My Journey to Advocacy: Providing a voice for those who weren’t given one

Girlkind

Last December I watched the trailer to “It’s A Girl,” for the first time. It broke my heart to realize what was happening in many parts of the world.  I quickly began researching more about it online, the more I read, the more I began to hate this world.  Girls were being abandoned in the streets left to meet their deaths just because they were born a girl.  I was left feeling hopeless, sad and defeated.  This issue was epic, how could I possibly make a difference?  As each day passed I continued to read more and shared online the stories I read.

Throughout my discoveries, I saw a little glimmer of hope. There was a very special home in India, specifically Punjab, (where I ethnically originate from) that was doing amazing work with baby girls that were being abandoned, uncared for and unwanted by their parents.

Unique Home in India is run by a wonderful woman named Prakash Kaur, she and her assistants together help raise approximately 60 girls.  She recues girls from the sides of the roads, garbage bins, fields and some leave their unwanted baby girls in the provided cradle.  After speaking with the orphanage I launched my “Save A Girl,” campaign, a social media campaign to help raise awareness on this issue as well as to collect personal care items and clothing for these girls.  It was a small step, but that step helped me heal on the inside.

These girls reminded me of myself and the what “ifs,” began echoing in my head, what if it was me? I was given the opportunity at a fulfilling life in a beautiful country, the very least I could do was be a voice for them.

With the help of family, friends and the community the campaign raised just under 1500 items that were hand delivered to the girls by my relatives.  Since that time I continued to raise awareness and have discussions via social media on what could be done on this issue. I have yet to make my travels to India; my first trip to India is going to have so much purpose.   I look forward to meeting these girls and being inspired by them to do more.

Just a few weeks ago, I established GirlKind Foundation. A non-profit organization that I feel will serve as a great platform to help bring an end to gendercide, gender discrimination and help support abandoned girls in India. The goal is to continue to raise awareness on this issue, changing cultural values is going to take time, dedication, awareness and education.  Eight months ago I would of have never imagined sitting in the position I am in today.  The trailer to “It’s A Girl,” inspired and motivated me to do something, to become a voice for those girls who weren’t given one.  Being an advocate for social change is much easier than five years ago. There are so many social media tools that we as individuals can use to make an impact and together we can change the world.  Never underestimate your abilities; one person can truly make a difference.

Our first event as GirlKind is in keeping with raising awareness on the issue and asking how we can fix this. We will be a hosting a film screening of “It’s A Girl,” on September 15 to be held in Abbotsford, BC. This evening will also mark the official launch of GirlKind, creating a better world where every girl matters.  If you would like more info please visit:  www.girlkind.org

51 deesh small webDeesh Sekhon is a wife and mother from Abbotsford, BC. She owns and operates her own photography company and is an active member of her community. Deesh has recently launched GirlKind Foundation, which is advocating and educating for change in cultural beliefs and taking a stand against Gendercide. Her belief is that we must strive daily in our lives to better our communities and make them a stronger, inclusive place for our children to live.

 


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

 

A Letter from Mitu

#IStandWithDrMituKhurana

mitukhurana

Dear Friends and Supporters,

I am a doctor/pediatrician and I have faced immense pressure from my matrimonial family to abort my twin female children. My experience in fighting for justice for my daughters show the extreme patriarchal attitude of all authorities supposed to help women like me, who want to go against their families and save their daughters.I am the first mother in India to file a complaint under the P.C-P.N.D.T Act because my husband and in laws did not want me to give birth to my twin daughters. My case* set a precedent for other women to come forward and complain when being forced to abort their own daughters. The P.C-P.N.D.T Act which was passed in 1994 was highlighted when I filed my complaints.

Despite it being found out that no Form F was filled when USG was done on me, and other incriminating evidences today after 10 years of my struggle, the trial court has discharged all the accused and dismissed the case. The orders of the court does not even mention the arguments raised by my counsel. The lower court has dismissed my P.N.D.T complaint despite all evidence.

I will however fight back, but need the support of all of you. The orders discharging the accused is a closed door for any other women who want to come forward to speak out against their accused, in their lawful obligation to protect their daughters.

