Girl Love
Girl Love began as a social media campaign by YouTube creator Lilly Singh in December 2015. Singh, along with other successful women like Grace Helbig and Lindsey Sterling, encouraged young girls to spread love, instead of hate, by complimenting other girls rather than insulting them.

Singh’s original video received more than one million views. Within a month of being uploaded, all the profits made from the video were donated to the Malala Fund, an organization which supports education for young women. After a successful first campaign, Singh aimed to do more for women’s issues and decided to take Girl Love further by starting her own fundraising campaign for girls’ education.

Singh partnered with WE charity, part of the ME to WE organization, a for-profit social enterprise that empowers people to work together to change the world. The WE charity donates 90 percent of its earnings to developing villages to help grow them into sustainable communities. For the Girl Love campaign, ME to WE created the Rafiki bracelet, outsourcing the labor for the creation of the bracelets to Kenya, and now sells the bracelets on the ME to WE online store.

Singh has been most invested in this project, saying how the Rafiki bracelets represent “not only being passionate about Girl Love but doing something about it.”

Today, the Girl Love campaign is empowering women to go to school and helping to build sustainable communities. 14,000 women in Kenya have jobs hand-crafting the Rafiki bracelets. These women use this income to get an education or to send their daughters to school and to afford necessities such as clothes and food.

When Singh visited Kenya and met some of the working women that make the bracelets, she was inspired by the impact that she had created. She spoke of how many people imagine that the problem is too big to fix, but how “when you come here and see the school and you see the mamas making these bracelets, and you hear them say, ‘my daughter goes to school because I’m making theses bracelets,’ then you know the problem is actually not too big to fix if you just start to fix it.”

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

4 Girls' Education Organizations That You Should Know AboutEducation inequality is an issue all around the globe, with many countries showing a disparity in literacy rates between men and women. The 1990 World Declaration on Education for All mandates gender equality and education as essential elements of an advanced world, but insufficient action has been taken to develop education systems according to these standards. Since then, many female-run, nonprofit girls’ education organizations have sprung up to create opportunities for women in developing countries.

The plight of many uneducated women in developing countries is a woeful one. Many face poverty, female genital mutilation and early marriage. Access to education opens doors for women, empowering them to provide for themselves and their families and enabling them to participate in politics and the working world. Below are four girls’ education organizations working actively to improve women’s lives.

4 Girls’ Education Organizations That You Should Know About

  1. Educate Girls: Educate Girls, an organization based in India, works with government schools to develop educational models and access in “educationally backward” areas of the country. Founded by Safeena Husain in 2007, the nonprofit seeks to grow and maintain enrollment rates among girls, partnering with organizations like UNICEF to address issues in specific school districts.The ultimate goal is to provide a quality education to 2.5 million girls, that they may acquire the skills and tools to participate in the workforce as adults.
  2. She’s the First: She’s the First (STF) was founded by Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt in 2009 to help girls in developing countries complete their education. Based in New York City, its team helps girls to graduate high school by helping to cover tuition and boarding costs, as well as offering individual guidance and providing essential resources like uniforms and medicine.STF selects girls to support based on financial need and academic potential. It currently hosts 881 scholars, who, along with their mentors, make up a dynamic network of strong and supportive women.
  3. Camfed: Camfed, short for “Campaign for Female Education,” aims to reduce global poverty via education for girls. Founded by Ann Cotton in 1993, the nonprofit concentrates on rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa and provides support to individuals in need. Nearly two million students in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, and Ghana have attended school with Camfed’s help.Staunchly apolitical, the organization partners with government ministries and other nonprofits to create resources and awareness. In the long term, Camfed hopes to spark systemic change by molding strong female leaders.
  4. Forum for African Women Educationalists: The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is a pan-African nonprofit that encourages policy changes to make learning environments more accessible to girls. Partnering with government and private organizations across the continent, FAWE works to create community awareness and ensure equal treatment between boys and girls in school.FAWE has introduced a variety of educational models since its inception, including a 2007 gender-responsive pedagogy model tailored for teacher training colleges in Ethiopia, Senegal, and Tanzania. Their central objective is to seamlessly integrate women into the social and political fabric of their countries.

