Girls’ Education: A Byproduct of Microfinance

Daw Ni, a widow and mother of three girls living in a small village outside Bago, Myanmar, used to support her family by Daw Ni_optworking odd jobs on local farms.  A $30 loan from Educational Empowerment’s micro-finance program allowed Daw Ni to open a small business serving mont-hin-gar, a traditional fish-noodle soup, to customers that she welcomes into her home.

Microfinance creates opportunities for women living in poverty to start small business enterprises.  In addition to obtaining a higher household income, these women develop increased decision-making power, self-confidence, and community influence.

While the savory scents of ginger, onion, lemongrass, banana stem and fried garlic wafting out to the dirt paths of the village might not lead passersby to think about education, in fact, proceeds from the business have allowed Daw Ni to send her youngest daughter to secondary school, an opportunity usually unavailable to girls in Myanmar.  Only 18% of Burmese girls complete secondary school, the lowest rate in all of Southeast Asia.  Daw Ni’s youngest daughter is one of the lucky ones.  Her two older sisters weren’t as fortunate.

There are many microfinance programs that promise to support women like Daw Ni.  What sets Educational Empowerment’s program apart is the holistic, grassroots approach.  EE partners with a local Burmese organization that collaborates with villagers to distribute low-cost loans and financial training to support their businesses.  Transparency is key. A savings component, group-loan structure, vocational training, and ancillary social and health services ease the burden on loan recipients and help the village thrive.

EE’s community-based microfinance program not only helps mothers keep girls in school but also bolsters local education, with a portion of loan interest dedicated to funding a small primary grade school in the village.

Girls’ access to education should be a basic human right.  

Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment here.
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ rights
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

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

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

 

Growing Dreams: Help Educate Girls In Myanmar

Here in the United States, ask a girl what she wants to be when she grows up and her answer may be nurse, teacher, astronaut, senator or even president. The possibilities are limitless.  In Myanmar, a country steeped in extreme poverty, where people lack even the most basic human rights, you will hear no such answer. Girls in Myanmar typically imagine a job that takes them no further than the family farm or the local fish market.

Why the disparity?

In addition to the oppressive government, ongoing conflicts, natural disasters and displacement that have plagued the country, education is simply not attainable for many – most of all girls.

Only half of Burmese girls complete primary education.  For most, the quality of the education is inadequate and typically based on rote memorization.  One in every four girls who has attended primary school is still unable to read simple sentences about everyday life.

Although government schools are free, parents still need to pay for uniforms, supplies, and in some cases bribes to teachers to ensure their children receive attention.

When parents choose which child they can afford to educate, it is always the boys.  Girls, victims of gender disparity, are pulled out of school to work.

Girls who are educated dream big.  Education opens up endless opportunities. Education builds girls’ dreams and transforms lives.

Educational Empowerment helps ensure Burmese girls realize their dreams.

Some girls, unable to afford government schools, attend schools established in Buddhist monasteries – schools which truly are free. Many girls in these schools have been sent by their families from remote ethnic areas to be educated and safe. These girls, often as young as 4, must cope with the trauma of family separation.

One of these schools, located in a poor township outside Yangon, is Maw Kyun, attended by 582 children, half of whom are girls. These girls are learning critical thinking skills, which give them the ability to identify and solve problems.  Since their township does not  have electricity or fresh water, solving problems is essential to their existence.

Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment
Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment

Wint Yi, like 25% of other girls in Myanmar, lives below the poverty line, with a family income of less than $1.25 per day. Fifty percent of her peers will only go to school through the fifth grade.

Unlike, many other girls, Wint Yi has a dream. She knows there is a world beyond her village.  She goes to a school supported by Educational Empowerment.  Wint Yi is one of the fortunate girls in Myanmar.

Girls’ access to quality education should be a basic human right.  Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

Help girls attain their right to education.  Empower others, like Wint Yi, to dream BIG.

Want to take action?

  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Meet Wint Yi


 

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org

Follow @EEmpower, on FacebookInstagram

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

Malala Day 2014: What are you #StrongerThan?

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. – Nelson Mandela

Today marks the second annual Malala Day. Malala Yousafzai and two of her classmates were shot by Taliban gunman on their way to school in Pakistan in October 2012 (for being girls and for wanting to get an education). After surviving the traumatic encounter, Malala did not fear school, but instead has become a global icon for promoting pacifism and everyone’s right to education.

