I am sitting in the Bawana Slum in Delhi, shaded from the sun by a pink hued tent and surrounded by seemingly hundreds of women and children. Those who aren’t lucky enough to have snagged a seat inside the tent are peaking through the paisley columns of material to catch site of the celebration.
It is the 8th of March and women from the United Kingdom have spent the last few days demolishing slum housing and starting to rebuild safe, decent homes for three families. But today is the day we rest our hammers to celebrate International Women’s Day with the community.
A celebration for everyone
The stars of the celebration are the team from Habitat for Humanity India who travel all over the country teaching communities about the importance of stopping the spread of disease with hand washing and drinking clean water, how you can boost your income by recycling your waste, and other changes that can drastically improve health and well-being. They do this through skits and song and dance that generate excitement and laughter.
Now the crowd is chanting. Justin, who heads the Delhi office for Habitat for Humanity leans over and explains that they are saying:
“Save girl child and help her grow strong!”
He elaborates that India has some of the highest rates of female infanticide in the world. Because of this sad truth, the Habitat for Humanity team is spreading the message about the value of young girls and why they shouldn’t be killed.
In that moment all I can think of is why I am on a Women Build. It is not just because I believe in the power of volunteering. It is not just because I believe that women should help other women. And it is not just because I believe everybody deserves a home.
It is also because when I was ten years old I went to my father and said I wanted to build a tree house. So he gathered the lumber, taught me how to hammer, and forever instilled in me a love of building. He never doubted I would grow up to be strong.
I can only imagine how his heart would break to know that not every father felt the same way about his baby girl. In that moment it weighs on me that for everything we have achieved towards women’s equality, we still have so far to go and so many dark corners to reach.
What can I do to save the girl child and help her grow strong? What can we all do?
We arrived in India as a team of women determined to accomplish big things on the construction site – and we did. But we can also hope that everyone we met that week – the children who eagerly watched us work hard, the mothers and grannies who shared many laughs with us, and the men who saw us literally move the earth – now can see what happens when you help girls grow strong.
By loving our girls, investing in their futures, and setting an example we can do our small part.
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