the girl, the woman, the world

If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a family. ~African Proverb

the girl

Educate a girl and you educate a family...and so much more, as this simple but profound video from The Girl Effect illustrates, backed up with statistics like these:

  • When women earn income, they reinvest 90% in their families. Men reinvest an average of 30-40% in their families.

  • 1 in 7 girls in the developing world marries before age 15. Girls who marry early are more likely to be physically abused, and giving birth is one of the leading causes of death for teenage girls in the developing world.

  • Each additional year of school boosts a girl’s eventual wages by 10-15%. When girls have 7+ years of schooling, they marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children. But today, 25% of girls in the developing world are not in school.

Today, in an attempt to focus some collective attention on the pain and the power contained in these statistics, Tara Sophia Mohr has gathered together a number of bloggers for The Girl Effect Blogging Campaign.   Even though I am part of this one day focus, I want to express how deeply meaningful this is to me, how I see it as integrally related to my work in the world, today and everyday for the past 20 years. I believe the future of the world lies in the woman, and the future of the woman lies in the girl.

I would like to share with you how I first became aware and involved in educating girls.


the woman

In 1989, my first year as a fresh, young teacher  I was lucky enough to be mentored into the British Columbia Teacher's Federation Status of Women Committee. One of the women I met through this committee was the spirited Lorrie Williams who had spent some years teaching in Africa. I still remember when she shared with me her experience being the principal of a school there.

First, you have to know that in schools in Canada, the US, and I imagine those of other developed countries, a great deal of the principal's time is spent dealing with students who are not showing up to school - who are skipping. Tracking them down, calling their parents, arranging meetings, drawing up action plans to get them to school.  In contrast, what Lorrie found in Africa was that most of her time there was spent having to turn away young girls who desperately wanted to be there but who had no money for the tuition. Instead of trying to sneak out, they were trying to sneak in. As principal, Lorrie had to make the rounds every morning into all the classrooms (each one was a separate hut) checking to see that no unpaid students were present. Having to tell them to leave broke her heart. Sometimes, to Lorrie's surprise, they would return with money to pay the tuition. The tuition money had often been earned through prostitution, so powerful was their thirst for education. Hearing that pierced my soul.

Lucky for the girls and lucky for me, Lorrie is the kind of woman who can't see that and do nothing. When she returned to Canada she started up a non-profit group, The Canadian Harambee Education Society, to pay the tuition for girls like the ones she had to turn away. The CHES is now over 25 years old and Lorrie has received a Governor General's Meritorious Service Medal for her work building it.

I love donating to this group because 100% of my money goes to providing an education to young girls in Africa who would otherwise be denied.  All the staff is volunteer, mainly retired teachers who pay their own expenses and receive no salary. This is truly a grassroots effort.


the world

We can all be a part of the continued spread of this movement. Let's change the world for the better. 

- Consider donating to The Girl Effect or CHES (they take PayPal).

- I know more than a few teachers read my blog - if you are one of them, showing The Girl Effect videos to your classes is powerful and opens up rich discussion. I have used them many times. 

- Write about this on your own blog and leave a link in the comments - I would love to read it.