dreaming to achieving. More are attending and completing school, fewer are getting married or becoming mothers while still children, and more are gaining the skills they need to excel in the future world of work. Girls are breaking boundaries and barriers, and they are leading and fostering a world that is relevant for them and future generations.
Many of our grant partners around the world contribute to this work, addressing a range of issues affecting the well-being of girls—from early marriage and pregnancy, to schooling, to human trafficking. One of the frameworks we use here at Vista Hermosa is called healing centered engagement, a framework which promotes a holistic view of healing from traumatic experiences and environments. Many of our partners focus on healing and building resilience among girls. One such partner is World Vision and their Child Friendly Learning and Recreation Centers. Today we share a story from this work in West Bengal, India, to celebrate International Day of the Girl Child.
Riya* has experienced many trials in her 14 years of life, including caring for an abusive, alcoholic father and, after she was sent away to an aunt’s home, being forced into domestic servanthood in a large household. She dreamed of getting an education while helping her cousins prepare to go to school every day. “It hurts to see someone your age progressing in life, when you are kept back. No child should have to face this,” said Riya. Her mother, Latika,* has also suffered many hardships, including being married twice—the first time as a child. Fleeing poverty and an abusive husband, she felt she had no choice but to take up prostitution to support her two children. After Riya’s aunt threatened to marry off Riya, Latika brought her daughter to live with her in a red-light district so that Riya would not face the same fate as a child bride. But living in this area came with new risks, such as being sexually abused, trafficked, or prostituted. After Latika heard about World Vision’s Child Friendly Learning and Recreation Center (CFLRC), she began sending her daughter there.
Riya enrolled in a government school, with the help of her CFLRC teacher, and now attends after-school coaching at the CFLRC, with the goal of becoming a police officer. “A few months ago, I thought it was my fate to accept my mother’s profession… Today my worries are very different as compared to before,” she said. “ … Even though I was kept away from books when I was young, I will still succeed because I now have the opportunity.” Her mother, who has worked in a brothel for 11 years, also has dreams— of a time when she will no longer have to engage in prostitution and can own a small plot of land, open up a shop, or farm.
We are proud of the partnerships we’ve cultivated over the years that contribute to girls’ empowerment in India and elsewhere. How are you lifting up and celebrating girls in your community?