Sports brings people together more than perhaps anything other event. Case in point: Super Bowl 2014 was the most-watched television event in history, with the World Cup final not far behind. So it was not surprising that hundreds of people gathered to watch the Because I am a Girl Cup in Nepal, a soccer tournament that brought together girls from 12 districts all over the country in a public event to compete for the tournament cup, as well as to raise awareness about the rights of girls across the nation. Local newspapers picked up the story, and mainstream and social media around the event reached about 10 million people.
Early marriage and school dropout are major issues for girls in Nepal, and they are often expected to stay at home and perform household work. The line between what girls can do and what boys can do seems impenetrable. But there is no limit to what determined girls can accomplish. So in the fall of 2014, 190 girls from 12 districts in Nepal walked confidently out of their houses, laced up their shoes, and showed the country that girls can do anything that boys can do.
Fighting discrimination is complex work. Conversations about girls’ rights can stir up deep emotions and often trigger defensive responses. But a sports game is transcendent. It changes people’s perceptions of who girls are and what girls can do without them ever realizing it is happening. Suddenly, girls go from silent housekeepers to soccer stars, running and kicking and yelling across a field that was once thought to be “boys-only territory.”
What did girls say about the Because I am a Girl Cup?
“The Because I am a Girl Cup proved that women are as strong as men physically as well as mentally.”
- Rekha, captain of the Kanchanpur team
“This is different from other tournaments - this is to stop discrimination and abuse against girls, to raise awareness among people about the importance of education for girls. ”
- Sushmita, a player on the Kathmandu team
What else have you made possible for girls in Nepal?
376 centers for non-formal education have served 9,383 children (93% girls).
300 children and 300 parents were educated on preventing trafficking.
149 vulnerable children (Muslim children and children from low castes) who had dropped out of school are attending non-formal education programs to rejoin formal schools.
The Info Booth at the Indian border cross-checked 192 children and rescued 46 children who were being trafficked into India as child laborers.
See what five special girls around the world are wishing for this holiday season…
“All I want is an education to know how to read, to give back to my community and to be something more.” Nourhan is a 15-year-old girl from Egypt, and she has never been to school. She goes to work to earn money to pay for her dowry. But the Because I am a Girl program in Egypt is launching this year in Nourhan’s hometown, providing the opportunity for girls who have never been to school to receive alternative education.
“I want to become a French teacher so that I can make money to buy clothes and food for my family and for old people in the village.” Florence, from Burkina Faso, is 15 years old, and almost didn’t go to school. She was often sick as a child, and her parents were forced to choose between healthcare and an education for her. But thanks to your support of the Because I am a Girl program, Florence received a scholarship and is now excelling in secondary school.
“I wish I could tell girls everywhere, ‘We’re not less! Sometimes men look down on women, but we have to stand up and be confident. We’re worth it!’” Johana is a teenager in El Salvador, one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Girls and women are often casualties of the gang violence that rages across the country, and they face harassment and the threat of sexual abuse every day. The Because I am a Girl program in Johana’s community created safe spaces for girls to gather and support one another, and to learn about preventing and reporting violence. Johana has taken on a leadership role, and often counsels younger girls at her home who are facing difficult situations.
“I’ve seen a lot of violence against girls, but I realized the school was trying to change that. I want to be a part of that change.” At age 14, Mestawet is just finishing primary school in Ethiopia. In her hometown on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, schools do exist, but they are not friendly places for girls. The Because I am a Girl program is working in her school and 7 others to ensure that they have clean water, safe toilets, school materials, and teachers who are trained in nonviolent classroom management. Mestawet is a Girl Ambassador at her school, and she helps the project staff give extra support to girls who are very vulnerable.
“I’m dreaming of a better life for my son Tuan. I borrowed $25 to buy a piglet, and soon I will sell it for twice as much as I paid. I’ve never in my life had that much money!” 19-year-old Giao is a member of the Because I am a Girl Village Savings and Loan program in Vietnam. The Savings Groups give young women the chance to save and borrow money, to manage their finances, and to invest in their own businesses to plan for the future.
THANK YOU for making a difference in the lives of girls around the world and giving them something to hope for this holiday season. Happy Holidays from Plan International USA!
