As you all know, my projects over the past 2 years here in Senegal have spanned many sectors of development. One area where I see a great need is basic education. Lack of educational attainment prevents people from obtaining many of the best jobs and perpetuates a cycle of poverty. Even where families want their children to finish primary and secondary school, they are often under pressure to pull them out in order to work. This is especially the case for young girls, who shoulder a disproportionate amount of household tasks. The resulting gender gap is stark and contributes to society-wide gender inequity.
To take on the issue of girls’ education in Senegal, Peace Corps Volunteers have organized the Michelle Sylvester Scholarship program. At each participating school (over 40 this year!), three girls are chosen out of nine candidates based on a combination of need and academic promise. Each candidate receives help (about $10) paying their inscription fees for the next school year, and each winner receives an additional $30 to buy school supplies. While this is a tiny amount of money by American standards, for the poorest Senegalese families this goes a long way. While I don't have any pictures of the candidates in Kaymor (because my external hard drive is broken), this is a picture of the Kaolack girls camp participants, which is another educational (and fun!) opportunity many of these girls get to participate in.
Together with other Volunteers, I am helping to raise the $10,000 it will take to fund this program for more than 400 girls nationwide. While this may sound like a lot, remember that for a contribution as small as $10, you can help one of these girls stay in school for another year. The cost for the entire program in my community is just $200, and any funds raised above this target will be used to support the program in other schools and to fund follow-up activities to further empower these young women. To make a tax-deductible contribution, follow the link below.
I truly think basic girls’ education is one of the most pressing issues in development. Research has shown that advancements in education, particularly for girls, lead to faster economic growth, smaller and healthier families, reduced rates of HIV transmission, and more equitable and democratic communities. As leading economist Lawrence Summers puts it, “...investment in girls' education may well be the highest return investment available in the developing world."
Check out Peace Corps/Senegal's website about the scholarship for more information and pictures: http://senegad.pcsenegal.org/scholarship.html
Thanks for your support!!