If I appeal alone in the higher court, the orders will be same. This time I want all of you with me, with you extending your support in media, in social media, in talking with others, and watching over the orders as they come in. I cannot do this alone. Please share, blog, and tweet with the hashtag #IStandWithDrMituKhurana.

I want people to realize I do not get any monetary benefit from this case. I just want my daughters, our daughters, to have and to inherit a safer, better world. As sex ratios decline, our society is becoming more violent — crime in general, and crime against women in particular, is increasing.

This is not about me. This is about all women who want to save their daughters. This is about all of us, as a people, as a nation.

In Solidarity!

Dr. Mitu Khurana

 


*My case has been highlighted in various national and International media, some of them being-

1) First episode of SATYAMEV JAYATE

2) WITNESS program on ALJAZEERA channel (http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2013/09/20139912536503360.html)

3) 2009 Human Rights Reports: India by US government (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136087.htm)

4) 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – India (http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/sca/154480.htm)

 

The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

Why Aren’t More Men Involved in Fighting Violence Against Women?– A Man’s Perspective

In a recent Huffington Post article, Soraya Chemaly said, “I’m thinking that it shouldn’t take gendercide and gang rapes of children and women to motivate good men to act against pervasive evan jennifer3injustice that all women and girls are subjected to in one degree or another.” She goes on, “Women are not perpetrating widespread violence against one another or against men — in homes or in war. And yet, whenever I go to meetings, seminars or schools to discuss this topic, I enter rooms full of women. This is immensely frustrating.”

I have often been asked at film screenings by audiences of 99.9% women why so few men are involved in the movement to end violence against women. I can’t speak for other men, but my journey to becoming an VAW activist began with a life-changing experience while filming a woman sharing how she killed eight of her own newborn daughters in India, then learning about the underlying culture of misogyny that drove her to such desperate measures. I felt intense anger towards the men perpetrating this violence on women. But I also imagined my own wife and daughter (who was 11 at the time) suffering the same fate and felt anger at the thought of good men who might be in a position to defend them, but chose to stand passively by.

Previous to my life-changing experience filming It’s a Girl, I believed that loving and honoring the women in my own life was enough. But I no longer believe that. More men need to take action and add their voices to the movement. I challenge men every chance I get to not remain silent.

But I also think it must be acknowledged that many men may not become involved because the women’s empowerment movement can often feel like a hostile place for men. For instance, if men express their desire and commitment to defend women and their rights, we can be accused of suggesting that women are weak and need us to defend them. I’ve been told by feminists that men do not have a right to an opinion about issues like reproductive rights because we can never know what it is like to experience an unplanned pregnancy and need to stay out of it. The hostility towards men in general by some of the women commenters on our trailer on YouTube is almost violent. The message this sends to the majority of good men who honor and respect women is that we really can’t win in this, we are going to be lumped in with the bad men anyway, so why try.

While I extend a small challenge to women to consider how you can make the movement a friendly place for men, I would like to extend a major challenge to men to stand for justice and against violence against women in your families and communities. You can join me and one million other men who have made the promise to fight violence against women by joining the Ring The Bell campaign! To “ring the bell” is to take action to challenge violence or discrimination against women wherever you may see it or have the power to make change. “Men from Delhi to Dallas are standing with women to say no to violence. With men as leaders and allies, we can reach a global tipping point on the issue of our time. Be the generation that makes the world safer for all.” Learn more and “Ring The Bell” here!

Amazing Progress in 2012: Thank You!

posterAs the Shadowline Films team welcomes a new year, we can’t help but be excited and humbled by the success of It’s a Girl and response of the international community to this film. When we released It’s a Girl in September of 2012, our hope and desire was to educate and mobilize a movement to end gendercide in India and China. Your incredible support for the film and advocacy for those who share their stories have far exceeded our highest expectations, and we want to thank you for lending your voice to the growing movement demanding dignity and equality for the women of India and China.

In the few short months since It’s a Girl hit the world stage, over 400,000 people have joined the cause, with thousands more adding to that number every week! Nearly 1 million actions have been taken, ranging from signing petitions to donating to our partners working to combat gendercide in India and China on the frontlines. Our community on facebook and twitter has exploded, and you have brought the film to over 130 locations around the world so far, with another 100 possible screenings in development.

