Dispatches from Africa: Girls Must Not Be Passed Over for Nutrition and Care
A woman in Lusaka, Zambia, carries water from the well to her house. Photo by Margaret W. Nea.
Years ago when my husband and I were expecting our second child, we were often asked if we wanted a boy “this time.” (Our firstborn is our daughter Heather). Our response was that we wanted a healthy child. By about the one hundredth time we heard that question, my husband finally said, “I want another girl.” I was thrilled to hear him say that because I had secretly hoped for another girl. We got Amanda.
It is common around the world to undervalue girls. China only recently (since 2010) launched a campaign against sex-selective abortion to end the tradition of valuing boys over girls. While visiting Bangalore, India in early 2000, I was confronted with the infanticide of girl babies and toddlers within a cultural context that said girls meant you had to have wealth for a dowry, and boys meant you would have the added help of a laborer who could eventually increase the net worth of your household by marrying a dowried bride.
And now in Zambia, while visiting a pediatric ward that treats malnourished children, I noticed almost all of the stunted children being treated were boys. When I asked for the reason for this gender imbalance, I heard boys are more valued than girls in this country, so families are more likely to bring in a starving boy child than a starving girl child.
We can take pride in knowing that the United States, along with Irish Aid, have led the way in advocating for scaling up nutrition for children and mothers in developing countries. And we really must advocate with our representatives in D.C. for this aid to continue. But, there is one more thing we must do! We Christians must send teaching that embraces the girl child as tightly as the male child.
All children are gifts from God to be equally nurtured, and this includes the girl child.
Ines Torres Davis is director for justice at Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
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