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Monday, October 26, 2015
Where The Girls Are (And Aren't)
Consider the girls who were never born.
On average, about 105 boys are born worldwide for every 100 girls. Girls tend to make up for this difference over time because of their greater resilience and resistance to disease.
But if you look at the two biggest countries in the top seven, you'll find a very different picture.
Since the late 1970s, China has had a one child per family policy. Many families want that child to be a son. The increasing availability of prenatal ultrasounds and blood tests for gender makes it possible for parents to abort a female fetus if they want. The uneven ratio of boys to girls born in China suggests this is happening.
India's percentage of girls missing at birth is lower than China's at 5.6 percent of the female population between 0 and 19. But because India's population is so large, India is missing 13 million girls out of its under-20-year-old female population.
Adding up the unborn girls, there are currently about 37 million fewer 0- to 19-year-old girls in India and China than the world average ratio would predict. To put that number in perspective, that's about 2 million more than the entire population of Canada.
In India and China, the birth of a son is cause for celebration. The family has gained a future asset: a child who can earn money for his parents and support them when they are old.
That's not the case for girls. "It's more expensive for a family to have girls than boys," says Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. A boy has greater earning potential in these societies because there is a stigma against women working outside the home. And in India, when a daughter gets married, her family usually makes a generous donation of money and gifts to the groom's family.
So a daughter is seen as a drain on the family's resources. There's an Indian saying: Raising a daughter is like "watering someone else's garden." In other words, the benefits of raising a daughter will be reaped by the family the daughter marries into, not her own family.