It’s a Girl has screened before high-level government officials and world leaders, including the British and European Parliaments. It has been a valuable tool for reputable universities and respected NGO’s around the world to engage everyone from students to influencers and leaders in the battle to end gendercide.

It’s a Girl has been acclaimed worldwide in articles, reviews and on radio and TV, including The IndependentEmirates Women Magazine, The Current on CBC Canada, NPR, and The New Internationalist to name a few. It has been featured and recognized at leading Human Rights Film Festivals like Amnesty International’s Reel Awareness Film Festival and the “this human world” human rights film festival in Vienna.

As director I was invited to give a TED talk in Mumbai, India, where I engaged 1000 influencers and leaders from the region about gendercide and was able to challenge them to lead the way to change.

But above all, we are most proud of the many of you who have responded to the call to action and become culture changers and activists in your own spheres of influence as a result of seeing It’s a Girl. Besides the ongoing dedication of organizations like Women’s Rights Without Frontiers and Invisible Girl Project, some people who have stepped up and taken action deserve special mention.

People like Deesh Sekhon, a wife and mother from Abbotsford, BC who, after seeing the trailer, launched GirlKind Foundation, which is advocating and educating for change in cultural beliefs and taking a stand against Gendercide in India. Deesh and GirlKind Foundation have become champions for the cause, holding screenings of It’s a Girl throughout Canada.

IMG 0182People like former UN diplomat Michael Platzer and his team, who, after seeing It’s a Girlorganized a one-day symposium at the UN in Vienna on fighting femicide (gendercide), where ambassadors, social scientists, NGO representatives, statisticians, lawyers and feminist activists had the opportunity to speak about gendercide, explain its meaning and causes, and present examples of best practice in fighting gendercide. The symposium culminated with the release of the Vienna Declaration on Femicide, a document urging UN member states, UN organizations and civil society to join forces and take responsibility to put an end to gendercide. The declaration was signed by the participants of the symposium as well as by Austria, Slovenia, the Philippines and Norway and plans are underway to bring it to the UN Commission on the Status of Women this March!

And people like Omékongo Dibinga – a rapper, trilingual poet, CNN contributor, motivational speaker, TV Talk Show Host and the Director of UPstander International who, inspired by the It’s a Girl trailer, decided to lend his voice to the cause by omekongowriting and recording a hip-hop song. Omékongo captured so well the inner conflict so many of us experience when learning about gendercide, that we decided to produce a music video of his song. We are so excited to be the first to share with you the It’s a Girl music video! Please take a minute right now to watch it and share with your friends.

Deesh, Michael, Omékongo and all of you who have joined them in the fight to end gendercide are the reason we made It’s a Girl. You have taken this film and run with it, and together, we are putting gendercide front and center on the world stage of human rights concerns.

As we embark on another year of fighting for the end of gendercide, we wanted to say thank you! Thank you on behalf of the millions of women in India and China who need our voice. Thank you on behalf of millions of girls, yet to be born, who will draw their first breath, and go on to fulfill their destiny because of you. We look forward to 2013 being a year that history will look back upon as a turning point in the battle to restore value and equality to the women of India and China.

It’s a Girl Inspires Music Video by Hip Hop Artist Omékongo Dibinga

omekongoWe are so excited to be the first to share with you the It’s a Girl music video!

After seeing just the film trailer, Omékongo Dibinga was inspired to lend his voice to help end gendercide. Omekongo – a rapper, trilingual poet, CNN contributor, motivational speaker and the Director of UPstander International – put pen to paper and wrote this amazing hip-hop song.

“I wrote this song because hip-hop is a global force. Yet too many hip-hop artists do not use their powerful skills and influence to speak on issues like these. I want to use my talent to make a positive change in this world.” – Omékongo.

After writing the lyrics, Dibinga shared them with the film’s director, Evan Grae Davis. “When Omékongo approached us with the lyrics to this rap song he had written, I was deeply moved with how he expressed his heart for the victims of gendercide around the world. I’m sure having two daughters of his own makes it personal. His words reflect a deep passion against the injustice of gendercide in a way we wanted to share, so we asked him if he would record the song!” Davis said.

Omékongo recruited Lindsay Samakow, a talented debut vocal artist, to provide the backdrop as he recorded his song titled after the film, “It’s a Girl.”

