Fairfield University Jesuit Comments On U.N.’s ‘Day of the Girl Child’

Source: PRWEB.COM Newswire

Fairfield, Connecticut (PRWEB) October 10, 2013- On the eve of the United Nation’s observance of the International Day of the  Girl Child on October 11, 2013, Jesuit priest Rev. Richard Ryscavage, S.J.,  director of Fairfield University’s Center for Faith and Public Life (CFPL),  applauded the U.N. initiative, which focuses on the pivotal need to educate  girls as “a moral imperative that we must embrace, and be prepared to do the  time-consuming and sensitive ground work where there is resistance to change.”

“It is imperative that we make a distinction between cultural differences and  practices that call for our respect and acceptance, and violations of basic  human rights that no appeal to cultural exception should be allowed to justify,”  Fr. Ryscavage, professor of sociology and international studies, said. “These  may be sensitive distinctions, but we must not be afraid to draw them when they  are warranted. Protecting the human dignity of girls and helping them reach  their full human potential is one of those distinctions. Educated girls can  become powerful economic engines within their communities and contribute much to the good of society. We must foster a climate in which girls are perceived as valuable in their own right, and deserving of respect, if we want to change the  attitudes that perpetuate these injustices,” he said.

Fr. Ryscavage cited recent examples of grave inequities girls have suffered  in some corners of the globe. Last month in Yemen, where marrying girl children is legal, it was reported that an 8-year-old girl died as a result of injuries  she suffered during her wedding night. In 2012, in Pakistan, the Taliban shot  Malala Yousafzai for seeking an education. She recovered, and in a powerful  address before the U.N., she called upon the global community to support “the  expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world.”

“Opening the doors to education for girls is a moral imperative that we must  embrace,” continued Fr. Ryscavage. “We must also be prepared to do the  time-consuming and sensitive groundwork in those communities where there is  resistance to change, so that these communities will be prepared to welcome what  educated girls and women have to offer.”

Fr. Ryscavage said that a unique Fairfield University endeavor, “Impact India  2021,” supports the U.N. International Day of the Girl Child initiative by  aiming to elevate the status of women and girls in India, and holds great  promise for addressing the challenges related to women’s issues in Indian  society.

Fr. Ryscavage, the former executive director of the United States Conference  of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services Office, explained how  Fairfield is trying to make a difference for women and girls:

“At Fairfield University, under the direction of Dr. Gita Rajan, professor of  English, the Center for Faith and Public Life is engaged in an ongoing body of  research in collaboration with Jesuit universities in India in the hope of  making an impact on the future of girls in that country,” he continued. “The  title of our project, ‘Impact India 2021,’ signals that we have a goal of  helping to change attitudes about the value of girls that will be clearly  discernible in the next Indian census of 2021.

“The Center for Faith and Public Life led a pilot study investigation  partnering with Jesuit universities in Mumbai and Chennai to try to understand  the social forces that are compelling families to choose to not have a girl  child.

“In Phase II of the project, we, together with our eight major academic  partners in India, will examine 24,000 new families from around the country to  validate what we have discovered to date,” Fr. Ryscavage said. “Our deeper  qualitative understanding of the family dynamics surrounding the preference for  the boy will then be used to help determine the communication strategy needed to  effect change. This information is critical to designing successful initiatives  in public policy as well as uniting widespread support of academia, popular  culture, religious institutions and community-based organizations, all dedicated  to real change.

“Many scholars feel that most of the violence against women in India stems  from an undervaluing of women, which has contributed to the current sex ratio  imbalance crisis whereby 880 girls are born each year for every 1,000 boys. Many  families opt for having a boy rather than a girl because they see girls as  lacking economic value to the family,” Fr. Ryscavage said. “As the government of  India clearly understands, demographic imbalance of such magnitude will have  serious long-term consequences for social stability, levels of violence, work  force growth, and economic development.

Read more:  http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1519609#ixzz2hQd9GAOw

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