Huffington Post: Beyond Beliefs: The International Fight to Protect Childhood

To protect our children, we need to have uncomfortable conversations.

“The Bible says a girl is a woman once she can bear children. If it bleeds it breeds…if it’s age 11, then so be it.”

“Age 12…because 12 is noon and after noon, anything is ripe for the eating.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. As I looked down at my shoelaces, I was transported back to a time when I was a wide-eyed, 11 year old little girl with a terrible secret…I took a deep breath, raised my head, squared my shoulders and continued to listen to the horrifying beliefs shared by men in Barbados about the age childhood ends for girls.

Later that afternoon, I visited a Bajan school and met 10, 11 and 12 year old girls who are, contrary to the opinions above, still children. The girls — and their male peers — are just kids, eager to laugh and play, to show me their Hannah Montana binders and run eagerly through the courtyard to introduce me to their beloved class pets (bunny rabbits named Miranda and Rusty). These are children who deserve love, attention, protection and care, as all children do.

But here on the island of Barbados, children’s needs are all too often overshadowed by the desires of men — and women. The resulting pain, shame and sadness are shrouded in secrecy and acceptance by way of denial.

“We don’t talk about those things.”

Therein lies the problem.