Girls in the developing world have more opportunities now than ever. There's a better chance they'll survive childhood diseases and make it to 15, a better chance that they'll go to school, and a better chance that they can choose a path other than early marriage. That said, it's still not easy for girls to choose a different future.
In the series 15 Girls, NPR's Science Desk profiles teens around the world who are trying to change their future. The pieces will air occasionally from Monday, October 5, through Wednesday, October 28, on WITF 89.5 & 93.3. Here is a preview of the stories ahead in the series:
Staying Alive in San Salvador - Monday October 5; All Things Considered
The homicide rate in El Salvador is an average of 22 murders a day -- stunning for a country with less population than New York City. Young women are particularly vulnerable -- they are often forced into sexual relationships and targeted by gangs for sexual violence. NPR's Kelly McEvers and Jasmine Garsd tell the story of a 15 year-old girl who is executed in the street for crossing between two gang territories on her daily commute to work; a schoolgirl who lost her best friend to gang violence and is now a virtual prisoner in her middle class home; and a girl who manages to find some freedom by volunteering for an ambulance unit.
Getting Out of the Red Shed - Wednesday, October 7; Morning Edition
This is the story of two teenage girls. Both were born and raised in Nepal, and both love math. But like most girls in Nepal, when they have their periods something horrible happens. One girl fears for her life each time. The other was blamed for her father's illness. NPR's Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh have the story.
Mad About Soccer in Brazil - Tuesday, October 13; All Things Considered
A story about four soccer-loving teen girls. Two live in the U.S., where girls can play all the soccer they want. Two live in Brazil, where girls are discouraged from playing. It's not considered feminine in a country that holds on to traditional gender roles. Girls are supposed to dance, maybe play volleyball -- but contact sports like soccer are off limits. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and Peter Breslow report.
Negotiate Your Way to School in Zambia - Thursday, Oct. 15; Morning Edition
Going to high school in Zambia costs money. Madalitso Mulando's family was able to send her older brother and sister to school and then to college. By the time it was Madalitso's turn, her mother's grocery stand had closed and her father's hardware store was failing. One night they told her they couldn't afford Madalitso's $150 tuition for the tenth grade. But then she met Harvard Business School's negotiation gurus. NPR's Gregory Warner and Laura Starecheski report.
Leaving Home - TBD; Weekend Edition
Meet a Christian teen in Beirut. She's optimistic and ambitious, yet worried that the Middle East's tumultuous present could derail her future. She predicts she'll have to leave the things she loves most -- her family, her church and her country -- to succeed as a professional woman. NPR's Jason Beaubien and Rebecca Davis report.
Starting Over In America - TBD; Weekend Edition
In the gang culture that's taken over El Salvador, teen boys are seen as new recruits for gangs, and girls are seen as perks. Many of them try to flee their country and a lucky few make it to the U.S. One school in Oakland, California has a lot of these girls who fled their country and made the journey all alone. The school says almost every one of these girls has been sexually assaulted in some way. NPR's Jasmine Garsd meets these girls and learns how theyâ€™re trying to recover and build a new life.
Dreamless in Lebanon - Monday, Oct. 19 (this story may air earlier); All Things Considered
For all the horrors the war in Syria has produced, there is one side effect of the conflict that gets little attention: child labor. Fifteen-year-old Fatmeh is one of thousands of children -- some as young as seven years old -- who fled Syria with their families and now are forced to work every day in the agricultural fields in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Back home in Syria, Fatmeh went to school and expected to go to college. Today, she is virtually an indentured servant, toiling in the landowner's fields in exchange for a place on his property where her family can live. Every day Fatmeh's dreams slip further away as she hunches not over school books but over rows and rows of potatoes. NPR's Jason Beaubien and Rebecca Davis report.
Future Hidden in Afghanistan - TBD; Morning Edition
NPR's Rebecca Hersher talks with girls at the Tanweer high school in Kabul, Afghanistan. They dream of being doctors -- even president. What they don't yet know is that after they finish high school, some of them will never get to college or ever see their dreams come true. For every college slot available in Afghanistan, there are five students waiting. Most of these girls, when they reach 18, will be married off by their families.
Girls in the U.S. - TBD; All Things Considered
Host Michel Martin meets with three girls at Blair High School to look at the challenges American girls face, and how they forge and make their own identities.
India's School for 'Good Boys' - Monday, Oct. 26; All Things Considered
India has some of the highest rates of gender inequality in the world. One NGO working in Pune is hoping to end these abuses by changing the attitudes of boys. They hold weekly afterschool classes teaching boys how to treat girls as their equals. Aniket is 15, and his parents say these classes have in fact made him a "good boy" and treats his mother and sisters better. But he's surrounded by contradictions. His sisters are rarely allowed out of their one room house for fear they'll be corrupted; but the girl he has a crush on gets to hang out with him every evening unchaperoned. He works at his flower stand, and she works at her family's nearby fruit stand and is allowed to talk with boys and wear western clothes. NPR's Nurith Aizenman and Vikki Valentine report.
India's School for Child Brides - Wednesday, Oct. 28; Morning Edition
Eerma is 15 and attends the Veerni boarding school for girls in Jodhpur, India. She works extra hard to get good grades, because if she doesn't, she knows she'll be sent home to live with her husband. She was married at age ten, in a ceremony with her two sisters, but the free education provided by Veerni has kept her in-laws from demanding that she move in with her husband. Despite her marriage ceremony, she doesn't know his name and has only seen him once. Veerni is a unique school in that most of its students are child brides; with its offer of free room and board, Veerni is trying to delay at least until age 18 when these girls go to live with their husbands. NPR's Nurith Aizenman and Vikki Valentine report.
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