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Why Educating Girls is the Key to the Future

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It is an unfortunate reality that even in modern times, girls have fewer opportunities than boys when it comes to receiving an education. Girls all over the world face discrimination within their cultures where they are not seen as equals to men, and therefore an emphasis on educating women is mostly absent. Barriers such as early marriage, low social status, chores and responsibilities, unsafe schools, and sanitation mean that young girls are not learning and not getting jobs to generate steady income. Without an education, they can’t educate their own children, which keep their families living in a cycle of poverty.


“If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”

-African proverb

We’d like to think of this as a problem found only in impoverished countries, but the discrepancy is found in America as well. I have visited many projects that Children Incorporated is affiliated with all over the world, and girls both here in the U.S. and abroad face difficult circumstances when it comes to getting an education. From Kenya to India, to Bolivia, to Eastern Kentucky, women are less likely to be educated and more likely to live in poverty as adults than men. However, thanks to efforts made by organizations like Children Incorporated, there is hope that the achievement gap between girls and boys will close.

Children Incorporated provides basic needs to impoverished children – usually food, clothing, school supplies, and hygiene items through our sponsorship program. Beyond support from individual sponsors, we help young girls and women so they have a better chance at overcoming obstacles in their lives through skill training, job training, tutoring programs, and by building infrastructures such as dorm rooms and homes.

One of the best examples of supporting women’s education I have seen in my travels with Children Incorporated was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Last spring, I visited Villa Emilia, a group home where a group of dedicated nuns help women and children who have been living on the streets. These families often come from hard and dangerous conditions, and the sisters who run the home help them transition and turn their lives around for the better. If it weren’t for Villa Emilia, the children who live at home would grow up uneducated and homeless. At best, the boys would eventually become laborers or field hands. The girls, however, often have no options but to take to the streets as their mothers had done – thus continuing the cycle.

When mothers and children come to Villa Emilia, they are offered a temporary home. The children attend local schools, and the women are taught garment making and given jobs in the factory, where they make their own money and are encouraged to save so they can eventually move out on their own.

Not only are the mothers taught integral life skills that they can pass down to their children, they also feel a sense of empowerment from applying their work ethic and earning their own income.

Villa Emilia also helps families to build permanence and stability. The sisters who run the home put down payments on pieces of land for the women, who then pay the mortgage on the land. Children Incorporated was able to step in and fund the building of eight houses for the women and their children so they could move into a permanent living situation.

If it weren’t for the mothers’ hard work and dedication to learning new skills, they would have never escaped poverty. These women have become role models for the girls – and the boys – of the next generation.

Photo Courtesy of New York School Talk

Last year, I visited San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico, where Children Incorporated has promoted girls education by purchasing computers for the local library, where girls and boys from local schools can come and take classes after school. This past summer, while visiting our affiliated projects in Telangana, India, I found that Children Incorporated supports mainly girls’ homes, which ensure girls from poor rural communities are given the opportunity to go to school and are encouraged to pursue higher education.

We have built dozens of dorms and schools so these homes can increase the number of girls who can attend – girls who otherwise would never be educated.

In Lages, Brazil, Children Incorporated began supporting the women of Grupo Art’Mulher, a community bakery that sells cookies, bread, pasta, and cakes. The group’s purpose is to teach business skills and a trade to local mothers. As a result, they are able to earn a steady income and provide for themselves and their families. When the program began five years ago, twenty women received instruction on how to bake and sell pastries. Since then, the program has only grown. Grupo Art’Mulher began making a name for itself at the local market, and many members of the first class ended up getting jobs in the food industry. The mothers of Grupo Art’Mulher have learned to support their families and cooking and business skills they can pass down to their own children. They’ve also earned enough to give back – a percentage of the bakery income will be donated to start music and theater courses in a building across the street from it this year.

In Kentucky, Children Incorporated’s higher education fund encourages young women to pursue college or vocational school. One former sponsored child from our program, Alesha, is now the mother of two children. She had a sponsor that supported her throughout high school and while she attended Morehead State University where she studied Education. She is now working towards becoming a speech and language pathologist. Without the support of our program and the encouragement of her sponsor, Alesha might have succumbed to the financial and emotional hardships she faced growing up in poverty with a father who struggled with a pain killer addiction.

While visiting our projects in Nairobi, Kenya, I met a young woman named Mwanaharusi who lived in the Pumwani slum, one of the largest and worst slums in the world. Between 70,000 and 100,000 people live crowded together in shacks with no water or electricity. One of our affiliate projects near the slum is St. John’s Community Center, where 200 children are taught academic subjects, along with trades like woodworking, metal work, sewing, and cooking. Mwanaharusi, who learned to sew while she was attending St. John’s, started a small business out of her home mending garments and making clothes for her neighbors. She saved enough money to buy a foot-powered sewing machine, which she demonstrated for me how it worked. It’s modest success by some standards; but in the darkest corners of the world, it’s a major victory. A girl born into poverty – in a country where girls are often not educated at all – finishes school, starts her own business and is able to support herself and her family. With every success like Mwanaharusi’s, and the other success stories we see, we move one step closer to equality for girls.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.