"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the girl effect

One of the hardest things I've ever done was part of my duties as an intern in a U.S. embassy in central Africa. We had some scholarship money to distribute, and the ambassador decided it should go to girls. Hundreds and hundreds of applications came in; we had money for maybe 100 girls' tuition at the primary, secondary, and university levels. They had recommendation letters from teachers, pastors, and Peace Corps volunteers.

The letters from the Peace Corps volunteers were the hardest to read, because most of them came from far north of the country, a predominately Islamic area in which many nomadic ethnic groups still live. "If you don't give Fatima a scholarship," read the typical letter, "she'll be married off next year. Her family can't afford to support her anymore, her father doesn't believe that money should be spent educating girls, and they need the dowry."

Fatima was usually about twelve years old.

There was nothing we could do. We could help some of those little girls from the north, but not all of them. It was a big country, and we needed to build goodwill towards America all over the nation.

And every application we rejected was a twelve-year-old girl who would be forced into marriage. Usually to an older man. Without more than a sixth grade education.

We know that women in the developing world who are educated have healthier families, are less likely to contract HIV, and have children who have more of a chance at a better life. The Girl Effect works to help girls become those women, and helps them to build stronger communities from the inside.

That's something worth supporting.


Post a Comment

<< Home