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the letter that is long overdue: to all the daughters in the world

Dublin road
Emerald hill
Harare

03 December 2013

Dear Tino

From the first day I saw you I fell in love with you. It was such a joyous occasion with your beautiful eyes which you really wanted to open every time someone entered the room (we knew you were very intelligent, and i am certain you were the only child in the world who could do that). Your father wanted a son but also fell in love with you at first sight and soon we would be calling you daddy’s baby. He would take you everywhere and in this highly patriarchal society he is one of the few men who are not ashamed to love and care for their children. He did everything for you and for that I can assure you are blessed, loved and special.

Oh, my dear you see how carried away I can become when I talk about your childhood. You are a strong girl and you stand up for yourself and I admire you for that. My daughter, you are now six and I have to write this letter to you because you are a girl. Listen to what I say for though the words may sound bleak, I want you to find strength in them. I want you to see light in them. Your ability to conquer the challenges you will face because you are a girl will leave you empowered and hopefully also empowered to help other girls and women. For a woman success is not an individual event but you must never forget other women and girls who have not had a chance. My daughter never be selfish with empowerment because you can truly enjoy its fruits when you share.

As you read put yourself in the shoes of this girl because this is the experience and reality of many girls worldwide:

Because I am a girl I have to bite my tongue because I cannot answer you even though the words you say are degrading

Because I am a girl you expect only tears from me and when I smile, you think I am too fast
When I dress up I am trying to seduce you

When I am walking I am trying to make you see me

When I eat I am greedy

“Aren’t girls supposed to be thin” you shout

When we are having chicken I cannot taste the thigh because it is yours
But I can feast freely on the intestines and feet

Because I am a girl you tell me I can’t go to school
But I also want to learn but my tears mean nothing to you because I am a girl

Because I am a girl a man old enough to be my father gives me money and then forces himself on me
He calls himself a sugar daddy, what is sweet about destroying my life? But I guess because I am a girl it is sweet to destroy me

Because I am a girl I do the feminine subjects in class and when I tell you I want to be an engineer you can’t hide your smile as you tell me it’s not a feminine profession

Because I am a girl as soon as my breasts appear you are asking for lobola whilst my brother continues with school
Because I am a girl when I am raped you welcome my abuser into your home when he asks for my hand in marriage
At least he wants to take responsibility you say
But is it not because yesterday you threatened him and told him you would report him to the police
Be thankful you say to me because who would want to marry you after what has happened
After all you must have done something to be raped. How where you dressed and why were you walking alone. And because I am a girl I must have done something to invite the action on myself

Because I am a girl I have to accept that my rapist is now my husband even though yesterday I didn’t know who he was

Because I am a girl and not even twelve yet, when I refuse to go with you after you have paid my bride price, my father shouts at my mother for raising a disobedient child, where do I think he will find the money to reimburse my husband

Because I am a girl even the laws are not in my favour

Because I am a girl am I any less human than my brother who as far as I see is also made up of flesh and blood.

Because I am a girl does that mean I am dull because if anything, though mama did not go to school she has all the answers and solutions to my problems.

Because I am a girl what is a right to my brother, is a privilege for me

Because I am a girl people try to put a ceiling to my dreams

But Tino, my daughter because you are a girl you shall overcome all these barriers and more

Because you are a girl there shall be no ceiling to what you can achieve; only the sky will be your limit

Because you are a girl you will not only overcome these challenges but help others overcome them as you become your sister’s keeper.

This is a letter my mother may not have written but definitely one she would approve of. I can’t wait to see you grow and overcoming all challenges. Together we can and we will change the world for us and for our children.

I love you.

Your loving mother

Pelagia

Comments

Phinnie's picture

Tino's letter

Hello there! What an awesome, inspiring letter you have written to your daughter who is blessed to have caring parents who want her to be whoever she chooses without limits! Your letter reminds us of so many challenges that girls and women worldwide still encounter like rape, domestic violence, and stereotypes about what is appropriate and not appropriate for girls! Enough already! One person at a time, though, our world is changing and venues like World Pulse are helping us to support and empower one another...I want the same things for my 7 year old grand daughter as you want for your 6 year old daughter!

PEACE!

Phinnie

Y's picture

So inspiring! What a

So inspiring!

What a wonderful thing it is that you can say that your mother would be supportive of your stance. I live in the southern United States. My mother died telling telling all who would listen, including my daughter and son, that she was ashamed of me for speaking out against domestic abuse. Her religion taught that I was bound for hell.

I have, literally, stood between several sisters, friends, my daughter, nieces, and their abusive husbands, sons, fathers, only to have them encourage their abusers to then turn on me. We are working against centuries of presenting abuse as the righteous disciplinary action given to males through "God, The Father."

In our "Christian" society, in the United States, in 2013, women are told by their husbands, and each other, that they must not allow me access to them or their children because I am a "bad influence." This includes women who call themselves friend, sister, daughter, and daughter-in-law. My grandmothers said the same of me, but I continue to speak out.

I advocate for enforced conception control for all women who have been abused, even once, by the father of a child. To continue to bear children with an abuser is to become complicit in the cycle of abuse. I would also like to see birth control free and readily available in all areas where men are acting like wild animals in raping and otherwise abusing women and other vulnerable members of society. At least, the women have a chance at becoming empowered if they are not impregnated.

I have two grown children, a son and a daughter who are frightened by my words and have denied me access to their teenage children. This hurts, but is a small price to pay for the freedom to finally speak out against abuse without risking their becoming the objects of it.

