Empowerment of Girls
Empowering Girls to Lead and Learn!
Ri’ayah was founded with a vision to empower girls to become a contributing and productive part of their community. We believe all humans have the ability to overcome obstacles, and if given the right motivation and resources, they can achieve wonders. This is what we aim for with our mission of empowering girls from the most socially and economically disadvantaged communities of Liberia.
It is our aim to empower girls to become a contributing and productive part of society.
Liberia is among the poorest countries in the world, and the situation of the children there is worse by far than in many other countries. We at Ri’ayah believe that we have an opportunity to give a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration to the girls who have suffered from poverty and lack of healthcare and education.
Liberian Literacy Rates Are Low
Liberian women have the potential, with a good education, to accomplish amazing things. This has been proven by many female Liberian leaders and business entrepreneurs, such as the first female president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was not only president but also a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Education is the key to empowering not just girls, but every child who is suffering in Liberia.
The majority of Liberian schools were damaged beyond usability during the Civil War that ended in 2003. The government has not been able to rebuild them. Of the schools that are open, many do not have qualified staff. In the year 2000, Liberian adults had an average of 2.5 years of schooling. The 2017 literacy rate for adults ages 15-24, who are able to write and read a simple complete sentence about themselves, is 49%. 62% of primary-school-age children are currently not in school, and this percentage increases dramatically in secondary school.* Of the 48% of Liberian children who are in school in primary grades, 65% of boys and 73% of girls drop out by grade 5.The net enrollment for secondary school is only 34%.**The most recent available data for youth literacy (2007) shows the huge discrepancy in education between girls and boys in Liberia—out of a 49% total youth literacy rate, boys represent 63%, but only 37% of the 49% of youth who can read are girls. Several reasons for this disparity exist.
*Source: UN_UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) **Source: http://www.liberiaeducation.info/profile, accessed 1-15-18.
Girls’ Education Is Not Considered Important
In the Liberian culture, many do not believe girls should go to school. Education is considered important for males, but not for women. Traditionally, girls are the caretakers in the home: it is their place to get water, start the fires, cook, watch children and more. Girls often cannot attend school regularly because of their work requirements at home. Young girls who are not yet caretakers are expected to help work on farms, either instead of going to school or in their time outside of school, which often prevents them from progressing in their education. Some families won’t allow the children to go to school, because that means less income from their work, and the family cannot survive without their income.
Another drawback to educating girls is that child marriage is still practiced in many areas of the country. Many girls are pregnant or married off before age 18. In other cases, neither girls nor their families can afford the fee for school, so they drop out at an early age, often turning to prostitution as a means of supporting themselves and their families. Many sources claim that girls sometimes find sponsors to pay for their education, who later take advantage of the proffered aid to exploit the girls. They then have a choice of continuing school and enduring the exploitation or of quitting school—and still having no means of support other than begging or prostitution. This is not, of course, the case in every situation, but is unfortunately not uncommon.
Empowering Girls Will Help Liberia
Education creates more opportunities for women, and paves the way for women to help improve their own lives and the lives and condition of their community. Liberian girls who receive more years of education are more likely to marry later and have fewer children, which enables them to remain longer in school, better support their future family, and pursue a self-supporting job. Educated women make better choices for health, nutrition, finances, and have higher self-esteem. They introduce healthier habits into their homes, increasing the likelihood of their children’s survival; consequently, the survival rate of infants with more educated mothers is higher than the national average. They are able to make better decisions for buying, choosing, and preparing foods, providing a healthier diet for their families, which increases the overall health of family members.
More education increases lifetime earning potential; just one extra year in elementary school increases potential wages by 10-20%, and one more year of secondary school by 15-25%. Furthermore, Liberian men invest only 30-40% of their income in their families, whereas women/girls use 90% of their income to help their family. So women who are able to enter the workforce contribute more significantly to reducing the poverty level of their families than their male counterparts. Increased self-esteem means they are less likely to turn to prostitution as their first available means of support, and less likely to become pregnant at a very young age, which in turn decreases the overall number of children they have and increases their ability to support the smaller families they do have, especially when combined with marketable skills provided by an education.
Liberian Girls Are Anxious to Learn
When we think of grade schools, we think of young children. This is not necessarily the case in Liberia. Many girls in grades 1-5 are older than you would think. For example, one third grade girl’s mother is sick, and she wants to become a nurse to help people like her mother. Sound’s familiar – like many young third graders. Except that this young lady is 18. Another girl in second grade wants to be a journalist to help keep people in her country informed and warned about things like oncoming wars. She is 13. Girls as old as 20 can be found in first grade.* They desperately want to learn, but have not had opportunities—so they find themselves in “primary school” as adults who want to improve their lot.
*Source: (She Looks Back video,http://www.air.org/resource/she-looks-back-video, accessed 1/18/2018.)
Empowering Girls for a Better Future
Ri’ayah will initiate our work by building new schools in communities that have none, and rebuilding schools in those that do. We will re-roof and repair the schools, supply furniture, books and chalkboards. We will train teachers and provide volunteer mentors to help existing staff become qualified, and train new staff to join their ranks. We will find ways to allow girls to attend school—providing scholarships, lowered or waived school fees, free access to school supplies and books, showing villages the benefits of an educated community—so students can give back to their community as nurses, teachers, better farmers, and more. As parents see the value of education, they will allow their children time away from home and work in the fields to attend—and study for—school.
We will start by focusing on one community at a time. Once we have achieved our goal in one community, we will move on to the next…and the next.
Join us in our cause by participating or donating so we can continue moving forward with our mission!