While there remains room for gender equality in schools to improve, these girls’ education organizations have made significant strides in creating access and increasing the quality of schooling for girls, an achievement that serves to develop the world as a whole.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr


In Tanzania, a sub-Saharan African country known for its national parks, diverse game and scenic wilderness, approximately two million young people were illiterate in 2011. Girls’ education in Tanzania, in particular, is an issue, as both adolescent and adult women demonstrate lower literacy rates than their male counterparts.

In 2012, literacy among women aged 15 to 24 was just 72.8 percent, while literacy among men in the same age group sat at 76.5 percent. The disparity becomes statistically significant among adults is even wider among adults: 75.5 percent of men and only 60.8 percent of women are literate.

In the country’s poorest areas, it is especially difficult for women to support themselves and their families, let alone further their education. In the northwest Tanzanian village of Kitenga, for instance, there is no running water or electricity, disease rates are high and scarce access to education, all of which are obstacles for girls who want to learn.

Enter the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa (IHSA), an organization committed to improving girls’ education in Tanzania. After partnering with the Girls’ Education Collaborative (GEC), which offers financial and logistical support, they launched the Kitenga Village Project. This project aims to raise the community from poverty by establishing basic resources, and, in January, it achieved its central objective when it opened the Kitenga School for Girls to educate girls in the community.

The school opened not only to encourage literacy but also to combat female genital mutilation and early marriage, both problems more likely to be faced by adolescent Tanzanian women without an education.

Currently, enrollment at the school stands at 59 girls from a variety of backgrounds. Having won the full support of the government, the GEC and the IHSA intend to accommodate a larger student body in the future. Plans for expansion include a library and housing for 1,500 boarding students.

The Kitenga School for Girls’ central vision is to provide girls from destitute families with an exceptional range of knowledge and skills. Students will have access to career and leadership coaching, health studies and life skills training, as well as a safe and secure environment.

Though women in poverty continue to face gendered hardships, access to schools creates greater opportunities. With the innovative efforts of organizations like the GEC and the IHSA, girls’ education in Tanzania is likely to continue growing.

Madeline Forwerck

Photo: Flickr


Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest and most powerful champion for girls’ education, may soon be attending one of the most prestigious schools in the world: the University of Oxford. Back in March of this year, Yousafzai announced that she had received a conditional offer (based on her A Level grades) from Oxford and that she plans to attend the University. She plans to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE), and work on her organization, the Malala Fund. To commemorate this outstanding individual, here are 12 facts about her life, her achievements and her organization.

12 Facts About Malala Yousafzai

  1. At the young age of 12, when her hometown of Swat was held by the Taliban in 2009, Yousafzai wrote for a BBC blog critiquing the hardline Islamic movement under a pseudonym, even while she and her father were receiving multiple death threats.
  2. Yousafzai was the first recipient of Pakistan’s National Youth Peace Prize.
  3. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a world-renowned social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, nominated Malala Yousafzai for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011.
  4. Yousafzai was an international figure by now, and Taliban leaders voted among themselves to kill her. On October 9, 2012, Malala’s school bus was attacked by a gunman. He broke through the door and demanded to know where Yousafzai was. When some of the girls looked her way, she was shot in the head.
  5. Miraculously, the 15-year-old survived the attack. She was flown to Birmingham, U.K., for treatment. Her attack was condemned worldwide, and, after protests in Pakistan, more than 2 million people signed a right to education petition. The petition became a bill later ratified by the National Assembly, making it Pakistan’s first Right To Free and Compulsory Education Bill.
  6. In 2013, Yousafzai and her father co-founded the Malala Fund, an organization that advocates at all political levels to ensure all girls complete 12 years of school.
  7. The Malala Fund currently has programs in Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and in various countries for Syrian refugees.
  8. In Pakistan, a country with the second-largest number of girls not in school, the program focuses on getting more girls in school, building schools, providing materials (books, uniforms, etc.) and grants for secondary schooling.
  9. In Kenya, a country quickly evolving into its digital era, the Malala Fund works to ensure girls can take advantage of the technology trend.
  10. In Nigeria, the organization helps girls who have escaped from Boko Haram get an education.
  11. For Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, the organization opens new schools and funds educational programs in safe refugee camps.
  12. In October 2014, Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize. At age 17, she is the award’s youngest recipient.

