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Marcia Cross's Inspiring Journey

On October 10, Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross will light the Empire State Building pink and white in a special ceremony honoring the first annual International Day of the Girl. The Empire State Building will light up the skies from sunset until 2 a.m. on October 11 for the day adopted by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges that girls around the world face.

Girls throughout the world face higher rates of violence, poverty and discrimination. They are more likely to be malnourished, forced into early marriage, trafficked or sold. The International Day of the Girl follows an extensive campaign by Plan International USA to promote equal treatment and opportunities for girls around the world.

Actress Marcia Cross—who got her big break in 1992 on Melrose Place and later left to get her master’s degree and become a therapist before landing the role of Bree Van Der Kamp in Desperate Housewives—became involved with Plan International USA (known as Plan) after she sponsored a child through the organization. Cross, who has 5-year-old twin daughters, Savannah and Eden, with husband Tom Mahoney, talks to mom.me about her involvement with the organization, her recent trip to India with them and her life with twins.

What’s been the most surprising thing about having twins?

I never think of myself as having twins, I just think of myself as having two daughters. They aren’t identical, so I guess I just see them as my girls. I also have no idea what to compare it to. When I am alone with one of them it does feel very quiet. I'm used to [what feels like] a fast-paced tennis match at all times, so when it slows down I’m like, One? Wow. It’s so easy!”

Do you and your husband share the parenting duties?

I watch him and learn from him and he watches me and learns from me. His strengths are different to mine. I’m much more the yummy, fuzzy mama, and he’s really good at toeing the line and teaching them "No!"

You have a background as a therapist. Is that handy as a parent?

I think I have a better sense, but maybe many women do. For example, yesterday I was leaving as the girls were coming in, and they started falling apart when I told them I had to go. My husband sees the tears and thinks they are being overly dramatic, but I see the tears and I know they’ve been to school, they’ve been to a birthday party, they’ve been running around the track with dad and they're really tired and can’t handle one more thing. I think I understand what is going on underneath the words, and I think my husband is still more literal.

You recently returned from India as part of a gender awareness campaign with Plan International USA. Was the trip life-changing?

I think, more than anything, it made me hopeful and more inspired to work to change things. I was worried I would get to India, and because you hear such stories of poverty, all I would feel is despair. But I felt just the opposite. I met these kids who were lit from within and glorious and getting opportunities they wouldn’t have without the organization’s work.

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Can you tell us about the picture above?

I met a group of women that were a minority within an already poor community that were trying to integrate. I’d never met women like that, there was something palpable about their power. They came in dancing! So we danced before we ever sat down and talked and it was great! They worked together and had been pooling their money in a bank account.

What is Oct. 11's Girls Day about?

It’s certainly true in many countries, but especially in India, girls are not particularly cherished. Plan and other international organizations are saying if you educate a girl it will pay off exorbitantly because she will be a more educated mother, parent and woman in the community.

What was it like meeting the younger generation of women, pictured below?

These kids were unbelievable. It's over 100 degrees outside and it’s hot and everything is concrete and dirt, and there's nothing pretty anywhere. But then you meet these girls, and they are radiant and full of joy. They have already been pulled out of school to work in factories; they are the ones who wind up supporting their family if dad gets sick, while the boys keep going to school. So Plan has schooling hours where these girls can catch up so they are not stuck in a factory, or wherever they were going to wind up, for the rest of their lives.

To help the pledge of lifting four million girls out of poverty by 2016, go to the Facebook link RaiseYourHandNow.com

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