One of the reasons that so many women and girls are kidnapped, trafficked, raped, and otherwise abused is that they grin and bear it. Stoic docility - in particular, acceptance of any decree by a man - is drilled into girls in much of the world from the time they are babies, and so they often do as they are instructed, even when the instruction is to smile while being raped twenty times a day.
This is not to blame the victims. There are good practical as well as cultural reasons for women to accept abuse rather than fight back and risk being killed. But the reality is that as long as women and girls allow themselves to be prostituted and beaten, the abuse will continue. When more girls scream and protest, when they run away from the brothels, then the business model of trafficking will be undermined. The traffickers know that, and they tend to prey on uneducated peasant girls precisely because they are the ones most likely to obey orders and resign themselves to their fate. As martin Luther King Jr. put it during the American civil rights struggle: "We must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent."
Of course, this is a delicate matter, and it’s dangerous for foreign cheerleaders to urge local girls to assume undue risks. But it’s also essential to help young women find their voices. Education and empowerment training can show girls that femininity does not entail docility, and can nurture assertiveness so that girls and women stand up for themselves. This is exactly what has happened in the slum of Kasturba Nagar, outside the central Indian city of Nagpur.
Excerpt from, Chapter 3, Learning to Speak Up from Half the Sky , authored by Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Half the Sky lays out an agenda for the world's women and three major abuses: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute. We know there are many worthy causes competing for attention in the world. We focus on this one because this kind of oppression feels transcendent - and so does the opportunity. Outsiders can truly make a difference.
So let us be clear up front: We hope to recruit you to join an incipient movement to emancipate women and fight global poverty by unlocking women's power as economic catalysts. It is a process that transforms bubbly teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen. You can help accelerate change if you'll just open your heart and join in.
Excerpt from Half the Sky website at http://www.halftheskymovement.org/