middle-east-returnKids all over the world are pretty much the same. They want to play, they want electronic toys and they want to learn. But, as my children discovered during our year of living in the Middle East, not all children—especially girls—get to realize their dreams.

Traveling with your kids to International locations can open their world and their eyes to some of the luxuries we sometimes take for granted. We were on a farm in the Caribbean that was entirely off the grid. They did not have power or phones coming into the farm. The only power they had was generated from a waterfall and stored and dispersed somehow through a car battery. Still, the 13-year-old boy who lived there was playing a game on his Game Boy.

Living Abroad

During our year in the Middle East we met some wonderful people but we also saw a side of life that is very different from the life we live in the US. My daughter had friends who could wear whatever they wanted to wear in the privacy of their bedrooms, but were expected to dress appropriately in the rest of the house or face the punishment. (My daughter was not comfortable asking about the punishment). She heard of girls being beaten by their brothers because other boys looked at the girl and the brother thought that his sister must be enticing these boys.

Coming Home

One of my favorite pictures of our travels is not a picture of one of the exotic locations that we have visited but instead it is a picture of our four kids standing outside the smaller local airport that is closest to our home. One of our sons had dressed up as a limo driver and met us at the exit of the airport with a sign in hand as though he was a paid driver waiting for his VIP guests. If you didn’t know anything about this picture you might think it is super silly. But for me it is a very powerful picture because my daughter was so happy to be home after a year of living in the Middle East, that she couldn’t stop yelling with excitement (this is something a girl can do in public in the US).

Seeing first hand a caste system that somehow convinced some people they could treat other human beings as though these workers were less valuable than a horse or goat was the most difficult for us.

Half the Sky

It was about this time that I found the book “Half the Sky.” The book was named after an old Chinese proverb “Women hold up Half the Sky.” Each short chapter features stories of women from around the world and some of the tragedies they deal with every day.

How to Help

Like the authors of this book, so many of us want to help but we don’t always know how and in some way we believe that our government aid is doing something to ease these burdens. It is part of the world that often doesn’t get featured on the evening news. It is part of the world that is hidden to many travelers. It is the silent agony of young women thrown into the slave trade in Indonesia or facing mutilation in age-old rituals in Africa.

The organization GamesforChange.org (G4C) just released a video game based on the book Half the Sky. It may not give you the full experience of meeting these women in person but it is an interesting way to become more familiar with some of their challenges.

Traveling to these parts of the world and seeing these atrocities first hand is not always safe and not particularly the places I want to take my young daughter. At the same time, from my personal experience and from the stories in this book, it is clear that we must take action to help women, mothers, daughters, girls from around the world. And, like my daughter in this picture, we must shout it out loud.