THE GIRL-CHILD IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
The girl-child is one of, if not the most, exploitable segments of the world’s population. Children in general because of their dependence upon adults and their natural naivet due to lack of life experience. In the context of our new global economy, child labor issues are becoming very prevalent and their discussion very necessary. The tragedy of the child labor issues is that the multinational corporations created within the global economy are not able to see the damage they cause in other countries. Also, modern corporate organization doesn’t require the business leaders to view the conditions of their employees, personally, and within the workplace. Children and women are heavily exploited within this structure because of poverty, desperation, and survival. Girls are at the bottom of this list. Women have the advantage of age in some instance, but girls are sometimes left to fend for themselves because of orphanhood or a family caretaker status. This dilemma is invisible to most people, even the occurrences within the United States are left unknown about by those in the official class system. The girls exploited have been paid in an economic category far below what is considered lower class or even impoverished. This type of issue is a personal one and therefore cannot be fully explained or understood through statistics and purely analytical data. The experience of these girls individually is just as important as their numbers.
Some of the regions that are affected by this phenomenon are closely related to the United States. Latin America has experienced a significant boost in exploitable labor schemes targeted at young girls. There are factory jobs popularly named maquilas. In these maquilas, girls from the ages of 7-18 work horrendous 16-24 hour days with short or no breaks, unprovided health care, and no protection from the men who own or run the factories NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was a major determinant for the current economic crisis in Latin America. Foreign companies pay ridiculously low wages and do almost nothing to protect their workers. Girls, and children in general, are not allowed public education for fear it will take away from their labor. Even areas with unions still experience exploitative labor and abject poverty. These types of work environments also exist in significant numbers in Asia, and surprisingly America. Multinational companies, such as Nike and Gap, use child labor, especially girl’s labor, to produce their very popular and trendy clothing. Many large businesses in he US, Europe, and Asia seek laborers in third world countries.
With growing multinational companies, international tourism, and global exchanges of people and ideas, more individuals are going to foreign lands to live. People, mostly men, are doing business in third world countries. Prostitution of girls and children is directly related to foreign businessmen and tourism. In Asia,1992 and 1994, 160 foreigners were arrested for sexual abuse of children through prostitution. 25% were American, 18% German, and 12% British.(Taken from Internet article ultimate abuse – enclosed) These were not necessarily pedophiles, just people taking of advantage of the prostitution rings that are growing into lucrative businesses because of foreign investment. This remains invisible to those who live in the world of the perpetrators.
These problems will persist for many years to come because of the nature of huge multi-national companies. They are able to enter areas and never see the consequences. They do not only affect labor, but the whole community. These areas are usually already impoverished. The factories provide jobs for the girls to supplement the family. There are so many other systems of exploiting young girls in many countries. In parts of South Asia, a system of bonding children out for loans is common. The debt is extended for a long period because it is built upon by accrued expenses and unjust practices by the debtors. Girls are used more often than boys because of their culturally inferior status, which is common amongst many societies. This common position of inferiority makes the girl-child more exploitable than other members of society. The global economy is encouraging and supporting non-personal business ethics abroad.. Companies should treat their foreign employees the same as their domestic ones. If a US or Japanese corporation provides sanitary work conditions, and wages that will provide a sufficient living and economic advancement for domestic employees, the same should be applied to foreign ones. Corporate watchdogs should receive more international governmental and political support.
The key to diminishing the exploitation of girls worldwide is to give them a voice. Girls are many times seen as the property of their parent or family to be given away to another family, or man, through marriage; having no individual self-identity. There are already initiatives to give children in general, voices. They are organized, regionally and globally. In Peru, a 15 year old girl named Patricia is heading a national child worker movement. Other NGO’s are promoting initiatives to organize and educate children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is an international and effective watchdog for children and girls. International education on these issues is important. People have to be made aware of these atrocities. Pressure for the home communities of these companies will make them aware that their actions are being watched and are important to those outside of the exploited countries.
