It is troubling to me that while the death toll from Ebola is nearing 5,000 and the infection rate is around 10,000, it has been largely ignored in the US. That is until 6 cases of Ebola hit the United States. The news media has suddenly become intensely focused on unnecessary prevention messages – propagating fear and spending little time reporting on the true need in Africa. Why? Because we can understand something that is near us when we know the places and the faces it affects.
How do we understand and build empathy for crisis – war, disease, sociological issues, environmental degradation – that is half a world away? How do we relate to people who don’t speak our language, share our culture or quite frankly, look like us?
Plan International did this brilliantly in Norway last month. Every year 14 million girls are married – some as young as 8 years old. They are forced to quit school and have children. They are often subjected to violence. But these girls are not in Norway. They are continents away in places like India, Africa and Asia. So how did Plan International inspire Norwegians – and in the end many people around the globe – to get involved? By staging the marriage of Thea and Gier – a 12-year-old girl and a 37-year-old man in Norway.
Thea started a wedding blog like any other bride (http://theasbryllup.blogg.no/). It was discovered and there were many calls to local police to stop the wedding. Once the source was revealed, the story went global. On October 11, International Girls Day, the wedding took place and included protesters on the ground and most impressively 3.5 million of them on social media #stopthewedding. Watch what happens here –