“Every literate woman marks a victory over poverty.”
– UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Of the 775 million illiterate adults in the world today, two-thirds are women.
Just being able to read this simple statistic gives you a huge advantage in life. Your literacy propels you forward in the world, allows you to travel from place to place, to count and exchange money with confidence, to express your ideas thoughtfully, and to live independently without relying on your spouse or parent. But for 493 million women, this is reality is just a dream.
The complicated reasons of why girls are excluded from education are deep-seated; buried in social stigma and cultural norms that have been reinforced over centuries.
For instance, women and girls in developing countries are almost exclusively tasked with caregiving and household responsibilities. Child rearing, housekeeping, and even caring for a sick relative, are designated specifically as women’s work, limiting opportunities to pursue dreams outside the home. But, women are not born into these roles. They learn them from the social structures around them. For most of the patriarchal world, which includes the developing world, men have significant influence over a woman’s life: including who she marries and when, how many children she has, and what skills she should be able to perform.
Even if a woman is not actively denied an education other activities are often prioritized, such as helping around the house, fetching water, and working the family farm. If a family can choose to keep one child in school, it is often the boy.
At buildOn we believe…
Educating and empowering women is a key first step to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations in the developing world. When women are educated they lift up their entire communities by improving family health, developing sustainable businesses, and making greater contributions to society.
buildOn works in seven countries building primary schools in villages with little to no access to education. Through this work we have made it a strategic priority to promote and enhance gender equality in every community where we work. Our strategies include:
- Ensuring Gender Equity in Every buildOn School: By signing the buildOn Covenant, a community not only pledges to contribute all of the unskilled labor it takes to build the school, they also promises to send their girls to school in equal numbers with their boys.
- Providing Adult Literacy Classes: In these classes, adults who were never able to attend or complete school are taught literacy and numeracy through the lens of health, enterprise and relevant life skills, while helping them generate strategic plans for income generating activities. 78% of all Adult Literacy participants are women.
- Launching a Construction Apprentice Program: In buildOn’s Apprentice Program, women are given the opportunity to shadow buildOn’s skilled laborers and learn valuable construction skills during their local school building project. At the end of the apprenticeship they earn a certificate from buildOn and can even be hired as a member of the buildOn skilled labor team.
- Developing Women Leaders in the buildOn Organization: We are fighting back against the low expectations of women by providing professional development opportunities for female leaders in buildOn project countries. Whether these women serve as Country Directors, Education Officers or Construction Managers they will be provided with the skills they need to lead.
This March, in honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month we are uniting women leaders around the world help create more opportunities for women in the developing world – because we are stronger together than we are apart.
Visit buildon.org/stronger-together to join us.