The girls of Ronietta, Sierra Leone

Blog post for One Girl

Educate one girl and you won’t just change one life forever. For quite some time, the evidence has been loud and clear: educating girls and women have benefits that reach well beyond the classroom.

For each year a girl spends at school, her future earnings increase by 10 to 20 percent and that has the potential to change several lives.

That’s because various studies show when women have an income, they are more likely to spend their money on clothing, feeding and educating their families. It makes economical sense to channel more international funding to girls’ education. According to the Half the Sky movement, for every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family, whereas men tend to invest around 30 cents. Unfortunately, Half the Sky says men tend to spend more money on alcohol and cigarettes.

Educating girls could also potentially help solve other issues that pose great challenges for developing countries now and into the future, such as overpopulation. Girls in developing countries who are educated will not only gain a higher income, but they are also more likely to choose to have fewer children.

What many westerners fail to realise is that women and girls bear the harshest consequences of poverty, more frequently than males. Not only are girls more likely than boys to go to bed hungry at night, but they’re also more likely to be plucked out of school before their brothers when finances get tight.

The facts speak for themselves, and I find it mind-boggling that a relatively small amount of international aid directly targets women and girls. According to The Girl Effect, less than two percent of international aid goes towards programs that directly address the needs of girls, such as education and the lack of access to sanitary pads. 

With this in mind, put yourself in the shoes of girls of Ronietta in Sierra Leone. It’s one of the several countries in the world where these inequalities are a daily reality for those born female.

The country, recovering from a decade-long civil war that ended in 2002, still bears the scars from the conflict, in which an estimated 50,000 people were killed. Villages were burned to the ground and 1,200 schools were destroyed. Read more about some of the heart-wrenching stories of girls who survived the horrific war.

A small community in Ronietta was one of many villages affected by this dark chapter in Sierra Leone’s past. Knowing that education was one of the key tools that could help change the futures for the boys and girls in Sierra Leone, no help came when the community requested help from governments and numerous aid organisations to rebuild their local school, destroyed by the rebels who wreaked havoc during the war. So the community gathered whatever materials they could find and opened a school made out of mud bricks only a few months later.

In May this year, one of the school’s walls collapsed after several rainy seasons, with eight girls injured during the wall collapse. The government, upon hearing this news, put pressure on the community to close the school. Volunteers at One Girl tell me that despite this, the girls continue to turn up to school every day, with classes being held outdoors. However, the rainy season, which comes every year, will prevent the girls from learning outdoors.

That’s some dedication…

and girls shouldn’t be denied an education, a school, a chance for a life of prosperity. Not in the 21st Century. Not ever.

So next time you’re considering giving money to an aid organisation, ask if whether girls as well as boys directly benefit from their programs. Has the organisation developed their programs using a ‘gender lens’ and does the organisation help target the issues that prevent girls from coming to school, such as not having sanitary pads when girls get their periods?

Educating girls would help change the world if more aid organisations ensured as many girls as boys were accessing their programs.

For Christmas, One Girl is trying to raise $50,000 to build the girls of Ronietta a new school. One Girl is asking that instead of giving your family and friends presents that they’ll probably only use once, why not give the girls of Ronietta a gift that will change lives this Christmas? A gift with a purpose, a legacy.

Let your family and friends know if you want to send a girl back to school for Christmas. To find out more, visit www.idontwantapresent.com

Categories: education, women's issuesTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brianna Piazza

Journalist and travel writer.

www.briannapiazza.com
@BriannaPiazza

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