TOOWOOMBA, QLD — This year’s focus of the United Nations’ annual International Day of the Girl Child, emphasizing the need for better educational opportunities for girls under the theme “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce,” brings a spotlight to some of the quiet, ongoing work of GFA (Gospel for Asia, www.gfaau.org).
Through Gospel for Asia-supported Bridge of Hope centers in both urban and rural settings across Asia, young girls are gaining the education, confidence and open doors necessary to escape the cycle of poverty. Women’s Fellowship teams teach women to read and write, to help them achieve a better life for themselves and their families, even as the skill itself dignifies them.
GFA-supported Women’s Fellowship is also teaching health and hygiene seminars for thousands of women, in which they warn the women against the risks of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, so that the women can make informed decisions for their daughters.
In addition, GFA-supported workers care for some of the victims of long-standing prejudice and mistreatment, from girls and women forced into prostitution or other forms of bonded labor, to widows left destitute because of common prejudices.
Among those who have benefited from GFA’s efforts in Asia is Daya, a small girl abandoned by her impoverished parents. She was cared for by her grandmother, with the pair forced to beg for help at bus stops, train stations and shops.
They encountered a cook from a GFA-supported Bridge of Hope center who invited the little girl to join the program, which includes free schooling and health care. Absent parental care, Daya’s awareness of everyday basics like hygiene was so lacking that some other families wanted Bridge of Hope to bar her.
That would have sent her back out into the streets to beg, at risk of further abuse. So the Bridge of Hope staff helped her clean up, and in due time Daya learned not only to take care of herself and to read and write, opening up the possibility of a brighter future, but also that God cared for and loved her.
“Daya’s story is the story of countless young girls in these Bridge of Hope centers who are realizing their God-given value and are being given the key to a better life. So many of them want to become teachers or doctors or social workers,” said GFA Founder and Director Dr. K.P. Yohannan. “But there are far too many other Dayas all over the world who still need the same opportunity, so we will continue on, helping every girl we can.”
Earlier this year, GFA reported how gender-based violence has been identified as “one of the most pervasive human rights violations,” in one of a series of special major articles spotlighting key international issues.
Another release in the series detailed the many different kinds of abuse and discrimination women face throughout the different stages of their lives—from female infanticide because boy children are preferred, to dowry violence and domestic violence, human trafficking and honor killings.
“It is heartbreaking to see so many millions in the world who are suffering prejudice simply because they were born female,” said Yohannan. “We not only want them to know they have equal value and worth and dignity, but we also want to try to help provide them opportunities to have a brighter future and contribute to society, as far as we can.”
GFA (Gospel for Asia, www.gfaau.org) and its worldwide affiliates have—for almost 40 years—provided humanitarian assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially among those who have yet to hear the “good news.” Last year, this included more than 70,000 children, free medical services in over 1,200 villages and remote communities, 4,000 wells drilled, 11,000 water filters installed, Christmas gifts for more than 200,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry.