As there seems to be a national day for almost everything, including peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, our readers may be wondering, does every national day apply to Life:Powered? Our answer is “probably, yes.”
You see, energy affects everything that we do. Without it, I would have probably slept through my alarm, not have had coffee, and would make it to work a few hours from now—rather than my gasoline-fueled 20-minute commute. So I won’t get into how peanut butter and jelly is a great marketing tool for energy policy, but I will talk about today’s International Day: The International Day of the African Child.
I wonder if they know that there’s a day about them, specifically to “promote children’s rights and welfare issues.” The day was originally created to commemorate the June 16 student protest rally in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976, but it has now expanded across the continent to be a day to focus on the African child. This year’s theme is “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress on Policy & Practice since 2013.” Harmful practices are defined as “all behavior, attitudes and/or practices which negatively affect the fundamental rights of women and girls, such as their right to life, health, dignity, education and physical integrity.”
The statistics of the harmful practices are staggering. One in four girls in Sub-Saharan Africa is married before age 18. Child marriage rates vary between 2% (Tunisia) and 76% (Niger). Child marriage takes girls out of school early and forces them to begin their adult lives. They have to walk to collect water, make all food, hand wash all clothes, and take care of children—while still children themselves. This has a long-term effect on the quality of life for themselves and their children.
People have been saying for years that educating girls will eradicate global poverty. And now you’re really wondering: What does this have to do with Life:Powered?
In 2016, a study came out staying that 17 million women and girls collect water daily in Africa. And 3 million of those are children. The study also noted that “Risk of sexual violence, as well as the stress associated with that risk, may also be increased when women and girls must travel long distances away from home to collect water.” A study in South Africa found that children “spend an average of 19.5 hours in domestic activities” per week with collecting water being the No. 1, followed by fuel collection and housekeeping. This takes them out of school and makes it hard to focus. When asked about domestic chores, “nearly all young girls in Ethiopia” said it limited their ability to go to school and succeed in school even when they could go.
There are two things that would shorten chore time and water collection duties: running water and electricity. If they had electricity, they would not have to spend hours collecting fuel. If they had running water in their homes or at least in a central location in the village, they could get more sleep, go to school, and have better a better quality of life (not to mention healthier, cleaner water). The harmful practices defined by ACERWC (African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child) could be curbed by energy.
Human flourishing depends on energy use. It’s an essential building block. And today, we recognize that American energy could be the tool to deliver children from poverty and help all girls receive an education.