Research shows that girls are still more likely than boys to never be in a classroom. This means that despite the global efforts in the past few decades from governments and nonprofit organizations, we have been missing something in our approach to educating girls.
As Chair of the Girls’ Education Alliance, I’m proud to be a part of a team of girls’ education advocates who have collaborated for the past year to figure out what those missing pieces are.
The Girls’ Education Alliance 2016 report (PDF document)showcases our findings, which center around one main conclusion: to advance girls, we need to first create an ecosystem for girls’ success. I’ve witnessed what a thriving ecosystem can do in my own organization, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).
Two of the eight actions we identified to build a success ecosystem are exactly what SHOFCO was founded on: 1) local community members designing, leading and championing programs and 2) programs that take into account all aspects of the life of a girl.
I grew up in the slums of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. So, I’m painfully aware of the weight poverty places on communities to focus on the short-term needs versus what is considered a “long-term investment.” Education is a long-term investment.
How can families worry about sending their children to school when they need to figure out a way to feed their family? Or if there isn’t access to proper sanitation or health care, how can a girl be expected to make it to school at all? These are all barriers to a girls’ education, but they don’t have to be. At SHOFCO, in addition to free schools for girls, we have clean water kiosks, health clinics and more so that every aspect of a girl’s life in the slums and her family’s are supported.
And, nothing has been more beneficial in Kibera than investing in grassroots leadership, and this is a model our Alliance believes can work the world-over. When a community is invested in their own success and want their girls and women to succeed, everyone wins. This is the global ecosystem we must all lead towards.
Kennedy Odede is CEO and Founder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), Kenya
These are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official position of the Varkey Foundation.