Shivani Makwana: The Girl with a Matchstick

A girl walks down a street on a cold winter's night. It feels quiet even though people surround the girl. She is pleasantly surprised by the smell that wafts down the street coming from a quaint local bakery. She feels at home, and yet uneasy.

The girl has not eaten all day.

The colour have slowly drained from her cheeks, as her skin takes on an unnatural pale tint. Her clothes are torn, threadbare, at the state where they should belong in a pile of rags used for cleaning, rather than clothes fit for a child.

This girl knows that it will snow soon, she may not survive for long, if she continues to wander the street without anything other than the small portions that has been given to her by strangers. For the most part though the girl is being ignored by everyone and anyone.

She is invisible. A ghost to those who could have known her, if she were to have grown up to be the strong woman she had the full potential to be. All this girl has however is a small matchstick that she found instead of the food she had been craving. At least the matchstick will keep the girl warm for a short moment in time.

The girls continues to wander the street. Increasingly feeling alone, apart from the small consolation, her matchstick. She is tempted to strike the matchstick and see the light bring hope to her bleak evening. 

The girl craves hope.

Hope that may never come, because of inequality.

This girl is a description of the title character portrayed in the fairy tale, The Little Matchstick Girl by Hans Christian Anderson. The fairy tale was published in 1845, yet describes the hopelessness that is child poverty. It has been over 100 years and children around the world face dire situations like the girl every day. 

Inequality still exists.

Women Deliver 2016, a women's rights conference on the SDGs in Denmark, the home of Hans Christian Anderson, will look at some of the issues affecting young girls around the world. A youth delegation from New Zealand will be attending. This conference includes the effects of child poverty on young girls. 

It is important for us to remember that fairy tales still exist, and sometimes not in the right way. 

A conference such as Women Deliver is one step towards creating hope and removing inequality. The conference has attendees that will come together to discuss issues facing their regions and their communities. In New Zealand, while we are fortunate, it is important for us to remember that child poverty exists, and this may be caused by other inequalities in our society, including in the area of women's rights.

If we are to progress as a country, it is important for us to consider the causes of some of the prominent, and depressing issues, such as child poverty, and how we can create frameworks to support the rights of girls. Gender equality is one of the SDGs that New Zealand has committed towards. We need to ensure steps are taken so that the Girl with the Matchstick is not a reality for young girls in New Zealand and around the world.


All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute

Posted on May 18, 2016 and filed under Women Deliver 2016.