According to LetGirlsLearn.gov, nearly 60 percent of illiterate youth are female. Let Girls Learn was a government initiative started by the Obama Administration in 2015 that adopted a holistic approach to educating young girls in developing nations. In partnership with agencies like the Peace Corps and USAID, Let Girls Learn focuses on community-led solutions such as book drives, technology camps, and advocacy training.
Across the globe, 62 million girls are not in school due to a number of factors– including but not limited to: pregnancy-related dropouts, the inability of family to pay school fees, forced adolescent marriages, the large distance between school and home, and gender-based violence and discrimination. If nothing is done to address the truancy population by 2025, the number will increase by the millions, according to a 2012 report from Brookings Center for Universal Education.
Hearing these statistics can be more than daunting, but it is important to keep a proper perspective.There are dozens of nonprofit organizations that work to slay this Goliath of a problem, one stone at a time. Below we outline two organizations who are working to dispell these challenges and positively impact the lives of young people in West Africa and Central America.
One such organization is Raising a Generation of Esthers Foundation (R.G.E.), based in New York City, that provides partial and full tuition scholarships to young women in Cameroon, Central Africa at both the secondary (high school) and collegiate level.
R.G.E.’s founder Favour Ikome is a Cameroonian native and current NYC resident. In 2010, she received an $80,000 scholarship to attend school at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, which served as her ticket to freedom from a life filled with all kinds of limitations. For her senior year capstone project, Favour began the workings of what would become a nonprofit organization to reach out to the girls who were living under the same conditions back at home. If a scholarship could elevate her to an extraordinary life, then it could do the same for dozens of others.
Recipients of the R.G.E. scholarship must agree to weekly mentorship sessions and to volunteer at a local church throughout the school year. Scholarships are renewable annually, as long as the young woman holds up her end of the commitment. In their first year of operation for the 2016-2017 school year, the organization was able to award 7 full tuition scholarships, house 2 students off campus and provide all necessary school supplies. The successful academic year culminated with the First Annual “Beautiful” You leadership development conference in Buea, Cameroon.
Another organization, Honduras Avanza, is also based in New York City, with outreach in Honduras. In Spanish, avanza means “get moving.” The founder, Joseph Ford, is a Honduran native who is a champion for education and who wants to see his country rise to its potential. He holds a BS of Marketing and International Business, a MS in Transportation Planning and Engineering, an MS in Business Management, and is completing a MS in Marketing Management and an MBA. Outside of his studies, Joseph currently pastors a congregation in New York City and is passionate about youth mentorship.
Similar to R.G.E., Honduras Avanza provides partial and full tuition scholarships to students in need. According to a 2010 Household Survey, only 12 percent of college-aged Hondurans (110,026) are actually in school, while the remaining 88 percent are not. Each student in the Honduras Avanza program is assigned to a mentor who has a career that resembles the student’s professional aspirations. Another component of this program is that families can sign up to host the students in their homes for a semester or two. A rigorous application process ensures the best match for both parties. Honduras Avanza aims to award 4 full tuition scholarships by 2019.
With pioneers like Favour and Joseph who are willing to sacrifice time, money and energy into building mentorship and sponsorship networks for disadvantaged youth, the global illiteracy numbers will start to decline.
To get involved with Raising a Generation of Esthers Foundation, visit www.rgefoundation.org.
To get involved with Honduras Avanza, visit www.hondurasavanza.org.