Last week Karen and I viewed an inspiring movie about the value of educating the girls working at home in developing countries instead of attending elementary school. The movie is called Girl Rising and is available for download on the Internet.
The mission of the Girl Rising organization “is to change the way the world values the girl. We use the power of storytelling, leveraged through partnerships, to share the simple truth that educating girls can transform societies.”
According to research on the website, investments in girls’ education give the highest rate of return in the developing world and are the fastest way to end generational poverty. Educated girls are less likely to be married as a child. Their children are more likely to survive to the age of five, attend school and earn more money. More women than boys run farms and small businesses in the developing world and they run them better with education.
The barriers to educating girls in the developing world prevent 66 million girls from attending school, 33 million fewer than boys. Education is not free in 50 countries and boys are usually educated first. Girls are needed at home to help mothers care for brothers, sisters and older parents. They go for water and firewood and milk cows. Some parents unable to feed and care for their children sell them for a labor contract to another home where they work for room and board.
Karen and I recently met girls boarded at Nkoilale School near Narok, Kenya on a safari to Africa. We arrived at the invitation of Grace Namunyak, a teacher raised in the same community as our safari leader, Hillary Kosen of East Wenatchee.
Namunyak finished her education after escaping a child marriage because her mother refused an agreement to marry her as a child. Namunyak eventually attended college and became a teacher.
She is a Maasai teaching in a Maasai agricultural area where people raise cattle and legally practice polygamy as they have done successfully for hundreds of years. Prior to our safari Michelle Shermer of Wenatchee offered to pay $300 for a 12-year-old girl’s annual scholarship so she could be boarded at the school instead of marrying the man her father had arranged for her. Shermer’s charity inspired others to offer scholarships to seven girls. We delivered the cash to Namunyak and met each girl.
The girl’s stories are tragically familiar before the scholarships. Namunyak said one “was not in school because the father does not educate girls.” “One girl’s father is a shaman and she ran away to school. He keeps trying to scare her away from the school with spells and charms.” For another girl, Namunyak said, “Her family has nothing.”
At the school our group joined another safari of Rotarians from Lake Chelan and Leavenworth. Two members from that safari promised scholarships for two boys, making a total of nine scholarships currently at the school.
Wenatchee Rotary is making plans to establish an account for additional donations in connection with a separate account with Kosen Safari in Nairobi, which will disburse cash for payments for receipts from Namunyak and the school. We plan to share the story of our trip at the First United Methodist Church in Wenatchee on May 7 at 7:00 pm.
The message of Girl Rising raises awareness of the cultural, political, historic and economic conditions that limit education for girls and the progress being made to break down those barriers.
Girl Rising produced the movie by partnering with Vulcan Productions, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen’s award-winning media company.” The Intel Corporation is also a strategic partner.
The movie highlights the true stories of nine young girls who have successfully overcome tragic barriers to get an education on the way to freeing themselves from poverty and cultural restrictions.
The website offers the video Girl Rising in its store on the website along with free educational materials and suggestions on hosting a screening. The local One.org organization used the information to show the movie two nights last week at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center.
Educating girls in developing countries is an investment that pays economic and spiritual rewards.