“I was so inspired when I heard the song for the first time,” says Davis, “that I wanted to produce the music video to bring it alive in a new dimension. We filmed Omékongo performing the song on the streets of New York City and in Central park with his two beautiful daughters and niece. We added in several clips from the documentary, and now have a music video that truly captures his heart for justice.” Davis concluded, “The result is a haunting and compelling expression of one man’s reaction to one of the greatest human rights issues of our time. If more people responded as Omékongo has, we could truly change the world!”

The music video is available on YouTube, and the song is available on iTunes. A press release is also available.

There is Heart in Hope

I have written about this issue so many times on my blog…but every single time I start…I am at a loss for words. How do I write about this? How can I say what I want to say without using so many numbers and statistics. Over 50 million (yes, million!!), 70 million or 100 million girls and women missing?? No-one really knows the numbers. I mean, there is no real way to calculate female fetuses and girls that are killed in the womb through sex elective abortions. There is no way to tell how many baby girls are suffocated to death…it’s all very hidden so it’s impossible to get a real number. But when you see a very skewed gender ratio in India and China…you start to get a clearer picture of the magnitude of the gendercide that is happening right now halfway across the world. But really, it’s only a heartbeat away…because these girls are our daughters…these women are our sisters.

This is what’s true. When we were in Vancouver a few months ago, I went to see a special screening of the movie It’s a Girl. Afterwards..I plunged into a dark place. I cried and cursed and ranted on and on. Then I cried + cursed some more. It broke my heart. And it pissed me off. And in between all of that…I was ever so thankful that Tara was not born in a culture and society were this was permitted. But then something happened…a shift in me, in my heart + mind. There are millions of Taras that are not permitted to be born there…that are never allowed this most basic right…the right to live!!! And I realised that it is not enough, not enough, not enough…for me to be grateful that my daughter was not born there.

Rita Banerji, who is doing the heart wrenching work of addressing this atrocity, has been trying to get heard at the United Nations. And…it’s finally happened!!! Currently the U.N. does not recognise gender based genocide as a human right violation. Rita is trying to change that. She is going to present this genocide at a U.N. conference in Vienna and she needs your help!! Can you please sign this petition right here to say that women’s rights are human rights!! Because there is strength in our voices, there is courage in our actions and there is heart in hope.

 


51 soraya nulliah blog portraitOriginally posted on Soraya Nulliah’s personal blog at  http://sorayanulliah.blogspot.com/ 

Soraya Nulliah is an Indo-Canadian mixed media artist who currently lives in the U.S. with her husband and baby girl. She is also a writer, budding photographer and creative soul who believes, with all her heart, that our stories deeply matter. Our stories of hope, of pain, of joy, of promise; they all connect us to each other and to our deepest selves. 

 


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

‘It’s a Girl’ Trailer Inspires Rap

After seeing the It’s a Girl trailer, this one viewer said he was “instantly moved” and inspired to write this rap. “I think what shook me the most was the fact that women also participate in the killing of girls. Like you, I just felt that the world needs to see this message” he shares.
Thank you for your support and for standing with us against gendercide, Omékongo!

200,000,000 missing – not talking bout money see
Talkin’ about something worth more than currency
Talkin’ about missin’ girls the foundation of a nation
But being born a girl in India is damnation
Desperation – having a girl brings trepidation

So being born a girl leads to deadly devastation
Baby girls bouncing from the womb to the tomb
Delivery room delivering gendercide too soon

How have we forgotten that the woman is key
To open the door of the future for our children to see?

The phrase “It’s a Girl” should bring cause to rejoice
But we kill innocent victims who have no choice, no voice
No say in the way they will die today

Parents leave their land so daughters won’t die this way
We gotta let the world know that we’re killing our seeds
And make it an honor to give birth to a girl indeed.

46 omekongoOmékongo Dibinga is the Director of UPstander International. His life’s mission is to inspire all across the globe to take a stand when they witness an injustice, no matter how small or large. Omékongo is a rapper, trilingual poet, CNN contributor, motivational speaker and a TV Talk Show Host. Read more about Omékongo on www.omekongo.com

 

 


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.

Why I Speak out Against Gendercide.

