Monday, May 21, 2012


Sorry for the delay - I guess I've been reluctant to have this project be really, really done. This has been a project of which I'm truly proud, and definitely one from which I've gained global insight.

I've been wearing outfits other than the black dress for a couple of weeks now, and I am enjoying the freedom :) But there is still something left: all of the thanks for those who helped make this project possible.

I’d like to thank the Campaign for Female Education for helping give information for this project. A huge thank you to Lisa Vincent, my project advisor at Camfed.

Thank you to the faculty at my high school. I cannot express how grateful I am for their support. A special thank you to Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Ferrara, and Mrs. Killoran for their encouragement.

To my friends and peers: a huge thank you for your amazing support. I cannot express this enough, but I’ll keep it a simple thank you :)

Thank you to my parents (especially my dad) for taking pictures for the blog.

To you, the readers, thank you for reading!

And on behalf of the girls in Africa that will receive an education through your support, thank you. We’ve helped to make an education and a future of empowerment possible.

The only thing that separates me and any oppressed woman is an accident of birth. It is impossible to turn a blind eye to the needs of young women across the globe. Through this project, we know that an education brings us one step closer to fulfilling gender equality and economic and social empowerment.

An educated woman becomes empowered. She is no longer an object, no longer a possession. She realizes her potential. Seeing the impact of education, she gives back the education she has received, and she perpetuates the cycle of and its impact in future generations. She creates a future of change. She changes the world.


Monday, April 2, 2012

day 33 - full circle

Thank you to so many of you who wore black today to support this project for women’s education – I really appreciate your encouragement and support!! And a special thank you for those of you in today’s picture – an awesome way to celebrate!

I love it when things come full circle.

Now is one of those powerful moments when you’ve come back to the starting point; but you realize you have changed, have learned so much more along the way.

I started wearing a black dress with the hopes of raising awareness for women’s education. One month later, look at how far we’ve come: We’ve raised over $600 for education in rural Africa, improved people’s knowledge and understanding of the issue, and changed the lives of girls through education.

Plain black dress on Day 1; plain black dress today. And the days in between, we’ve discussed real and current problems that women in developing nations face. But more than that, we’ve seen the positive impact an education can have on women’s lives.

An educated woman can start her own small business or income by raising animals or selling crafts and goods. As a community leader, she may become involved in local government; as a representative, she can speak out against gender inequality and injustice (such as honor killings and FGM), thereby improving the future of girls in her village. And with her income, she can raise her family out of poverty, afford adequate health care for her children, and can send them to school. The cycle of improvement starts again.

I love it when things come full circle.


Tomorrow I’d like to conclude this project – for now, at least – with a closing message and thanks for all who helped make this it possible. Hope to see you tomorrow!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

day 32 - the paradigm of insignificance

“I’m one person. What can I do?”

I used to see through that paradigm, convinced that one person couldn’t make that big of a difference. One person out of seven billion – it makes you feel really insignificant, like when you look up into a starry night.

But through this project, I know that we can have the power to make a difference. So far, we’ve raised more than $500 for women’s education in rural Africa, which can send a girl to high school for a year and pay for a year of elementary school for eight girls. That is amazing, and I thank you for all of your support.

Tomorrow is my last day wearing the dress for the project, so I guess you could say it’s an ending. But I prefer to say it’s a beginning for greater awareness about women’s education. With the knowledge we have about women’s education, we can choose to make it a crucial issue that deserves our immediate attention. More importantly, it’s a beginning for a number of girls who will now be able to attend school. When she is educated, a girl gains skills that will improve her health, socioeconomic status, and family’s education – and these effects will translate themselves not only in her life, but globally. Think ripples in water: With one small step, providing an education to a girl keeps the effect radiating interminably in future generations.

A girl in rural Africa is one person; so am I. And so are girls everywhere in developing nations, everywhere in the world. One out of seven billion. Paradigm of insignificance much? No way. Because the benefits of educating a girl are reaped a thousand times over, making an impact far greater than that of a single person.

One girl, change the world, all because of an education?

I think yes.


day 31 - women's empowerment around the world, check it out! (Saturday's post)

Yesterday, as the last day of March, was technically supposed to be my last day wearing the dress – but I’d like to wear it to school for the last day, so I’ll be finishing tomorrow. But I hope to post on Tuesday and maybe in the future as well. :)

My dad and I went to the Public Market yesterday and took some pictures there. He’s taken most of the pictures for the blog (thank you!). I’m going to post a few today if that’s all right.

And that brings us to our topic: I found this interactive feature on the New York Times website titled “A Woman’s World”. It’s a fantastic collection of photographs that shows women’s empowerment in developing nations – through everything from sustainable farming initiatives to girls in scholarship programs to lending associations to microfinance businesses. Each picture offers a short amount of background information, making each scene really come alive. Please take a look and read some of the stories!

The world is a pretty big place. But it’s encouraging to see so many accounts, so many pictures, of women’s empowerment from all over the world. Women’s empowerment can take many forms – as shown through the pictures – but most of it comes from one thing: Giving a girl an education.


day 30 - facing impediments, threats... and still, an education (Friday's post)

Earlier in the project, we discussed impediments to women’s education. These roadblocks may prevent a girl from attending school, no matter how much she wishes to attend. For example, it may be more of a priority to educate a son instead of a daughter (especially if the family lacks the means to send all of their children). Traditional mindsets often establish women’s roles in the home, and not in the classroom – and certainly not as a businesswoman or political representative. Even if a girl is able to obtain an education, she may be vulnerable as they walk the long distance to and from school.
I found a New York Times article, “Afghan Girls, Scarred by Acid, Defy Terror, Embracing School” (from 2009, but still very relevant) about such impediments to women’s education in Afghanistan. The article illustrates perhaps the most extreme examples of preventing girls from going to school: Under the Taliban regime, people were rewarded for doing whatever they could against women’s education (ironically, the word “Taliban” means “student”). According to the article, a group of Taliban offered “$2,500 for killing a teacher; $3,700 for burning a school; $1,200 for spraying acid on school girls”. A number of female students were attacked and sprayed with battery acid on their way to school.

