Emily Leys is Global Director of Girls' Education for Room to Read and a passionate advocate for gender equality around the globe.
Today is the first ever International Day of the Girl Child (as designated by the United Nations), and if you ask me it is a long time coming. On behalf of the entire Girls’ Education team worldwide, I couldn’t be more excited to commemorate this day and the incredible opportunity it represents to engage girls, schools and communities around the globe in bringing about greater gender equality.
The benefits of educating girls are well-documented and they extend to families, communities, and whole nations. But most importantly, providing equal access to girls is simply the right thing to do. All children deserve an education and the opportunity it accords. For girls in the countries where we work—in places like the sandbar islands of Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam—education is the key to health, security, active citizenship and a better life for future generations. That’s why our teams in nine countries across Africa and Asia are hard at work each day providing the academic support, mentoring and life skills training that the girls on our program need to succeed in school and beyond.
On a recent trip to Zambia, where our program is wrapping up its fifth year of operation, I was humbled yet again by the lengths the young women on our program go to in order to get an education and expand their options. This includes the literal length of five miles walked to and from school each day, but also the hours poured into study and courage to break with traditions in conflict with their dreams. In a community where early marriage has been the norm for generations, these young women are determined to finish school before moving on to marriage and parenthood. I’m reminded of an 11th grade student named Esther telling me, “I want to have a family, but only after I launch my career in journalism.”
Young women like Esther make me more confident than ever that gender equality in education is within reach. The fact is that despite all odds there are countless girls across the developing world who are bravely claiming their right to education, making important choices for themselves, and inspiring others in their communities to do the same.
This powerful ripple effect is the subject of a new documentary, Girl Rising, set to premiere in spring of 2013. The ground-breaking film, produced by our partners at 10x10, will feature the story of Suma Tharu, a Room to Read student from Nepal, along with nine other trail-blazing young women. You can read more about Suma’s story on our website.
In honor International Day of the Girl, we are excited to share the film’s trailer, and announce that a group of generous Room to Read supporters has committed to matching all donations 2-to-1 through the end of the day in honor of this special occasion (up to $350,000). Learn more and donate at www.roomtoread.org/10x10act
This afternoon at 3:00pm PST, join Emily—along with representatives from Intel, CARE and more—for an Ashoka Changemakers Twitter chat on how to leverage technology to improve the lives of women and girls. Follow the action with the hashtags #SocEntChat and #IDG2012!