Malala says that the extremists fear the power of education, and courageously asks, “Let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens, and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.”

According to UNESCO, global literacy rates are on the rise, however, currently two-thirds of illiterate adults (493 million) are women. Among the 123 million illiterate youth, 76 million are female.

Even though the size of the global illiterate population is shrinking, the female proportion has remained virtually steady at 63% to 64%.

UNFPA reminds us of the far-reaching effects of educating girls. Education for girls is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. Not only does education create opportunities for individuals, educating a girl improves her family’s opportunities and health outcomes for generations. An educated women can secure resources for her family, access to education for her children, and is less likely to have unintended births. Educating girls also generates positive social and economic development.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, “education contributes directly to the growth of national income by improving the productive capacities of the labor force.” A study of 19 developing countries found that a country’s long-term economic growth increases “by 3.7 percent for every year the adult population’s average level of schooling rises.”

Countries that have made social investments in health, family planning, and education have slower population growth and faster economic growth than countries that have not made such investments.

This Malala Day, Malala does not want us to forget that we are stronger than those who threaten the right to education. Stand with Malala and the others who are fighting for women’s education by tweeting that you are #StrongerThan.

Meet other girls like Malala who are fighting for their right to education from around the globe here:

To learn more about the importance of educating girls, watch the following TED Talks:

Visit these organization’s websites to learn about how they are working toward improving education for women and girls:

Featured image courtesy of Flickr user Michael Volpicelli

 

My Journey

Post Written by: Meena Bhati, Field Communications Manager, Educate Girls 

My name is Meena Bhati.

I am recognized as Educate Girls’ oldest employee.

I was born into a Rajput family living in the Chanud Village of Pali district in Rajasthan, India. The Rajput community does not believe in educating a girl child. Many families there do not even wish to bring a girl into this world because she is seen as a liability. I was lucky that my parents sent me to school, but only until class 10. I pleaded to be allowed to continue my education but I was told to pay attention to household chores and prepare myself for marriage instead.

I stayed home looking after the house and my siblings, and eventually I was married.

Luckily, life had another chance waiting for me in the form of my husband. He was a teacher himself, and therefore understood the importance of education. He stood by my side much against the will of our parents and re-enrolled me in school. Today, I have completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education and post-graduate courses in Hindi & Rural Development.

I realized that in a society like mine, for a girl to be able to pursue her dreams, it is very important for her to have a strong support system. I was fortunate to have my husband and I wanted to help improve the lives of other girls like me.

I never aspired to be a leader or an activist.

I would have been satisfied to help five or ten girls. However, God had bigger plans for me. I was led to Educate Girls and thus destined to make a bigger difference.

I was inspired by Educate Girls’ ideology and methodology. It is an effective and organized model which helps improve the state of girl’s education in Rajasthan. The model focuses on ‘Enrollment’, ‘Retention’ & ‘Improved Learning Levels’ through community mobilization. The core element of this model are teams or community youth leaders who facilitate this cause in their villages. My first thought was, “Where would I find such individuals?” The Team Balika members must be educated, have the willingness to volunteer their time, and have permission from their families.

I stepped out on the mission with tremendous hope and found that many people wanted to join Educate Girls but feared disapproval from their parents and community members.

Some of my colleagues and I went door-to-door trying to convince parents of those who wanted to join us. We went to each house to identify girls who had never been enrolled in school, those who had dropped out of school, as well as child brides, so their families could be persuaded to prioritize their education. I remember doors being slammed in our faces on numerous occasions.

Eventually, parents began allowing their girls to come to school. Team Balika grew and I found myself training hundreds of members and school teachers in Creative Learning and Teaching techniques. I conducted Bal Sabhas (Girl’s Councils) and Life Skills Training programmes. Our team mobilized communities to form School Management Committees, giving community members a platform to influence the local education system.

As Educate Girls expanded, my role and responsibilities also grew. I started as a Field Coordinator and now operate as a Field Communications Manager. I initially wanted to help 5-10 girls and now I am doing my part to help countless children and empower thousands of Team Balika.

I am not alone.

There are thousands of others in Rajasthan who have shown tremendous courage, fought traditional norms and stepped out to be a part of the movement. My work with Educate Girls has given me confidence and an identity. I owe my success, personal development, and this meaningful journey to my husband and to Educate Girls.

