Through luck, fortune and happy coincidences, your mommy had the opportunity to wake up to the world around her recently. I rode a train to New York City to help with a summit that gathered some of the most inspirational philanthropic entrepreneurs in the world. They held meetings and conducted speeches in hopes of finding other like-minded people to collaborate with and socially impact our communities and, in turn, the world we live in. I rode the train back home to you as a new person.
At one point this week, I sat in a room and listened to four women speak on topics that most people put out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Some were things most people (including myself) didn’t even know existed. My sweet angel, did you know that in a place far from our home, young girls only a few years older than you lay on their backs and scream in pain as their mothers press hot irons onto their breasts? What’s more is that these mothers love their daughters in the same way I love you, and believe that what they are doing are protecting them. You see, baby, they believe that their precious girls will have less chance of being raped if their breasts were smaller.
In another place lands and oceans away from where you lay your head at night, a film director walked the streets with his camera to capture the true, raw images of sex trafficking. In a split moment, a girl came crawling out of a building covered in blood, wrapped her arms around the man’s leg and begged for help. She had been sold into sex slavery and had been brutally raped. This girl was days away from her third birthday, only a few months older than you, my love.
Somewhere else on this planet, a camp exists that houses girls who have just gotten their periods. Eleven to thirteen-year-old girls wait nervously in these camps for a man who was selected (with honor) by their government to come and teach them how to have sexual intercourse with men decades older than them. Most of these girls end up infected with AIDs or pregnant with their third or fourth child before they turn eighteen.
My dear daughter, these girls will never be you. Your breasts will grow free and a price will never be forcefully put on your beautiful body. You may go through things-no, it isn’t right to sugarcoat the world we live in any longer-you will go through things that are harder for you simply because you are a not a man. You will face sexuality differently, be treated differently, have different expectations set for you. However, you are privileged in a way that should never have been a privilege. And with this privilege comes a responsibility that I didn’t know of until this week; sitting across from survivors of things you will never experience.
Your responsibility is to save the world. Do it with your voice, do it with your pen, do it with me, with your father, with his father, with your camera or the ten toes on your feet. Do it loudly, do it in a way we can only hear if we listen closely, do it with force, make peace, save them by standing alone or by standing with the hundreds at your heels. Save the girls and their mothers who live in fear of rape and the women who will never learn the joys of sex because pleasure was stripped from them. Save the girls who are forced to marry young, save the girls in college whose administration has failed them, find the women who are lost and save the ones that stand in front of you with their palms to the sky.
Know that your value is limitless and that your love is exponentially powerful. You may be little now, but your worth is larger than you’ll ever know. Despite the struggles or harsh realities that will face you, you are bigger than they will make you feel. And you are so very lucky, my sweet, to have the ability and voice to make a difference. Even when you are feeling down, when you have failed or someone has told you otherwise, you can count on me to remind you what a force you really are.
As your mother, I will always want you to live up to your full potential. If your voice is beautiful, I will want you to strive to be the next Celine Dion. If you can tell stories with a brush, I will want each and every piece to be hung on walls of galleries around the world. You are two years old, sweet and crazy, expressive and vibrant. I don’t know what the future holds for you and pride will resonate in me no matter. However, regardless of anything else that the future holds, Oakley, I want you to save the world.
Tell others the stories I tell you and ask them to tell their friends. Raise awareness about things people don’t want to talk about. Support your female peers. Donate money. Watch the movies. Pay attention to the world around you, all of it. When you see a woman being hurt, make the pain go away. Find the women being hurt.
Save one girl.
And save the world.
I love you deeply and profoundly,