Girlhood is a very relative term and concept. Girls in general are usually female children before adulthood. It’s this designation of adulthood for girls which draws the border culturally. Between wealthy and poor countries, the difference is luxury. Also, within countries, the same applies. The wealthier a person’s surroundings, the more a female can take the privilege and ease of being a girl. A girl is often treated as a helpless person always in need of male or adult aid and intervention. I believe girlhood is directly related to marriage and motherhood in mane cases, or either sex. Girls are made women by men through sexual intercourse or marriage. Or, girls transfer to a type of pseudo-womanhood through the elevation of their reproductive capacities. Menstruation is considered the gateway, but childbirth actually catapults girls to womanhood. Girlhood varies I in different cultural contexts. In the US, a white middle class female of 22 will still be considered a girl if not married, while her 16 year old counterpart in India may have already had a child and fears dowry death from her in-laws. Girlhood is also tied to personal responsibility. In contemporary times, girls are sometimes considered more of women when they can be financially and socially independent from parents and family. This is more prevalent in Western societies, especially among more privileged groups.
In the US, girlhood is praised and desired by all age groups. This want for innocence is prevalent in the entertainment industry. Actresses look younger with every aging year. Magazines show poses of women giving innocent and youthful glances. Starlets strive to look youthful instead of aging gracefully. Fifty year old women on TV don’t look like any I know personally. Suzanne Summers and Cristie Brinkley don’t look a day over thirty. These re the images of womanhood in our country. Being a girl is trendy. Men seek younger girls when trying to recapture their own youth. In the US, girlhood is viewed as carefree, sexually experimental, and sexy. The assumption is that a girl will b taken care of at all phases in life. This is a luxury not afforded to girls in impoverished areas who will most likely always have t fend for themselves in some way throughout their entire life.
But, globally girlhood is considered precious. In some social contexts, a very romantic idea and phase of life. Girls are a precious commodity because of their position in society as children,. Their future reproductive contributions, and their rightful place as fellow human beings. They should be studied and considered separately because of the status they have been placed in as children, females, and many times impoverished by careless adults and societies.
OPPORTUNITY AND GIRL’S DEVELOPMENT
Girls throughout the world experience different levels of freedom and social opportunity. Western societies have given girls more freedom out of necessity and force. Western societies gained the full benefits of the Industrial Revolution, therefore boosting development of the societies. Once the US and European nations began to establish themselves, they were able to have the luxury of progressive and political movements in vast sectors of society. The women in these societies began to view the men reaping the benefits of a total social and economic movement and wanted their share. Therefore, they acted. Although there were and still are other social issues in these countries, women have been able to gain economic political, and educational autonomy. Women in other societies are moving towards this, but tradition and men’s consistent power hold them back sometimes. Because of historically established social constraints and economic dependence upon patriarchal family structures, development has been slower in these countries.
Many African nations are facing this issue of choice and opportunity. Choice is the key to development in all realms of society. Gender development does not necessarily meant that all women have to be advanced in all areas, only that women, or girls, must have the opportunity and choices available and accessible to them. If they desire to get an education, no obstacles should be presented. If they want to be a political, the opportunity for it should be a reality.
In Senegal, Wolof girls are experiencing a free flow of opportunities in the urban area of Dakar. Girls are equally present in the school systems, including the university. The problem occurs for rural girls. With low funding ad political isolation, government officials are not able to officially appropriate the proper resources to villages and impoverished rural areas. Schools are not available, yet girls know they exist. Some travel miles a day just t get primary education. Unfortunately, these girls usually have to stop their schooling at the fifth or sixth grade level. When girls desire to do more, they are instead assigned household and agricultural duties which consume their daily lives. They are not given the choice. If a girl doesn’t wish to pursue life beyond the village, that is acceptable, but not all the girls are complacent or content. Many girls are married by 16 and immediately begin having children. Senegalese school systems don’t have the facilities to provide services for girls in these predicaments.