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(Editor’s note: The following article was written by Madeleine Marr ’17 about her experience with Girl’s Learn International.)
Girls Learn International (GLI) is an organization that helps educate girls in countries where it is very difficult for them to get an education. In some cases, the lack of education is because of the cost. Many families need to make the choice between sending their daughter to school or sending her to work. In other cases, it isn’t safe for the girls to travel to or even attend school. Some religious extremist groups, like the Taliban or Boko Haram, believe that it is wrong for girls to get an education. They often resort to violence and kidnapping, causing a greater number of girls to be kept at home for their own safety. In countries like India, 426 girls to every 100 boys do not attend school; this is because girls are expected to remain at home and contribute to housework, while sons from the same family are allowed to get an education. Finally, girls who do attend school are often kept home for one week of every month due to inadequate hygienic supplies. So, a girl in a developing country must overcome gender bias, threats to her life, and insufficient funds to attend school. However, organizations like GLI are working to help overcome these obstacles through fundraising and advocacy.
Baldwin has a chapter of Girls Learn International in the Upper School, and I am one of its leaders. We have a partner school in Khanott, Pakistan, who we communicate with throughout the year. All of our events are staged in order to fund the Khanott School, so the girls there can continue to receive their education. It has been proven that educating girls helps bolster the economy of the entire country! Educated girls work to better their communities. They have fewer children earlier in life (the average age of a first time mother is 13 in some countries), and their daughters are more likely to be educated.
In our GLI club, we discuss the issues girls face in order to receive an education in some countries. We work to raise awareness for these issues and try to eliminate them. Our GLI club also discusses local issues, like female discrimination in the workplace, gender roles in the media, and the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations.
For my Sweet Sixteen birthday celebration, I decided to request that guests donate to GLI in lieu of gifts. I know how much the girls in Khanott, Pakistan, want to go to school, and what obstacles they face daily. I think about how lucky I am to go to Baldwin. I have so much to be thankful for, so I decided to use my celebration as a way to help these girls. It felt so gratifying to see all the people who donated to GLI and to think about how amazing the girls in Khanott would feel to know that The Baldwin School was rooting for them. I want to continue doing everything I can to help girls everywhere receive an education, because I truly believe it is the most important action we can take to gain peace in our world and equality for women globally.
To learn more about GLI, visit http://girlslearn.net.