As part of the NGOCSW Parallel events held during the Commission of the Status of Women meeting at the UN, Kota hosted a panel on March 20. Thank you to NGOCSW for this opportunity!
The entire conference can be seen on video below!
Our speakers represented a variety of organizations, some small and some large and established. If there was a common theme, it was that everyone saw the value of providing comprehensive education, beyond pure academics.
Our keynote speaker, Louise Guido of M4Global Partners talked about how her personal background made her value education, and her business background brought her to the realization that she could help the largest number of people through a technological solution.
Her mobile apps include tools for women to gain life and business skills, and some are used by teachers in schools and community centers Their eLife Tablet for Teachers was a finalist for the GSMA Global Mobile Awards “Best Educational Product or Service”. Interestingly, it has been found that it is women who mostly download these educational apps! But even plain SMS messages can be used to further educational objectives. In every case, the content has to be tailored to be appropriate and relevant to the local circumstances. Although nothing will replace old-fashioned face-to-face teaching, as more and more people move from the poorest of the poor to the sector of society that at least has access to a cell phone, these tools will be an important complement, and increase the potential for people everywhere to gain access to education.
Irving Fish , a pediatric neurologist, founded the Ethiopian School Readiness Initiative in order to make sure children were better prepared when they start school at age 7. The education is gender neutral and encompasses children age 3 to 6. Parental education is mandatory, and teachers are trained to teach with interactive methods in a comprehensive curriculum. They have seen great success with this method as the children become the stars of the schools they enter into, and the program is being expanded to public schools.
Gulalai Ismail of Aware Girls, a Pakistani girls’ organization, reminded us of some of the reasons girls drop out of school, including safety concerns: in many places, availability of safe transportation would ensure girls continuing attendance. She also reminded us of some startling facts: if every girls had 12 years of schooling, early marriages would drop by 64% and teenage motherhood by 59%. It would cost 39 billion USD to end the educational crisis in the world, which is the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in only 8 days!
Susan Blaustein, Founder/Executive Director of WomenStrong International described the Girls’ Club programs WomenStrong Consortium members run in Ghana, Haiti, India and Kenya, and shared the comprehensive contents of WomenStrong’s forthcoming Girls’ Clubs Manual, intended for girls everywhere and covering the topics WomenStrong’s local leaders have found are essential in order for girls to learn, thrive and become vocal, productive citizens.
Christen Brandt, co-founder of Shesthefirst, discussed their programs in 11 low-income countries and how they are supported by 213 campus chapters via bake sales and small and large fundraisers. The organization provides scholarships to girls, fostering first-generation graduates and cultivating the next generation of global leaders.
Sari Gold – new Board Chair of Kota – has been involved with Empower Nepali Girls for several years. The organization is volunteer-run except for two employees in Nepal. It raises funds privately by making that a precondition of joining their group treks in Nepal, where the groups visit the villages in person. The geography places enormous challenges to even delivering needed supplies, and the earthquake in 2015 made things all the more difficult. The organization supports individual girls entire school career as long as they want to go, and has recently seen their first university graduates.
Lastly, Richard Lui – also new Kota Board member – who is a Global Ambassador for Plan International’s Because I am a Girl campaign, talked about some solutions that they have found particularly encouraging: providing sanitation facilities; ensuring digital access; mixed sports programs; involving boys early on in discussions about gender equality; and teaching storytelling to girls, whose voices often remain unheard.