Through the efforts of Team Balika, Educate Girls has enrolled over 59,000 girls in school since its inception in 2007. The creative teaching techniques used to improve learning levels have benefited about 600,000 children. Our goal is to improve access and quality of education for about 4 million children living in under-served communities in India by 2018 and work towards reducing gender inequality in education.

Empower One: Change the Future of Many

It was in a small rural village in the state of Jharkhand, India, that I first met Naisban.  As we sat together on the floor of her home, I listened intently as she talked to me about the pressing issue of illiteracy in her community. In an area lacking proper sanitation and sufficient water supply, Naisban is one woman who is motivated to create far-reaching change.

Naisban
Naisban outside of her home

As we talked, I watched her eyes light up as she discussed the opportunities for development in her area. Unlike many women and children in India, she is fully literate, having been educated all the way through secondary school. A leader in her community, she has earned the respect of both the men and women through her initiation of meetings related to community development.

Naisban believes that literacy is a powerful tool in the fight to empower girls and women around the world. Her goal is to see every woman and girl in her village become literate and for many years, Naisban has dedicated her time to educating women and young girls by building her own literacy program.

India Girl
Empower One Girl: Change Many

India has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world. In 2001, it was reported that only half of the female population was literate. However, literacy rates have increased within the last decade, with the  female rate rising to 65.5% in 2011.

Much of the credit for this increase should go to women like Naisban. She is one of many women around the world who have the potential to improve the lives of girls and women in need. If you invest in the life of one woman like Naisban, you will be changing the lives of those around her.

Naisban’s passion brings to mind the life of Somaly Mam. Somaly, who was recently featured in Half the Sky, was born in a rural area of Cambodia and endured the horrors of being sold into sexual slavery. She has dedicated her life to loving and empowering young girls who have been abused and exploited by the sex trade. Her life and experience has made a difference in the lives of over 7,000 young girls in Cambodia and many more around the world.

Somaly_Mam_Michael_Angelo_5
Photo Courtesy of somaly.org

“A seed is like a little girl,” Somaly believes, “It can look small and worthless, but if you treat it well then it will grow beautiful.” (The Road of Lost Innocence, The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine)

Millions of girls and women like Naisban and Somaly Mam are on the front lines, tirelessly fighting for women’s rights and dignity. Let’s get behind these girls and women and champion their visions and causes. By empowering even just one girl, we are changing the lives of many.

Do you know of organizations that seek to empower girls like Naisban? Tweet us @GirlsGlobe!

Want to learn about organizations that empower local girls and women?

Learn more about the Somaly Mam Foundation
On Twitter @SomalyMam

Check out the Girl Effect
On Twitter @girleffect

Sources:

Census  India 2011. http://censusindia.gov.in/2011census/censusinfodashboard/index.html
Census India 2001. http://censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/India_at_glance/literates1.asp

The Girl Effect. http://www.girleffect.org/
The Somaly Mam Foundation.  www.somaly.org
Somaly Mam. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

More on the Girl Effect


Mobilizing the girl effect may seem easy.

  1. Give girls education
  2. Societies will prosper.

However, it may not be so simple. There are several factors that play a part in shaping the health and well-being of girls and women. Although a girl is given a chance, she may meet a lot of resistance.

I was playing with some data at genderinfo.org, the portal for the United Nations’ gender data. Looking at India, one can see that the literacy rate for girls aged 15-24 is quite high, 77 %. The expected years of schooling for girls in India is 13 years, so it is expected that most girls in India should at least finish high school. This, one may also think is quite high. However, looking at the percent of women aged 20-24 that were married or in union before the age of 18, is close to 50 %. Thus, close to half of these girls were married as children. The proportion of girls aged 15-19 that have already given birth is 12 %, which is also a very high number. (Keep in mind that India is a huge and diverse country, so these statistics may vary depending on region, city, village, etc.)

This gives me mixed feelings. Although this is not even close to a comprehensive study, it seems like India is investing in education for girls, but the amount of girls being married off as children is still high. Child marriage is a violation of a girl’s human rights. So, there must be other factors playing a part as well.

What do you think plays a part in shaping the situation of girls, besides education? Please share your ideas in the comment field below!

Sources: video is taken from girleffect.org, and the data can be found at genderinfo.org.