<

As Yousafzai continues to push for girls’ education around the globe, we should follow in her footsteps and do what we can do alleviate global poverty and ensure global education.

James Hardison

Photo: Flickr


Techno Girl is helping girls in South Africa access the education they need for successful careers. The initiative’s goal is to actively encourage girls to participate in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields — also known as STEM fields. The initiative provides numerous programs to help participants reach their educational and career goals.

The program is geared towards girls in grades nine through 11, ages 15 to 18. It is part of the Girls and Boys Education Movement in South Africa and is sponsored by the country’s Department for Women, Children and People with Disabilities. It is also supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) as well as numerous other public and private sector partners.

South African Girls Get Encouragement in STEM Education

South African students are notoriously disadvantaged in math and science. The proficiency of students in these subjects is very low compared to other countries. Furthermore, boys are traditionally much more involved in these areas of study. Girls are not encouraged to pursue STEM subjects, which ultimately impedes their long-term career opportunities. The program works to change this trend by providing girls with the resources to pursue a STEM career.

Techno Girl chooses participants from the most under-resourced schools in the country based on academic merit. Most participants, therefore, come from areas lacking educational and job opportunities to pursue their dreams. Techno Girl motivates these girls to continue to strive for the jobs they desire. The program improves the confidence of girls who would otherwise lack access to the resources they need to succeed in a STEM career.

The initiative offers opportunities for mentorship, shadowing and skills development in a variety of career paths. Many participants say job shadowing is an extremely beneficial opportunity for them, helping them prepare for jobs. Without shadowing, participants would have to seek out individuals employed in these fields first-hand to understand how they work.

Since it began in 2005, Techno Girl has helped more than 6,000 girls throughout South Africa. Many participants have gone on to receive scholarships for higher education as a result of the program. The initiative has seen tremendous results and has received widespread support. As it continues to grow, Techno Girl will provide unparalleled opportunities for girls interested in STEM careers in South Africa.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

Girls Through Education
While 91% of children around the world go to primary school, only 50% of refugee children are as lucky. These odds are startling, especially considering that 69 million girls remain out of school worldwide and that this number is expected to increase due to the refugee crisis. UNESCO plans to change that.

“Changing the World of Refugee Girls Through Education” is the aim of UNESCO’s new partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Save the Children, showcased in late January. Its main goal is to raise awareness of the extreme vulnerability of refugee girls and to secure solutions for their future through education and skills development.

The project is geared toward Syrian and Jordanian women who struggle to continue basic education or pursue work opportunities. The partners are working to help develop the life, business and vocational skills of these women, all while encouraging them to share their experiences.

The program, which is based in Jordan, offers refugee girls innovative job search techniques and helps them develop skills required to gain employment. In addition to all this, UNESCO helps them find opportunities in today’s global marketplace. If needed, one-on-one psychological counseling is also provided.

Schools also play an important role in identifying refugee children at risk of abuse, sexual and gender-based violence as well as forced recruitment. Even more so, they can help connect them with appropriate services, according to a recent UNESCO report.

Classrooms can also act as a place of transformation for many kids. Becoming educated can help one become a well-rounded person and gain a foundation of learning, which is a big step in helping one stand on his or her own feet.

This is even more important for refugee girls. Educating these girls empowers them and reduces the number of girls getting married at a very young age. This is a massive problem for girls in developing countries, where one in three girls is married before the age of 18.

