Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mary Grace Henry, recipient of our 2014 Youth Award. Mary Grace is the founder of Reverse The Course, a successful social business that has funded the education of girls in Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay and Haiti.
The greatest obstacle to education faced by both girls and boys is poverty. Girls, though, face a second hurdle that is far more difficult to address: their culture. In many countries throughout the world, girls are viewed as having not just lesser value than boys, but often devastatingly little or no value.
This manifests itself in different ways depending on geography and, in many countries, religion. Girls are aborted because families do not want to pay a dowry; desperately poor families sell their daughters, dooming them to lives of menial and often forced labor for 15 hours per day. In places where a woman’s value is in the number of children she bears, girls as young as 11 and 12 are married.
I started Reverse The Course to give girls the chance to reverse the course of their lives by gaining access to the most powerful tool on earth: an education. The World of Children Youth Award has already expanded awareness about our work and cemented our role as an advocate for girls’ education.
World of Children’s grant funding will allow us to support more girls as well as do something I had previously only dreamed about – expand our programming to reach more marginalized girls in innovative and empowering ways. We’ll fund workshops that teach Maasai girls in Africa about their legal right to an education and to refuse the practice of female genital mutilation; we’ll help girls in Uganda participate in a leadership, apprenticeship and entrepreneur-training program; and we’ll support the community service projects of recent high school graduates from Kibera, Kenya – one of the world’s largest urban slums – before they start university next fall.
2014 was an extraordinary year for Reverse The Course; my hope is that 2015 will be an even more extraordinary year for empowering girls through education.
World of Children will fund the entire secondary education of 12 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa and develop workshops that empower girls to become agents of positive change in their communities. Read more at worldofchildren.org/marygrace