Educating Girls to Empower a Community
We often take education for granted here in the West. However, in many regions around the world girls are not given equal opportunity as their brothers and male peers to attend school. Justice Rising is working to change this bias to help reduce the number of child brides, teen moms, orphaned children and more!
Her name was Tumaini. I met her accidentally while I was visiting her neighbor, a 12 year old boy named Gaspar who is a student in our high school.
Tumaini was eight, wearing a tattered dress and sweeping the area with a hand broom made from twigs.
“Jambo,”, I greeted her softly. Her delicate frame and quiet demeanor made it seem like she would startle easily and I didn’t want to scare her being a foreigner intruding on her house. She shyly greeted me back and then continued on with her chores.
That could have been the end of the story. I was busy and had interviews to do and people to see; all easy excuses to move on. But there was something about her that drew me in.
I turned to her again and asked if her mother was home and then invited myself in for a more formal greeting which is something that’s very common here.
The mother was nervous but excited to host us. She quickly grabbed a small stool for myself and for one of our Congolese team members to sit on. She then turned and took a water jug to make a seat for herself.
We started asking her about her life. Was she married? How many children did she have? Did they go to school?
She explained it a little like this…Years ago rebels attacked her village in an area called Walikale in Eastern Congo. The attack was heavy and killed everyone in her family. With only a 3rd grade education and 4 children in her care, she moved to the village of Kalembe as she didn’t know where else to go. Her two oldest children have since moved away from home and she’s left with the two youngest, Tumaini, age 8 and Daniel, age 6.
“Tumaini doesn’t have shoes and I don’t have money to buy her shoes, so she stays home with me and helps with the chores. Daniel has shoes so I sent him to school. Life is very hard,” she continued, “some days I feel like I have no hope.”
This is exactly why we’re here: for families like her’s. It is so she can be reminded that in the face of loss and war and poverty, there is still hope. She may have lost a battle, but together we will not let her loose the war.
We fight hard with our Congo programs to accomplish gender parity in our schools. We are very proud to say that we have achieved that in each school.
Everywhere we go there are families like Tumaini’s who value boy’s education over their girls. In order to shift this attitude our team has had to get on the ground with the communities and work hard to change mindsets.
We hold “education rallies” that bring hundreds of people together to hear stories of the importance of sending girls to school and how it’s an investment in not only her future but their future if she’s educated. We also go door to door and talk with parents about the challenges of sending their daughter to school and in what ways they can overcome those difficulties.
Educated girls help strengthen economies and create future jobs. They can earn a higher wage and in turn, send the next generation of children to school. Educated girls are also healthier and have healthier families. For every year of education a girl receives, infant mortality and child marriage rates significantly drop!
Increasing the focus on girls education also helps reduce extremism. In the face of war and conflict, educating girls helps bring peace and stability.
It can simply be said that educating girls can transform cultures.
For Tumaini, her story is not over. With the support of our Justice Rising team her mom could see the value of saving and investing in shoes for her daughter. From there we work together to see how small changes can free up time for Tumaini to be able to go to school and also have time to complete her chores and sow into their family structure.
Hope lost once doesn’t mean hope has to be lost forever and educating the girl child is an amazing way to invest in the future of a community.
-Cassandra Lee, co-founder of Justice Rising