Solving such a problem requires commitment, time and effort. This is just what the UNESCO partnership is hoping to accomplish by supporting refugee girls, raising their confidence and shaping their future.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Girls in South Africa

As computers proliferate, an estimated 1.4 million jobs in computer sciences will be available in the next 10 years. However, there are only 400,000 graduates available to fill them. This is why it is becoming increasingly important for young people — particularly young women — to learn to code.

Code for Cape Town has partnered with the U.S. Consulate to offer a two-day Power of Coding Workshop for high school girls. The coding workshop is valued at 300 rand (USD$22.44) but learners are invited to attend for free.

The workshop will be located in one of the city’s libraries. Space will offer a coffee bar, free Wi-Fi, a laptop bank, an editing suite and green screen technology at no cost to the public. The Power of Coding Workshop in Cape Town will last three hours and will introduce learners to what coding is. It will also teach learners how coding may apply to their interests and potential career paths.

Learners will have the opportunity to code their first project. At the end of the session, they will take a test to determine if they qualify for Code for Cape Town’s full learning program. This program includes code classes, visits to tech companies, and the chance to meet inspiring women in tech.

What is Coding, and why is it important?

According to Linda Liukas, the co-founder of a coding workshop called Rail Girls,  “coding is the literacy of the 21st century.”

Essentially, coding is telling a computer what to do. The process involves typing in step-by-step instructions for the computer to follow.

Computational thinking is the collection of diverse problem-solving skills related to writing software. It is important because it teaches learners to efficiently tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems. Even fields as diverse as mechanical engineering, fluid mechanics, physics, biology, archaeology and music are applicable to this computational approach.

“Our world is increasingly run by software and we need more diversity in the people who are building it,” says Liukas. “More importantly, writing software is about expression, creativity, and practical application.”

This is why the Power of Coding workshop in Cape Town will be instrumental in empowering young women in South Africa. Not only will it teach young women the basics of coding, but it will teach them to apply this knowledge to any number of future career paths — knowledge that is indispensable in light of the growing digital economy.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Women’s HealthAccording to data from Trading Economics, Malawi’s GDP in 2015 totaled $6.57 billion, or 0.01 percent of the global economy. The highest influxes of extremely impoverished Malawians are concentrated in rural areas and face a constant struggle when conceptualizing economic development from agricultural practices.

Established in 1993, the Malawi Children’s Fund has initiated and supported youth in Malawi by developing initiatives that facilitate entrepreneurial, educational and medical facilities. The Green Malata Entrepreneurial Village, one of the fund’s centers for development, provides children with courses in subjects such as renewable energy and information technology, in addition to a tailoring program that manufactures reusable Malawian sanitary pads.

Women and children studying tailoring also construct reusable pads that are then combined into “The School Girl Pack,” consisting of three pads and a pair of underwear, which is then sold for $3.50. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that one in 10 school-aged girls in Africa drop out of school or miss class due to their period. Skills development programs established by the entrepreneurial village are not only providing personal development of individual’s trade abilities but also ensuring a better quality of life for women and children in Malawi.

Access to quality female hygiene products is also vital to beneficial health practices to prevent malfunctions such as leaking, which spreads infection and subsequent sores and rashes. Other organizations such as AFRIpads, locally headquartered in Uganda, distribute sanitary pads to women in dire need of reliable assistance.

The Malawian sanitary pads initiative has also committed to participation in Project 50/50, a trans-regional campaign that aims to facilitate greater political representation of women, as outlined in 2008 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development. On location, training events are held to empower and educate women to become leaders in local and national government.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Cameroon: Nurturing Opportunity and Choice
Education in Cameroon, although constitutionally guaranteed, falls short in execution. Undeniable disparities hinder educational access for poor, disabled, indigenous and refugee children, particularly disadvantaged girls. Issues ranging from sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancies and early marriages to domestic chores and socio-cultural biases proliferate a trend in which fewer girls attend primary schools than boys. Incongruences between male and female education in Cameroon exacerbate the growing movement of students leaving the country to study and live elsewhere that has been termed the “brain drain.”

