The Power of Educating Women
and Girls Across the Globe
I recently visited a refugee camp in Chad, now home to tens of thousands of displaced Darfuris seeking sanctuary from the violence in their own country. In Chad, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is funding teachers in refugee camps where children have nothing to do all day. Each of the girls I spoke with in Chad told me about the impact this project is having on their lives, confirming the voices and stories I’ve heard wherever I’ve traveled around the world. Education is an inherent right of all people; for the women and girls who are most often excluded from whatever learning is available, education has the power to liberate all who access it.
Education is at the heart of the values that inspire AJWS and its grassroots partners working in 36 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Education is a vital tool in the global struggle to liberate people from suffering and to secure the dignity and welfare of all human beings, especially women and girls.
Education is an integral building block to lasting social justice. Education and literacy help people take control of their own lives: find employment, take responsibility for their health, use technology and become active in political and civic life. Such resources are particularly important for women and girls, because the gender gap is glaring. Two-thirds of the world’s children who have never attended school are female.
When a girl is denied her basic right to an education, it sets in motion a series of challenges that will likely impact her for the rest of her life. When she does not go to school, it is much more difficult for her to access information about health, leaving her unable to defend her right to safe sex. This puts her at a substantially higher risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. When a woman is illiterate, she faces obstacles to fully participating in the civic life of her society, and very often cannot vote or participate in the political process. When a woman does not have a basic education, it is much more difficult to obtain a job, preventing her from earning her own livelihood and becoming an independent decision-maker in her community. Over time these challenges render a woman voiceless, dependent and disempowered.
AJWS is committed to ending this cycle. Through grants to local organizations in the developing world, AJWS supports grassroots groups promoting education, both formal and informal for girls, women and other marginalized populations. In 2007 alone, AJWS committed one million to supporting 50 grantees addressing the education of women and girls. Programs like the one in Chad are defending a woman’s right to an education and working to make such opportunities available to everyone.
To learn more about how you can help, please visit the AJWS Web site at www.ajws.org.#
Ruth Messinger is President, American Jewish World Service.