The year twenty sixteen, the sixteenth year of the third millennium after the beginning of the Christian Era, two thousand years after Roman Civilization. Let us take a look around us. The seas are full of plastic, by the time you finish this piece two species will have become extinct and if you are by chance born a female, you do not have equal universal rights.
Can we feel proud of the legacy we leave to the following generations? Can we feel proud of the swathes of territory left radioactive after NATO bombing campaigns to satisfy the whims of the Evil Six Lobbies (Banking, Energy, Finance, Food, Pharmaceuticals, Weapons)? Can we feel proud of the fact that the processed food sold to billions of people is toxic?
Can we feel proud of the fact that we have decimated cultures and nations and peoples? Can we feel proud of the fact that we have destroyed the habitat of so many species of animals and plants that even if they survive it will be in reserves heavily protected by humans? Can we feel proud of the fact that we have polluted our seas beyond repair? Can we feel proud of the fact that human rights activists are slaughtered weekly in Latin America, such as was the case of Berta Cáceres this week in Honduras?
Can we feel proud of the fact that your lot in life depends not on your personal endeavor or qualities, not on meritocracy but rather on which side of an invisible line called a frontier, you were born on? Or on which side your parents were born on, dictating the color of your "passport"?
Can we feel proud of the fact that your right to a comfortable standard of living will depend in millions of cases upon whether you were born male or female?
In 1848, Cecil Alexander wrote the Children's Hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. The refrain goes like this: "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all men wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all". The third verse reads: "The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, He made them, high and lowly, and ordered their Estate". The key phrase, And ordered their Estate, meaning their status was predestined before they were born.
If that is not Medieval in philosophy, it is difficult to imagine what is and the same precept can be applied to any living being, anywhere on Earth. If you happen to be a codfish and live in the Atlantic Ocean the chances are you will be fished to extinction, or else poisoned by metals, oil or have your gut filled with pieces of plastic; if you happen to be a female in many parts of the world, you will have your clitoris cut off or burnt (female genital mutilation), or else be raped, stoned, set fire to, harassed, or denied an equal start.
This is the world we live in. In the world we live in, and just in primary school, there are almost sixty million children (the ones who are registered), the population of the United Kingdom and practically half the population of the Russian Federation, out of school. It comes as no surprise that over half of these are girls. According to UNESCO, sixteen million girls are unlikely to ever enter a classroom, compared with 8.2 million boys; the number of boys likely to enter primary school is almost one third higher.
Today, in 2016, girls are far more likely to be denied the right to an education, prompting the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, to state that "We will never achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals without overcoming the discrimination and poverty that stunt the lives of girls and women from one generation to the next...We must work at all levels, from grassroots to global leaders, to put equity and inclusion at the heart of every policy so that all girls, whatever their circumstances, go to school, stay in school and become empowered citizens."
We are not only speaking about Sub-Saharan Africa. In South and West Asia, 80 per cent of schoolgirls will never enter formal education, a figure four times higher among girls than boys. In the Arab States, most of the millions of children excluded from school are girls.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.