Here’s a message from UWS on why promoting girls’ education in communities beyond the reach of mainstream society is so vital.
As Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012, wrote, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.” We believe a more gender-equal world starts with education.
UWS plays a part in a worldwide movement calling for an end to global educational inequality. To achieve this, the education of girls needs to be prioritised by organisations and valued by communities, as Julia Gillard highlighted in 2014:
“It is 2014, and nearly 15 percent of women worldwide cannot read or write. That’s nearly 500 million women. But this is not just a problem for them. It’s a problem for all of us. Because whether a girl, boy, man or woman, we all live in the same world, and that world needs all the brain power, creativity and productivity it can get.”
In teaching the unreached, UWS aims to deliver educational opportunity to such girls. By investing in girls’ education, UWS helps young women to grow up as active citizens in their communities, creating better prospects for their families and futures. We work in areas where child marriage is common, and where girls have children at a young age. Educating girls reduces their risk of child marriage, trafficking and exploitation, and gives them a pathway to educational and vocational opportunities that can lift them and their families out of poverty.
Do you believe that education should mean education for all? We’d love it if you’d join us.
The Girls of Ratanakiri
Milly, of The Red Maids’ School, Bristol, is currently working on UWS projects in Cambodia. Here she writes about her experience of UWS and how we help to develop girls through education. Follow Milly’s work on her tumblr.
My belief in the importance of gender equality in education stems, to some extent, from the fact that the secondary school I have just left is an all-girls school, as well as being a strong partner school to UWS. Working with UWS has proved to me that the contrast between my educational experience and the daily lives of the women of Ratanakiri cannot be understated. We must recognise that there is still a long way to go in narrowing this global divide.
Consider a young woman living in a rural community in the Ratanakiri jungle. She’s illiterate. So is her husband. She doesn’t even speak the national language. What she has got are other things to think about. Education? She’s got three kids to feed.
These communities are farm based, so they need farm hands. When it rains, the classrooms are half-empty and the fields are full, with all small hands on deck for the rice planting. Inevitably, the role of the female is to produce farm hands. From the age she can walk, she takes over the care of the younger sibling strapped to her back. With puberty comes marriage and, a couple of years later, children of her own. And so it begins again. Where, in this cycle, is there time for education?
In working towards our aim, UWS holds a responsibility to each of these young girls; through the schools we build, we put a break in this cycle. By educating girls and boys as equals, we introduce the idea that, perhaps, having children young is not so positive for personal and community development.
UWS also holds a responsibility to the mothers of the children we teach. These mothers are central to the communities we work in, which each have their own language and way of life. A village may be run by a male chief, but to quote UWS founder Chris Howarth, ‘once you get the mothers on side, you’re good to go’. In my experience of running projects with UWS, each young mother crouching at the sidelines, watching her children learn with interest in her eyes, is a triumph.
In the long-term, the future of these communities depends on literacy. UWS believes that women play a key role in this future. Already, for example, we have found that some village women are particularly adept in handling finances. As we help these communities face the 21st century challenges already upon them, please spare a thought for the potential of the young girls we work with. In order to reach our aim of education for all, we must invest in girls.
We already see it in Britain. Now let’s see it in Ratanakiri and beyond.
A girl’s first day at a UWS school in Cambodia
UWS needs you!
UWS depends on the kind support of friends and partners and we would love it if you’d join us in our mission to teach the unreached.
If you’re interested in supporting our work, please get in touch via [email protected].