I cannot imagine living with the fear of being attacked simply for going to school, all because of my gender. But what is even more astounding is how the girls defy this danger because of the importance of education to them. And in contrast to other regions where families are a primary impediment to their daughters’ education, the parents of these girls urge them to go to school because they understand the opportunities an education provides. Dexter Filkins, the author of the article, says it best: “Women in Afghanistan are held to be lesser beings than men; they are accorded fewer rights and fewer opportunities. But build a school for girls, and the girls will come. They will face down death to come. And their illiterate parents will support them. Their illiterate parents will push them out the door.”

Yes, impediments to women’s education do exist. But what is so inspiring is how much these girls value an education for their future, despite anything that might go against them. These girls are the ones that will become leaders in their communities. They're standing up for their rights. And we can help empower these girls through education.

Please consider making a charitable donation to the Campaign for Female Education through the link “Donate” on the right.


day 29 - "how the other half lives" (Thursday's post)

“Long ago it was said that "one half of the world does not know how the other half lives." That was true then. It did not know because it did not care. The half that was on top cared little for the struggles, and less for the fate of those who were underneath, so long as it was able to hold them there and keep its own seat. There came a time when the discomfort and crowding below were so great, and the consequent upheavals so violent, that it was no longer an easy thing to do, and then the upper half fell to inquiring what was the matter. Information on the subject has been accumulating rapidly since, and the whole world has had its hands full answering for its old ignorance.”
                                                                                                              -How the Other Half Lives

“How the Other Half Lives” – Jacob Riis’ muckraking novel from the Progressive Era. It portrayed the contrast between the opulent lifestyles of the wealthy and the barely-surviving poor. Though it was written about the people living in New York’s slums, the message today remains the same: There is a wide gap between our lives and those in developing nations.

A way to measure equality between the ends of the income spectrum within a country is through the Gini coefficient, which is based on the Lorenz curve (a tool used to show income distribution). The closer the Gini coefficient is to 0, there is less of a gap between the rich and poor; the closer it is to 100 (or 1, if expressed as a decimal), the greater the inequality. To give you an idea: According to the Global Peace Index,  the Gini coefficient for the United States in 2011 was 40.8%; China, 41.5%, Zambia, 50.7%; South Africa, 57.8%, Afghanistan, 60%; and Namibia, 74.3%.

Another way to examine global inequality is by looking at the number of people living below the poverty line, which has been determined as $1.25 a day. And according to the World Bank, 1,289,000,000 people live on less than this amount. Can you believe that? That hardly seems enough for a single meal – let alone food to feed a family, plus costs incurred for fuel, medicine, and education. Here is a visual from the World Bank showing the percentage of people living on $1.25 a day or less: Visualize poverty.

Even more than how the other half lives with regard to poverty levels and disparities between standards of living, let’s consider another half of the population: That of women in developing countries.

According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), “a pregnant woman in Africa is 180 times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than in Western Europe”. Women spend a total of 40 billion hours collecting water (United Nations). In 2009, the literacy rate for females in Sub-Saharan Africa was 67.2% (World Bank).

Compare this to women’s living standard in the United States. Women have a only a 24/100,000 chance of dying in childbirth due to access to hospitals and health professionals. We are able to spend our time in school or at work instead of walking hours to collect water. (We are so fortunate to have access to clean water, too: Check out this video from Charitywater.) And because we can go to school, we can read, which is a tool of empowerment in itself.

The United Nations describes of mortality for children under five years of age, “Children of mothers with no education in the Latin America and Caribbean region are 3.1 times more likely to die than those with mothers who have secondary or tertiary education and 1.6 times more likely to die than those whose mothers have primary education”. We’re talking statistics, and the numbers definitely show that an education really has an impact on women’s lives.

An education can help reduce global poverty levels, as well as gender inequality. The United Nations writes, “literacy and education can be powerful tools for empowering rural women and fighting poverty and hunger [because] women who are educated are more likely to be healthy, generate higher incomes, and have greater decision-making power within their households.” And USAID estimates that if every child received a basic education and reading skills, “there would be a 12% drop in global poverty”.

It’s one thing to know how the other half lives; but it’s another to do something to ameliorate their condition. We may be perfectly content living our lives - "out of sight, out of mind" - but ignoring the issue will not make it go away. This is a current problem that desperately needs our attention, and one that can be improved through providing education.

Please consider making a charitable donation to the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) at the link “Donate” on the right side of the page to help provide women with an education in rural Africa.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

day 28 - a couple of microfinance videos

We discussed microfinance and its impact on women earlier in the project. Even more than creating income, a microfinance business can help a woman to become an economic, as well as political and social leader, within her village. I’d like to share two videos with you highlighting microfinance: the first is from the Kiva Microfund Organization; the second is from the Grameen Bank, the organization established by the winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize, Muhammad Yunus:

As you can see, a small donation can help start a sustainable business for a woman in a developing nation. Women can learn how to run a business with an education; furthermore, with additional income, a woman can send her children to school and create a cycle of education and income.