Happy International Day of the Girl Child!

In my day job, I work for humanitarian and development organizations. Though I don’t talk about those issues much on this blog, I wanted to take the time to celebrate the most important – and probably most neglected – resource the world has: girls.

The United Nations declared today the first annual International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme is “Ending child marriage”.

If you click that link above, you’ll find some startling statistics:

Globally, around one in three young women aged 20-24 years were first married before they reached age 18. One third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. Child marriage results in early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening risks for girls. In developing countries, 90 per cent of births to adolescents aged 15-19 are to married girls, and pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for girls in this age group.

Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s education. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the best strategies for protecting girls and combating child marriage.

In September I had the privilege of traveling to India to visit some of the projects the foundation I work for funds. I visited a couple of girls’ schools, where I met incredibly enthusiastic students.

Girls at school

When I asked the girls in this photo what they wanted to do when they grew up, almost all of them said, “Be a teacher!” I think that shows how much they love and value their education. The others said they wanted to be a doctor. I hope they all get to realize their dreams.

Girls in classroom

The two girls in this photo put on a sketch for their classmates. When they finished, they motioned for me to take their picture. One wasn’t enough, though. They kept posing for me, looking at the picture, then giggling together. It reminded me of how important my school friends were when I was that age.

Girls in classroom

This is a boarding school that takes girls from ethnic minority tribes and from rural areas who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to school. Most of them had dropped out of a previous school because the location was too far or because they were bullied for their ethnicity. The teacher asked them if they had any questions for me. The girl standing up asked, “Why are you so white?” Quite a struggle not to laugh as I said, “Because my parents are very white.”

Wherever you are, please take the time today – and every day after – to give a girl the encouragement she needs. Let’s not forget what a difficult time of life it is, no matter how much or how little money their parents have.

What’s one thing you would change to make life fairer for girls? What’s your strongest memory of school – whether good or bad? How do you encourage the girls in your life?

More hot men are concerned about your breasts

I don’t usually drool and post pictures/videos of ripped men…unless I can find a way to relate it to writing.

Remember last week I shared that video by Rethink Breast Cancer? The one featuring hot guys showing you how to check yourself for lumps and also served as a great lesson on providing a unique twist on the same old content?


Sorry – I mentally wandered for a second there. Well, yesterday stars from the British TV show Loose Women (basically The View) had the incredible opportunity to visit London rugby team Harlequins…and wander around the locker room where the players were nekkid.

For copyright reasons, I’ll be a good girl and won’t post the pictures here. But you can see them here. Don’t worry – the men have strategically placed balls.

Rugby balls, that is.

Good thing rugby balls are long.

I couldn’t figure out whether the photo shoot was related to Harlequins’ support for the charity Breast Cancer Care. They’ll be supporting the charity on 29 October at their Ladies’ Day match. My husband’s a season-ticket holder for their cross-town rival, and that’s our last day in London, so I won’t be going. I hope everyone who does will donate, though.

Whether the photo shoot is for a good cause or is purely gratuitous, it’s still great for me – I’m in the process of rewriting my contemporary romance featuring a London rugby player. These pics have inspired all sorts of ideas…which you’ll get to read if this novel is published.

How many ways are there to describe abs like this?

These hot men are concerned about your breasts

Ladies and gay men, behold the best breast self-exam video I’ve ever seen.

I work in charity communications, and I’m jealous as all hell of the team that developed this video and app.

Done drooling yet? No? Okay, watch it one more time and then come back to me.

Done now? Good.

Writer and blogger friends, this video is a lesson in packages. No, not the packages the happy dancing men display during the credits, but the packages we wrap our content up in.

Continue reading “These hot men are concerned about your breasts”

What’s your definition of a keeper?

Stacks of books

We bookworms often talk about which novels deserve space on our keeper shelf. For some, it’s a symbolic expression referring to books we adore, whether we own them or not.

For others, the keeper shelf is an actual shelf or bookcase with a finite amount of space. In my case, it’s two plastic containers under my bed since the three bookcases in our spare room are mostly filled with my husband’s books (friends, never marry a fellow bookworm, unless you want to spend time fighting over whose books are more worthy of shelf space).

Our flat is tiny. When my American family comes to visit, they all exclaim over how “cute” it is. I know they mean tiny. So I’ve had to be rather ruthless about which books I keep and which I give away after reading.

In less than a month, though, I’m moving to the Netherlands. I’m spending the next few weeks clearing out all the stuff I’ve accumulated in my six years in London, and it’s a chore I never want to have to do again.

You see, I attach sentiment to objects. I remember where I bought them and how I felt at the time. Even if I haven’t ever used them, I convince myself I will one day end up wandering around my flat muttering, “Now, where did I put that left-handed paper stretcher? Surely I wouldn’t have given away such a useful item!”

Continue reading “What’s your definition of a keeper?”

Taking time to count blessings: reflections on northern Kenya

It’s been an eventful week in the Latham household, one that’s been a powerful reminder of how much I have to be thankful for.

Ten days ago, my manager asked if I could take a last-minute trip to northern Kenya to gather stories about how people there have been affected by the East Africa food crisis. I work as a writer and editor for a humanitarian organization, but this is not normally part of my role. I’m usually chained to my desk.

I had three days to prepare for the trip. The day before I left, my husband had a job interview in the Netherlands – and got his dream job. So among the excitement and nervousness of traveling to a corner of Kenya that most tourists don’t see, I also had the excitement and nervousness of realizing I’ll soon be leaving London for a new country.

I flew to Kenya a week ago today, and had my first day free, so I spent it cruising around Nairobi National Park – apparently Nairobi is the only city in the world with a national park within city limits. And it’s amazing. Zebras, giraffes, buffalo – I even saw a lioness stalk some zebras (she gave up after about ten minutes).

Nairobi National Park

Then I met my team of colleagues from around the world and flew in a twin-prop up to Lodwar, a town in the county of Turkana. Turkana is populated by nomadic herding people – also called Turkana – who have been severely affected by the failure of the rains over the last year. The men have to walk further with the animals to find pastures, and they leave the women, children and elderly behind. But since the animals provide the main food source – milk – women, children and the elderly are left searching for food in an arid semi-desert.

Continue reading “Taking time to count blessings: reflections on northern Kenya”