Around the world over 60 million girls are denied education. Every year more than 15 million girls are forced into child marriage. Of the world’s illiterate adult population, more than two thirds are women. The problems they face can seem so overwhelming and as a community we tend to focus on the individual because it means we can tackle the problem one girl at a time. But in reality, it’s never about just one girl. Because when we change one girl’s life she in turn changes the lives of those around her. And when you empower one girl, she will lift others up with her.
Everyone sees girls on a daily basis, as you go about your routine work. They may be employed in the local markets that you’ve been visiting for years, or they may be working in some far away field, in a remote part of the country you are living in. Millions of girls don’t go to school and most often these children are 14 – 18 years old. It’s a phase in life when these children should learn and grow in a creative environment, discover their talents and potential. Instead, they are denied the basic right to education and forced to work or to become wives. They get up every morning and go out to make a living for themselves and for their family. In my area, as my grandmother used to say, girls are meant to cook and prepare for marriage.
Life for Girls in Uganda
Education for girls in Uganda has always been difficult. In a country full of gender inequalities, girl children often find themselves at the short end of the stick. Discrimination against girls is rampant and due to the fear of abuse and exploitation, they are kept at home and not sent to school. Child marriage is yet another common occurrence that means girls are forced to give up going to school at an early age. Girls are often married off early, due to societal pressures. The family maybe can no longer afford to care for her so they hope the husband can do better, or they need the dowry to help them care for the other children. The girls are forced to bear children to young and consequently devote their lives towards taking care of those children.
In order to make sure that girls get access to quality education, we need to deal with the mindset that makes it okay for young children to be employed. If one person stands up against child labour, it won’t take long before the movement gathers weight. Girls rights are being aggressively advocated for in my country by individuals, governmental organisations and many other partners. Efforts are being made, to make sure children spend more time looking at a blackboard and learning equations and alphabets rather than memorising the menu of a restaurant, collecting charcoal, or getting ready for marriage.
Sending the female younger generation to factories for employment, and not schools, won’t help build my community and country. It will just create unfavourable conditions for these children and an entirely unstable generation in the long run. With education, these children can change not just their own, but the fate of the future generations as well. It starts with you and me, today because educating that one girl helps change her life and her future, empowering her to reach her potential.
The benefits of empowering a girl are huge; for every year she stays in school her income will increase between 10 – 25% in later life. Literacy plays a huge role in not only a woman’s health, but in her children too. Not only that, but an educated girl is more likely to pass on her education to her children, so her children will not only be healthier, but better educated too. The more educated a woman is, the less children she is likely to have and she’s more likely to have them when she’s older and when she chooses to do so, so that she’s more physically, emotionally, and financially able to support them. Smaller families that people can afford to care for well are better for the environment, which is why educating girls can have a profound effect on climate change and behavioral change.
Educated women invest up to 90% of their income back into their families. That’s more money being invested into their family’s health, safety, nutrition, and education. These statistics are incredibly powerful. They point to generational change that can happen when you start with one girl. And the truth is, we’re already seeing the wave effect in the words and stories of the girls in our S.A.L.V.E. educational support programme. These are girls who see their education and their opportunities as not merely something of their own, but something they want to use to help those around them.
Hear it from our girls!
“I am happy because when I finish my school I know I would be able to help my people.”
“My older sister can read and spell because I teach her, she is not going to school but now she knows so many things.”
“I want to be educated so I can help my family and country.”
“I am thankful to have this opportunity from S.A.L.V.E., when I finish my education I want to become a journalist to help fight and advocate for children’s rights.”
This is a good reflection of good practice and I am inspired by the unstoppable movement towards rights for girls.
From my experience, girls work together, share and collaborate. They listen, copy and learn from one another. I constantly see the girls in our education program mentoring each other, the older ones looking out for the younger ones. They pass on knowledge that they’ve learned. The chairperson of our S.A.L.V.E. children’s council is a girl who is resilient, confident and inspiring to the other children as they affirm each other’s value.
Educated girls become educated women. In fact women who are sisters, mothers, teachers, mentors, leaders, entrepreneurs, and more. Women who can wield influence in a home, classroom, community, and political office. Women who challenge the status quo, women who want to see the next generation of girls flourish and thrive; every single girl is capable of becoming a leader, a mentor, a change maker and education gives her the opportunity to do that. But when educated girls band together they join forces and share knowledge, skills and empower each other, that alone is a powerful force that is going to change the world.
Do it for one girl. Do it for girls everywhere. Sponsor a girl child to get her chance of an educaiton today.