The Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP) is challenging every philanthropist and feminist to “Become a Movement Maker.”
WGEP’s one-million-dollar campaign will enable 20,000 girls in remote areas of East and West Africa to get an education. WGEP notes that despite recent gains, women still comprise two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, and are less likely than boys to attend school. In rural Africa, the situation is particularly bad: only 15 percent of girls graduate from high school.
In its “Become a Movement Maker” campaign, WGEP is appealing to all sectors of the philanthropy community, particularly women donors and family foundations. According to WGEP, Movement Makers “will embark on an exclusive insider’s journey of our growth efforts, culminating with a global celebration in Kenya in the spring of 2021.”
WGEP has been helping educate girls since 2004, working with grassroots leaders in Kenya and Senegal to co-design programs that have impacted over 15,500 adolescent girls and women in 75 impoverished communities. “What makes our program unique is our close partnerships with local leaders and the range of services we are able to provide, says WGEP Founder and Executive Director Amy Maglio. “The combination has resulted in more girls succeeding in school but also changes in community perception of gender roles and stereotypes.”
Education goes beyond literacy and numeracy. WGEP team leaders in Tharaka Nithi County in Kenya and the Fatik region in Senegal are also helping reform harmful social norms and change how females are viewed. The ultimate goal is to create more stable and just societies. “We need to educate girls and keep them in school so that they can be empowered but also work with and train boys and men that women can do more,” notes Kenya Project Director Aniceta Kiriga. “We need to change their perspective that women belong at home.”
WGEP is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 4 (Quality Education) and number 5 (Gender Equality). The SDGs are a collection of global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. UNESCO has released data suggesting that it may not hit its 2030 goals for education; this failure provides added impetus for WGEP to accelerate its efforts in Senegal and Kenya.
WGEP has garnered support from Michelle Obama’s Girls Opportunity Alliance, an Obama Foundation initiative that seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education. The returns are obvious. Better educated girls tend to marry later and have fewer children. They also have a higher standard of living and healthier families, as well as less exposure to violence and practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM). A PW piece earlier this year (“How This Nonprofit is Growing Support to End FGM Globally”) interviewed Maglio, and focused on efforts to replace this ritual in favor of an Alternative Rite of Passage program. The Obama Foundation has been particularly supportive of this initiative, as detailed in another PW article, “How’s the Obama Foundation Doing with Building Global Girls Alliance?”
The WGEP is based in Oak Park, Illinois and has teams in Kenya and Senegal working with local organizations. In Oak Park, WGEP staff is developing a more concerted effort to track and measure progress in girl’s education and other areas, and communicate the results to the wider international development field.
In addition to the Obama Foundation, WGEP partners include a range of non-profits, NGOs, government entities and corporations including USAID, the Manaaki Foundation, the Clinton Foundation, United Nations Girls Education Initiative, Caterpillar Foundation, U.S. Department of State, Dining for Women, Neutrogena, NPR, IBM, Global Giving, The Chicago Community Trust, LuminAID and Johnson & Johnson.
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