Girls’ Education: The Not-So Secret Weapon to Overcoming Poverty & Injustice
By Joyce Adolwa, CARE’s director of girls’ empowerment
The first-ever United State of Women Summit is being held in Washington, DC this week from June 13-15. Some of the world’s most recognized women – First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey to name a few – will gather to explore and address the issues that keep women and girls on the sidelines of social justice, or rather, on the front lines of inequity and marginalization.
For many girls around the world, they are perceived as being less than their male counterparts. Sadly, this not limited to poor and marginalized girls in the developing world. In the U.S. gender inequality presents itself as unequal pay for many working women or in the prostitution cartels that enslave women and girls in the major cities where sex trafficking thrives.
Still, in developing countries, the consequences of gender inequality can be even more dire. We see it in the marrying off of 9-year-old girls to men three decades their senior; or in choosing to educate boys because girls are of lesser value; or in the killing off of female fetuses in search of a male child. All across the globe, we see gender inequality demonstrated in acts of violence against women and acts of denial of rights for women and girls.
Over the last seven decades, and especially in the last two since the Beijing Platform For Action of 1995, CARE has focused its attention on the issues that affect women and girls in addressing global poverty and promoting social justice. Our experience has shown us that, when you empower a girl or woman, she becomes a catalyst for her community and beyond, creating ripples of positive change that lift up everyone around her.
We’ve seen the benefits of girls’ empowerment first hand. That’s why this week at the United State of Women, CARE is committing to educate three million girls in seven countries as part of our role in “Let Girls Learn,” the White House’s ground-breaking initiative designed to tackle the barriers keeping 62 million girls – half of them adolescents – out of school.
We’ll invest $15 million dollars in our successful “Udaan Second Chances” academic program. The program provides an intensive, nine-month curriculum for girls who were unable to either start or finish primary school. It builds confidence and teaches skills the girls need to overcome the social and economic factors that keep them out of school, prepares parents to embrace educational opportunities for their daughters and engages men and boys to be part of the support system.
Through “Udaan Second Chances,” some of the most marginalized girls in rural India have completed secondary school and even college. With a 95 percent success rate of girls graduating the program to move on to secondary school, CARE will broaden this program to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Pakistan and Somalia with the support of the U.S. government, Ministries of Education, corporations, foundations and local partner organizations.
We know that when girls are educated, all of society benefits. Girls who attend school tend to delay marriage and pregnancy, are less vulnerable to disease, and are more likely to increase their own earning power for life.
Our commitment at the United State of Women will open doors for girls to opportunities for a better future.