To honor and commemorate the International Day of the Girl, CARE, an Atlanta based humanitarian organization dedicated to fighting global poverty, held a celebration of art made by girls from around the world. The celebration, dubbed the "Through the Eyes of a Girl International Art Exhibit" was held Friday evening at the Mason Maurer Fine Art Gallery.
The event featured more than 100 pieces of art made by young girls from Georgia, Ghana, Honduras, India and Madagascar, who created original pieces to represent their hopes and dreams. Attendees also got to enjoy catered international cuisine and music from Willie Ziavino and C.O.T Band. It marked the second year that CARE has celebrated International Day of the Girl and also coincided with the organization's 20th anniversary in Atlanta.
"It means so much to us to have Atlanta be our home and to have the kind of support that we have here," CARE president and CEO Helene D. Gayle said during the event. "It's just wonderful for us as we look at 20 years of being in Atlanta, to have this [celebration on] the second anniversary of the international day of the girl."
The girls who participated in the art project live in remote villages where their family's economic situation often compels them to withdraw from school to work or marry at an early age, the organization said.
CARE sent representatives to each of the communities, armed with suitcases that included drawing paper, watercolor paints, colored pencils and pastels and asked the girls to tell their stories through art, using their own hands. For many of them, it was their first time ever creating art.
Amber Williams, an Atlanta independent artist who attended the event, said the evening was an unexpected surprise in a number of ways.
"I was drawn to the event when I heard about the involvement from children in third-world countries, because my mother is from a third-world country and I would've been that child," said Williams. "I was expecting to see art from children from underdeveloped countries, but when I came I was surprised by the depth of the art. It was beautiful."
In addition to the art displayed, there were a series of videos that spotlighted five girls who participated in the program, one from each country. The videos told the stories of girls like Jennifer Osei Boakye from Ghana, who lost her mother earlier this year and has remained in school despite having to fetch water for her family from more than a mile away, six times a day. Girls like Jennifer often leave school early to have children or work from home, CARE said. They are part of what drove the organization to promote the event.
"When you look at the numbers of people living in poverty, girls and women are the largest portion of that," said Gayle. "We also know that if you give a girl the opportunity to get educated, she is less likely to become a statistic – one of the 15 million girls who are forced into marriage at an early age.
"A girl who gets an education, her income is boosted 10 percent by every additional year of education that she gets. So those are the kind of statistics we're trying to look at shifting and making sure that girls have the opportunity, not only to make a difference in their lives, but we know that that's how you can make catalytic change, by investing in girls and making sure that they have an opportunity."
CARE was founded in 1945 in New York City to provide care packages to survivors of World War II, according to the group's website. The organization moved to Atlanta in 1993 when it was given a five-story building in downtown Atlanta that was bought and remodeled the Robert Woodruff Foundation.
(Photo: CARE President and CEO Helene D. Gayle speaks to attendees in front of photos of the five featured girls)