Image from Let Girls Learn
Learning is literally my favorite activity. I love learning how things work and why they work. I love learning how people work and why they work. I have loved to learn since I was young; when I was a child, my face was always glued to a book, soaking up as many ideas through my eyeholes as I could. The idea that there are girls around the world not getting the opportunities that I had boils my blood. And this is a prevalent issue, so my blood’s probably going to straight up explode out of my body pretty soon here.
The most well-known example of education rights being stripped from girls is probably in Pakistan, where Malala Yousafzai was shot point-blank in the head by the Taliban because she refused to stop going to school when girls’ institutions were being shut down and blown up. Prior to the incident she was well known in Pakistan as an anonymous writer of a blog promoting girls’ education. As a survivor of an assassination attempt, her voice has only gotten stronger. She co-wrote a book (I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban) which was then adapted to a children’s version (I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World), the audio-book version of which won the 2015 Grammy for Best Children’s Album. More importantly, she has won the Nobel Peace Prize and has been an active voice in United Nations meetings, calling member nations to action to allow worldwide access to education for girls.
Another recent story that has highlighted this issue is the abduction of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram. According to a 2014 Guardian article, there are 57 million children of schooling age worldwide who are not receiving a formal education (!!!! That is a staggering and awful number!); more than 10 million of those children live in Nigeria. “The majority of non-attendees are girls, mainly in the majority-Muslim north. Of those fortunate enough to enrol [sic], less than two-thirds complete primary school and even fewer girls finish secondary school.”
I am proud to be a part of a government-run organization that launched an initiative just over one year ago (March, 2015) called *Let Girls Learn. As part of this initiative, Peace Corps created 650 new positions in 11 countries to specifically focus on adolescent girls’ access to education. We are lucky to have FLOTUS Michelle Obama as a huge supporter and proponent of girls’ education access, and the White House has been a huge collaborator with Peace Corps on this initiative. NPR has a great article on the initiative here, and MO herself JUST wrote an article about it for Lenny Letter today.
While Colombia is not currently a Let Girls Learn country, gender equality and girls’/women’s empowerment is a major focus for our projects. We are a Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) participant; this camp focuses on lifting up girls in our communities and empowering them to be leaders in their communities. Many volunteers have girls’ groups through which they mentor the young women in their communities. Beyond simply sharing my own story and where education has taken me so far in life, I don’t yet know how I will empower the girls at my site, but I will definitely be sharing my experiences over the next two years!