Rectifying this gender discrepancy can boost individuals’ capacities for financial autonomy as well as improve the state of the nation overall.

Less than 50 percent of Cameroonian girls attend primary school, and the average adult has only 5.9 years of education under his or her belt. There are many, however, who are working to change that.

The ShineALight Africa initiative was inspired by one Cameroonian woman, Nsaigha Thecla, who risked her livelihood and security to give her daughter the education she had never attained. Borrowing, investing and selling all she had, her children received an uncommonly good education in Cameroon. Years later, Nsaigha’s granddaughter, Leila Kigha, founded ShineALight Africa in that spirit.

ShineALight Africa mobilizes individual women into a cooperative through which they can sell their farm produce as a group, and the profits are dedicated to keeping local community children in school. Participation fosters the skills to help women gain financial autonomy, which provides previously non-existent options regarding marriage and domesticity.

Self-sufficiency and personal livelihood are certainly not all there is to be gained through more available education. Many claim that national security is at stake when education is inaccessible, for “an educated population doesn’t give away to extremism.” As a military campaign against Boko Haram rages in northern Cameroon, mosques in the south resist the spread of Islamist insurgency by providing girls’ education. The director of the Grande Mosque in Briquerterie, Mohaman Saminou, claims girls are at the greatest risk of being radicalized due to their lack of education.

To that end, his mosque provides free classes to girls every weekend in subjects like computer science, sewing and the Qur’an. Other mosques, like the Yaoundé Central Mosque, follow suit, providing girls’ classes in French, English and Arabic to promote the notion of “bilingualism as a gateway to quality education and sustainable development.” This work should broaden opportunities and choices for Cameroonian girls, consequently decrease the likelihood of radicalization.

Improving education in Cameroon can hugely impact both individual lives and national wellbeing. The ability to make financial and social choices is essential to the welfare of the people and the state to which they belong.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr

Day of the Girl ChildOn October 11, the U.N. celebrated its annual Day of the Girl Child, which focuses on advancing the status of girls worldwide by celebrating their potential when combating the forces that endanger and repress them, such as child marriage, education inequality and health issues.

Since its inception in 2011, the Day of the Girl Child centers on a different topic each year. In 2016, the theme “Girls’ Progress = Goals Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement,” emphasizes the use of technological advances to acquire comprehensive data on girls worldwide, their unique struggles and the forces that oppress them.

In an address at the U.N. headquarters on October 11, 2016, Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka spoke on the importance of this movement: “Working with our partners, we are supporting countries to strengthen national capacity and systems to collect, analyse and disseminate gender data to improve statistics on priority issues for girls — including gender-based violence, adolescent pregnancy and reproductive health, informal employment, entrepreneurship, and unpaid work.”

Much of the U.N.’s efforts regarding the Day of the Girl Child centers on the practice of child, early and forced marriage, all of which remain prevalent issues in the world’s poorest countries.

Child marriage not only leaves psychological and physical scars that inhibit girls from personal fulfillment but also perpetuates cycles of poverty that trap families in situations with little or no education, economic disadvantages and poor health conditions.

Families often seek the temporary financial relief of a “bride price,” money given to them in exchange for marriage to their daughter. This practice, however, only continues the cyclical nature of poverty in their communities – it denies girls the opportunity for education, and ultimately, cripples new and developing families in the same way.

The other option — education for girls — helps to solve this long-term problem. A girl who has received just one additional year of primary education is 15 percent more likely to boost their future earnings, and this figure only increases with each additional year of education.

The U.N. has already made some advancements in the for fight for girls’ equality. After drawn-out and passionate lobbying in Malawi, the country passed the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act in 2015, which restricts the age of marriage without parental consent to 18.

Thanks to advancements in data collection, the lives of girls and women across the globe may now be much easier to improve. U.N. Women has continued to push for the end of child marriage, and thus, a step toward ending deeply entrenched poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. As U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri phrased it, “Humanity can’t afford to lose half of the world’s creativity, passion and work. When you invest in a girl everyone benefits.”

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr