Investing in Gender Parity

The World Economic Forum predicts that global gender parity won’t be achieved until 2133.  None of us fighting for it today will be around then to see what it looks like.  Yet, each of us needs to take action now to ensure our children and grandchildren experience it.

Educational Empowerment (EE) generates gender parity through microfinance in a village outside Bago in Myanmar.  Here, in the dirt covered streets, microfinance creates opportunities for women living in poverty to start small businesses.  Women earn household income, and attain increased decision-making power, self-confidence, and community influence.

making cigars_opt_opt (1)Ma Thet and Lei Lei Win spend many hours together every day sitting on one of their porches rolling cigars.  They love to laugh and reminisce about when they were young and growing up in their village.  Ma Thet, a widow with five children, took a loan for $70 to help her continue her small cigar business.  While this may not seem like much to us, it is enough to allow her to run her cottage industry by herself, which then enables her children to stay in school rather than work to supplement the family income.

cooking 2_optMa Khin Cho runs a home shop, selling kitchen items, produce, and rice and coconut soup.  She has taken out and repaid two loans and is now using her third loan to build her business and invest in her shop. These low-interest loans empower Ma Khin Cho to significantly contribute to the family income and be an active participant in the village economy.

When a woman needs a haircut or a bride needs make-up for her special day, she goes to see Mu Mu Sein.  Her first loan was $40, her second was $50, and her third was $70.  She’s working to grow her business and buy more supplies and equipment.  The income helps her support her family and her young niece adopted after the girl’s mother disappeared on a business trip to Malaysia.

What do these women and the 400 other households who have taken out loans have in common?  100% payback!  Educational Empowerment is proud to support this loan program and empower these women.  This model also puts money back into the community by using some of the interest income to support the local school and health clinic.  Like these women, it’s beautiful.

Throughout the world, microfinance is acclaimed as THE answer to poverty and empowerment. However, if not done properly, it’s only a temporary fix. Educational Empowerment’s partner in Myanmar utilizes a model that is sustainable for the recipients. Women learn to stand on their own rather than being dependent forever on the ‘next loan’. And, their daughters are able to stay in school, rather than being pulled out to earn family income. Educational Empowerment is honored to be an essential part of creating gender parity in Myanmar through this investment.

You too can make a difference in the world’s fight for gender parity:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe.
  • Become a champion for women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment.
  • Let your voice be heard for women worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.

Cover photo credit: ILO, Flickr Creative Commons

Her Story, Her Dream

Written by: Fonda Sanchez, Founder of Education for Equality International 

If we listened to the voices of women and girls, what would we hear?

How would their stories make a difference?

While completing my graduate practicum with an NGO that focuses on increasing primary school enrollment and literacy rates for girls in Rajasthan, India, I had the privilege of meeting a young girl named Rekha. During field visits, I met many teen girls who had completed primary school, but were not enrolled in secondary. 

Education for Equality International
Photo Credit: Fonda Sanchez

Rekha was fourteen and recently married to a young man a couple years older than her. As is custom for many new brides in India, she went to live with her new husband and his family. Upon arrival into the family, Rekha’s in-laws prohibited her from continuing her education. She did not expect that early marriage would result in lost opportunity. Rekha’s husband had never completed secondary school and therefore her in-laws would not allow her to attend. In other words, as a young girl they did not want Rekha’s education level higher than their son’s.

Rekha was determined to re-enroll and complete secondary school regardless of her in-laws restrictions.

The opportunity to attend secondary school was important to Rekha. She was not concerned about the consequences of pursuing her dreams. Through her story, I saw the reality of many girls around the world. I left India before I learned if Rekha was able to return to school.

After finishing my master’s degree, I thought about returning to India. I began looking through old photographs and reminiscing about the people I had met and learned so much from. I came across Rekha’s photo and thought about her story. I knew she was not alone and that many girls like her are discriminated against on a daily basis simply because they are girls.

Education for Equality International (EEI) was created for and inspired by girls who struggle to achieve their dreams. These girls want to see a better life for themselves and their community, set their own limits and not be limited because of their gender. EEI developed because all girls and women should have the right to pursue an education. Our mission is to increase girls’ access to secondary education in developing countries.

This year EEI plans to implement its first program to support secondary school fees and expenses for 10 girls living in rural village in Maharashtra, India. We partner with a school and have built a strong relationship with the girls and school administration. EEI is in the process of raising funds for this program but the dream does not stop there.

EEI has partnered with a small NGO called Maa Education India (MEI) based in Udaipur, India. Their mission is to provide free primary education to boys and girls from low-income families, living in the rural village of Amod. Together we are developing a program to support secondary education costs for girls to attend a private school in Udaipur because there is no school available to them in their immediate village. EEI is also working with MEI to reach girls who work as cattle and goat herders to increase their literacy and writing skills.

In this work it is important to  know the data regarding the plight of girls’ education worldwide, and to acknowledge, and recognize the countless stories for every girl who makes up those numbers. I know I am not alone in this.

Let’s take the stories we have heard and make an impact that will change her world.

Please visit us at www.eduequal.org and follow us on Twitter @eduequalorg