International (MNN) — The statistics are heart-wrenching. One-third of all girls in developing countries will be married before the age of 18 – and one in nine will be married before the age of 15. Every ten minutes, somewhere in the world, a young woman dies as a result of acts of violence. Denied an education, many girls and women are highly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Today is the International Day of the Girl Child, a global challenge to stand for the rights of girls and women around the world. Gary Edmonds, President of Food for the Hungry, has seen the evidence of oppression in the countries the ministry serves. And that’s why Food for the Hungry works to end all forms of poverty.
Edmonds says child brides are often given away by their own parents, especially fathers who believe they can’t support them. “They don’t see the value of a girl or a woman in the same kind of way they see a boy child. They simply see them as tools. They are tools in the hands of a man to bear children, to cook, clean, provide, work the land in significant ways.”
As part of its efforts to eradicate all forms of poverty in the countries it serves, Food for the Hungry includes Bible study, literacy programs, education on the worth and dignity of females, and job-training for girls and women in developing countries like Guatemala, Cambodia, and Mozambique.
“We live in a world where often a girl – simply by the fact that you’re born female – does not give you the same opportunities as being born male,” shares Edmonds.
He implores people to support the work of Food for the Hungry and other ministries that provide physical, spiritual, and emotional support for girls and women.
“In countries like Cambodia where we can help young girls get educated to move beyond the equivalent of a second grade level so they delay marriage, they find they have hope. They begin to exercise initiative and creativity in their own lives. And all of a sudden, because of that, the communities begin to change. One is that the men begin to look at these girls, look at these young women, in new and different kinds of ways.”
Edmonds says Food for the Hungry faces cultural challenges in providing education and opportunity to girls and women in developing countries. He asks for prayer for the ministry.
“Pray that we would be blessed in working with people to show them an alternative, that there is a different way that truly aligns with the very heart and mind of God in creation.
“We ask that you pray for protection – protection for our staff and protection for the girls and women who often are involved in our programs.”
As Food for the Hungry works with whole communities and begins to bring cultural change, domestic violence rates drop dramatically, education levels increase, child marriages decrease significantly, and life changes for the better.
Edmonds says, “People begin to rejoice in that they find the truth God has for them. So be prayerful for us, because we are battling a real cultural evil.”
Learn more about Food for the Hungry’s efforts to end all forms of poverty, and join them in providing tangible hope through child sponsorship by visiting their website.