Yvette

Your words are, as others have said, inspiring. I thank you for them, and I want you to know that because I am a girl, I stand beside you and your daughter in this fight for empowerment, enlightenment and growth. I believe that our future holds opportunity for change, especially if we are in this together. No girls deserves to be treated anything less than equal.

Courtney Michelle Miller
Digital Communications Strategist and Multimedia Producer
http://courtneymichellemiller.org

JoneBosworth's picture

That's What Girls Do

Dear Pelagia,
As a girl, I stand with you. As a girl, I honor and lift up your words. As a girl, I know you have no ceiling, no limit -- and your daughters, nieces, sisters and friends have no limits too. As a girl, I believe YOU will impact our sons, nephews, brothers, husbands and friends. You will positively impact your nation and the world.

I am humbled to read this extraordinary letter. Thank you for sharing it and the inspiration, courage and strength it carries.

In my country, the United States, Senator Elizabeth Warren is one of just 20 women (of 100) national Senators today. When she campaigned to win her seat in our Congress, she traveled around her state speaking to crowds large and small. She told every girl she saw, "I'm Elizabeth Warren and I'm running for the Senate, because that's what girls do."

I was moved by Senator Warren's leadership and I'm moved by yours. Thank you.

My very best,
Jone

Jone M. Bosworth, JD

cassie_levy's picture

because this is what we do

I am also moved by Senator Warren's leadership and by Pelagia's words. Now is a good time to be a woman! I'm excited for the future of women in politics. Thank you!

byamungu bahati pascal's picture

Grand Merci

C'est un exemple que doivent suivre toutes les mères pour préparer les jeunes filles à être des femmes fortes de demain. C'est en préparant la jeunesse que l'on prépare le monde meilleur de demain. Si tout le monde penser à la jeunesse et la préparer comme tu as préparé ta fille, nous aurions un monde future comparable à un petit paradis.
Merci Pelagia pour cette expérience.

Pascal BYAMUNGU

HOPE tOWELA's picture

Amazing words

Because I am a girl, I stand with you and support you all the way. This is a powerfull message to all the girls. To gether we can do a lot.

I AM INSPIRED by your words, to all the Girls GOD BLESS YOU.

Hope.TMT

torilynnfox's picture

Just Beautiful

So inspiring and moving. I truly forgot where I was when I was reading this and became so wrapped up in the words. Thank you so much for sharing this. You should really keep writing. I feel so moved by the subject matter and the eloquent way in which you spread this message.

God bless!

lydiagcallano's picture

Endearing and encouraging!

The letter may be overdue but not too late. There is still time to end stereotyping of women and girls as weak and easy prey of abusive males.

I can sense that you are a very sensitive mother who cares so much for her daughter. You would do anything to protect your child and strengthen her with your powerful words. You come in very strong but I can sense gentleness and gracefulness in you. God bless you and your daughter!

Ma. Lydia G. Callano
Iloilo, Philippines
+63 33 3158137 or 5138830

kpisinski's picture

Strength and Power

Fear of what keeps us in these abusive relationships?

In some countries the laws force women to stay in these abusive relationships. But, where women are allowed to walk the street alone and can leave, what is it that keeps us there-waking up next to a man who squashes our soul and bodies? The answer is different for each woman, but it must be explored and answered before change can occur and before she can walk out the door.

Financial independence, self respect, embracing the idea of living alone, education, emotional strength, physical strength.....the list is endless. Perhaps one part is that women are told they are weaker, no matter what country you live in. Perhaps it is time we become physically stronger and better able to protect our bodies? Perhaps creating a strong body will create a strong and determined mind that will allow for freedom and equality?

We have a duty as mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, etc. to give the girls around us the knowledge of what can keep them free from abuse. That knowledge must include teaching all of the girls in our lives that our human form is sacred and we are in charge of our own bodies, that we must be financially independent, that we must have self respect, that we must embrace the idea of living alone if the alternative is to stay with someone who abuses you, that we must educate ourselves, and that we are strong!

Wonderful letter! Best of luck,
Kim

Kim

Jumi's picture

Never too late

What a remarkable letter. Tino is fortunate to have such a caring mother. I'm sure other girls will benefit from your words too.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

cassie_levy's picture

Thank you for this!

You're words are amazing! I am not only impressed and mesmerized by your words but your flow and lyrics are amazing. I especially love how you end with an inspiring quote, "Because you are a girl you will not only overcome these challenges but help others overcome them as you become your sister’s keeper." Keep up the good work! We need more spaces like this for others to hear your story. Thank you for sharing!

Pushpa Achanta's picture

Beauty, meaning, power

Dear sister,

The 3 words in the subject struck me after I read your lovely words. May all the girls and women who meet or read you derive inspiration and strength.

Hope you'll continue expressing courageously.

Love and warmth,
Pushpa

Frances Faulkner's picture

A Mother for All

Pelagia -

Words are a gift that all of us can give. You are guiding us in how to use words in an especially beautiful and effective way - with soul, insight, and genuine voice; with lyric, rhythm, harmony. When such a powerful melody goes into our minds, it helps us feel strong, positive, connected, and capable. Keep writing us word poems to recite to our friends and daughters.

Thank you,
Warmly, Frances

irmia's picture

Because we are girls

Because we are girls, we understand what it means to be the second, the shadow, the unseen.

It's good to be connected as girls, and we will support one another :)

Mia

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