“I want to BE BOLD and speak out without shame. Then I can help and teach others.” Mariama, a 15-year-old girl from Sierra Leone says confidently. In her hometown of Songo, Mariama takes a proud stand for the rights of girls with disabilities, so they will be protect from abuse and included with all children in school and the community.
Join Mariama and millions of people around the world on October 11th, the 3rd International Day of the Girl, as we celebrate the bold actions of girls, women, boys, and men who stand up for girls’ rights every day. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.”
Because of your generous support of the Because I am a Girl program, over 30,000 girls in 8 countries have what they need to thrive: schools, water, scholarships, healthcare, financial knowledge, practical skills, and the support of hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, and community members.
Here’s snapshot of what you’ve accomplished for girls around the world:
But the change is even bigger than these numbers: A local Plan staff member who works on the Because I am a Girl project in Sierra Leone says, “There is a change now in the way that girls are seen. There was a time in these communities when they could treat girls badly, but now it’s different. Girls eat with parents out of the same bowl.”
Village Savings and Loan Groups have been used in a number of countries throughout the world, including Sierra Leone, to introduce low-income communities to the basics of saving money and planning for future expenses, particularly when banks are not easily accessible. These skills are especially valuable for young women in Sierra Leone, as more than 70% will be single mothers at some point in their lives.
Plan’s Because I am a Girl Program in Sierra Leone teaches these skills to girls as young as 7 years old, in Girls’ Savings and Loan Groups, in order to prepare them to manage money before they even get their first job. As with adults, these Savings Groups build confidence and provide a platform to teach other skills, such as public speaking, violence prevention, and business skills.
15-year-old Isha joined the Savings Group in her community of Songo, and was selected as a Girl Ambassador to teach her peers what she learned. “The most important thing I learned was how to talk in public,” she says. “I used to be quiet and not speak out, but now I am bold and confident.”
After a year of saving money, Isha gave the money that she’d saved to her mother, Tokumbo, who used it to pay for her school fees and invest in the family business. Tokoumbo, was impressed by what she saw.
“What was interesting to me was that the children really prepared for the Savings Group meetings — they washed up and put on their best clothes to go meet with each other,” says Tokumbo. “I admire my girl when she is bold now to stand up for her rights.
“And all of us parents were impressed by the money that the children could save. We decided that we wanted to do this Savings Group as adults. Now every Wednesday on market day, 10 of us meet together, and we each give 10,000 leons (about $2) to one person in our group. We’ve been doing this now for 15 weeks. Every week we give to a different person. This is all because of the girls who first started doing this.”
Girls’ Savings Groups in Sierra Leone build confidence and lay a practical foundation to help a girl thrive in the future. Moreover, these girls share their knowledge and skills with their families — revealing that if you educate a girl, you can change the world.
Shewaye is a mother of two who lives in Akaki Kality, a slum on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There are thousands of people but very few ways to make money, and many are homeless.
“I have always been looking for ways to support my children since my husband died,” Shewaye confessed. “A friend gave me the idea to go to another country and be a nanny for other children, and I even got the visa to go.
“But I couldn’t leave my children here. Right before he died, my husband told me, ‘If you get remarried you have to find someone who really loves the children.’” Tears welled up in her eyes. “Taking care of my children is more important than anything else in the world.”
Adolescent girls are at a critical point in their lives, and your support has provided scholarships to make sure that these girls, like Shewaye’s daughter Mebrate, receive the vital education that they need to thrive in the future. But we don’t want girls to be dependent on scholarships—ideally, loving parents like Shewaye would be able to provide for their children.
That’s why your gifts to the Because I am a Girl project in Ethiopia provide scholarships for girls AND business training and microfinance opportunities for parents through savings groups.
“When I was first invited to the savings group, I wasn’t interested in it,” Shewaye admitted. “I was so busy raising my children as a single mom, and I thought it was a waste of time. But when I listened to the ideas behind the savings group, I thought I would give it a try. I was selling coffee to try to make money, and after I joined the savings group, I’ve been able to start selling food as well. I rented more space with a loan of 500 Birr (about $25). I only wish I had learned these business skills earlier so I could have beneitted even more. I can manage my money well now.”
Shewaye is the cashier of her savings group and says that everyone in the group is doing well now. They are making plans to join together to create a larger business as a group selling juice and food to hotels.
“Because of the savings group, I can care for my children right here with them,” says Shewaye. “I hope that your support will continue to reach others like it has reached me.”
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