On the International Day of the Girl, Michelle Obama, former first lady of the U.S., announced that she is launching the Global Girls Alliance, a program aimed at empowering adolescent girls through education around the world.
The Goal of Global Girls Alliance
The Global Girls Alliance is designed to support grassroots leaders around the world who best understand the unique challenges girls face in their local communities and the strategies needed to overcome them. Obama was inspired to start the alliance during her visit to a local high school in Liberia. Obama stated that the organization is seeking to empower adolescent girls around the world through education so that they can support their families, communities and countries.
She said that she is supportive of the girls that show up every day in school even though their families depend on them to take care of younger siblings, cook meals and ensure their household is running smoothly. They show up even though many are pressured to marry as adolescents, sidetracking their own goals for a man’s. Girls that attend secondary schools have higher salaries, lower infant and mortality rates and are less likely to contract malaria and HIV. Educating girls is not good just for the girl, but for wider communities as well.
Girls’ Educational Issues
According to a U.N. study, there are almost 98 million adolescent girls that are not receiving any form of education. In some countries, it is unsafe for girls to attend school as they can be subjects of sexual harassment, assault, or a dangerous commute. In addition, many adolescent girls are forced to miss school during menstruation due to lack of resources or stigma and some are expected to take on household responsibilities or get married. Child-marriage is also a big issue that perpetuates global poverty, and one major way to reduce child-marriage is to get more girls in school. Through education, women can be empowered and work to eradicate global poverty.
Mainly, the Global Girls Alliance connects with grassroots leaders globally to share ideas and strategies that best work for their community. Among these grassroots leaders is Eliakunda Kaaya from Tanzania, who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college despite her family’s belief that women shouldn’t attend school. Kaaya has worked as an education mentor for girls and is currently working on girls on reproductive health sessions, as Tanzania’s education policy is that girls cannot attend school if they become pregnant, even after the child is born.
Kaaya hopes the Global Girls Alliance will help this movement move forward with more resources and by mobilizing more members of global communities to be involved in the issues surrounding girls’ education. Kaaya, like many other girls, grew up with this belief in her household and community, but sought education despite it and is empowering girls through education as part of the Global Girls Alliance. “Anything good you see in this world it is because women have been part of it,” Kaaya said in Webster’s interview, reflecting on her meeting with Michelle Obama.
The program also has a GoFundMe page where donors can give financial support to these grassroots leaders, either as a general donation or to a specific project. Funding is used for scholarships, mentorship programs, entrepreneurship preparations and parental education to ensure girls are supported both at school and within the home.
So far, the campaign has raised $225,907 of their $250,000 goal. Specific project donations include Uganda’s Empower Girls through Education, Malawi’s CRECCOM Equitable Quality Education, India’s SHEF’s Education Initiative, Ghana’s Change the World, Educate a Girl! and Guatemala’s The Thousand Girl Initiative. These donations can reap a large return effect.
According to the World Bank, limiting girls’ education costs countries from $15 to $30 trillion in loss of lifetime productivity and earnings. Educating girls can improve health, economic well-being and overall livelihood of communities. The alliance also seeks to shift the paradigm of girls’ education by advocating for developed countries to spread the word and get involved by spreading awareness.
Education young girls and women, in general, is beneficial for women, but for the whole world as well. Empowering them to step out of their traditional roles and take command over their lives can directly impact GDP growth of the countries. Organizations such as Global Girls Alliance are realizing this potential and are making sure it is being utilized.
– Anna Power