ManubensChineseDaughtersMy family adopted my two sisters from China because of the issues surrounding the One Child Policy and the inherent preference for sons within Chinese culture. Having said that, we didn’t fully realize the scope of the orphan crisis and issues relating to it like gendercide, or how these issues would eventually become an integral part of our life.

In 2004, thousands of families just like ours were adopting from China because of the many little girls in need of families. We were simply a family of six, who wanted to care for and love a child in need of a family.

So, after submitting our paperwork to the Chinese government, we were matched with a healthy 16-month-old girl from Beijing, whom we would name Emma Grace. Emma was found abandoned in front of an office building on February 15, 2003. There were no details given to us surrounding her birth, only that she was found and the authorities concluded she must have been one day old, probably due to her umbilical cord. She was cared for by the police for five days in hopes that someone would come looking for her, but when no one did, she was sent to the city orphanage. It was there she resided until we came to adopt her 18 months later.

Most adoptive families are able to visit the places where their daughters were found, but this wasn’t an option for us because both girls’ information was very vague. In Emma’s case, we asked our guide about the area she was from and it was his opinion that Emma was probably a second child born to a family wanting a son, due to the higher affluence of the area she was found in. Regardless, we know she was abandoned, most likely because of her gender.

Esther’s story was a little different. Born with a severe cleft lip and palate, she was found abandoned by a road in Shenzhen, China on January 11, 2003. Again, no information surrounding her birth or finding, but we can conclude her family must have tried to care for her during those first few days. In Esther’s case, she was most likely abandoned due to her severe medical needs. After she was found, Esther was also taken to the police station, where they looked for her parents, but eventually transferred her to an orphanage. The government paid for her to receive the surgery to correct both her lip and palate before we adopted her in March 2006. Esther’s birth family most likely faced financial problems and were unable to pay for her surgery. It was probably in her best interest that they gave her up in order to save her life.

Today, I want my sisters to know where they came from and have an appreciation for their birth culture. They will always be Americans, but they will also always be Chinese. I also want them to be aware of the issues in this world. They were victims of gender preference, but it doesn’t mean they will stay victims. I want them to feel powerful as women, and that they have the ability to make a difference in this world. I believe it’s through awareness that the issues surrounding gender preference and gendercide can begin to be talked about and discussed and steps can be made to put an end to it. That’s why I am passionate not only about adoption and the orphan crisis, but about gender issues as a whole and how each of us can make a difference. The world is so much closer now than it was twenty years ago and the issues of other countries are becoming ours as well. There’s a lot that can be accomplished by using our voices to speak for those who cannot.

ManubensFamilyAfter adopting the girls and seeing the situations they came from, I feel it’s my responsibility as their older sister to educate them about the issues that still go on. Later, this will become their responsibility as well. We would be foolish and dishonor the girls’ birth parents by not telling their story and the issues surrounding them. There may be more instances of gender preference in countries like China and India, but we have been given a voice in our own country to speak out against injustice and to make a difference. I want Esther and Emma Grace to know they have a voice. Their birth parents gave them a chance at a new life when they were abandoned and it’s now their responsibility to speak out and give a voice to the millions of girls around the world who were not given the chance at life.

It’s easy to look at the issue and want to blame their birth parents for being cruel and heartless. I could easily look at my sister’s birth parents and think this of them as well. But I believe there is much more to the issue than a parent willingly killing or abandoning their child because of her gender. In my sisters’ case, we believe they were both abandoned by their parents in the hope that they would be found and cared for. And they have been, along with thousands of other girls like them. Yet, there are still many who are born into a world where their culture believes they are not of any worth. I believe, it’s through education that we can change this mindset, and that’s what I believe in continuing to do through my younger sisters and by telling their story.

 

sm-headshot-21Sera Manubens, 22, is the oldest of seven children, three of whom were adopted from China. Sera, has a degree in English & Intercultural Studies from Southwestern University and recently got engaged to fiancé Jason (congrats, Sera!). Manubens blogs here.

 


The views expressed by guest contributors to the “It’s a Girl” blog represent the opinion of the individual author who contributes the content and should not be interpreted as being endorsed or approved by Shadowline Films. We feature these contributions to foster dialogue and exchange on gendercide and invite our readership to join the discussion.