Empowering Women Leaders Through Education
Two-thirds of the world’s 785 million illiterate adults are female. Educating and empowering these women is a key first step to ending poverty 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.
Meet the women leaders from across the U.S. who are committed to developing female leaders in the economically impoverished countries where buildOn works. Each of these amazing women has invested $1,000 to support buildOn’s adult literacy classes, skilled labor apprenticeship programs and the development of female leaders in the buildOn organization.
Every person deserves the opportunity to learn, to dream, and to live a life without fear. Education is the key to understanding ourselves and others. We can make a difference by supporting women’s education. We can change the world by giving women the chance to gain an education and use knowledge to empower themselves and those around them.
Women are the backbone of their communities. Educating women empowers them to break out of poverty and build a better life for their families. I met an amazing woman last summer while on a buildOn trek in Burkina Faso, and got to know what education promises while living in her household for the week. Ruth, our host mother, has had 9 children, 8 of them still living. Ruth never attended school, and cannot read or write her name. That didn’t stop her from lining up to put her thumbprint on the buildOn covenant, promising to provide the hard labor necessary to build a school. Ruth rose before dawn to carry water, feed the animals, and prepare breakfast for her extended family. Then she went to the worksite, where she made repeated trips to fill cans of water and carry them on her head to where we mixed cement. With a laugh, she took the shovel out of my hands and dug in herself. Ruth was everywhere on the worksite, smiling and pitching in. Ruth told me that she did this to make sure that her daughters would have choices in their lives, and she hoped education would bring a better future for her family. Later, she returned to the fields, where she tended to her crops before cooking for her family yet again. Today, her daughters are learning to read and write, and are empowered to gain access to later marriages, better jobs, healthcare, freedom from violence and more.
I know I am very fortunate to have grown up in a society that not only allowed me to go to school, but put no restrictions on what I could study or what career path I could take. I was able to explore many different areas before deciding on what was best for me. That freedom of choice is something that most of us who grew up in the first world take for granted. Far too many other women around the globe are not given those same opportunities. The next Marie Curie may not even know she’s interested in science because she’s never been given the chance to study it. The next Maya Angelou might not know how to read. But these circumstances are preventable, as long as we are proactive. So, when it is in our power to help less fortunate women and give them the chance to learn, how could you not? When you come to the aid of one woman, you not only help her, but, in turn, her whole family and, then, her whole community. Bit by bit, that can change the world.
The education of women and young girls is both a moral prerogative and an economic necessity. Equality is a basic human right, and while as a nation we have made great strides, gender equality still remains an unfulfilled promise for many women in this country and most certainly in our developing countries across the globe. A nation thrives when all of its people can participate and contribute equally to the health and productivity of their citizenry. Yet women today are much more likely to live in poverty, and in some nations have little or no access to education and job training, affordable housing and credit – the very apparatus needed to lift oneself out of the grips of poverty. While legal and policy reforms remain a necessary focus, education remains the greatest tool to equality and empowerment of women. An educated woman is an empowered woman. The education and development of women provides them more autonomy to better manage their own lives, opens the doors to opportunities for financial independence and for the development and attainment of personal ambitions. Through education women are better able to contribute to the health and productivity of their whole family and their communities, and most importantly, they are able to set the example for future generations of women.
There is no doubt that women hold the key to improving not just their own lot, and that of their family, but of their entire community. Breaking a cycle that keeps them from doing that is simple, and the beauty of buildOn is it asks nothing more than to let people live up to their own potential. I can’t imagine anything better than that.
I am a firm and passionate believer that strong, confident, educated women make our world a better, smarter and kinder place. But this does not happen on its own. My own journey began as a Ukrainian student boarding a plane to the US with only $100 in her pocket on my way to earning my PhD in Physics, up to me leading an Investment Firm certainly did not. I had unbelievable family, friends, mentors and supporters that made this journey possible. I am committed to doing my part to ensure that my 10-year-old daughter, and every other little girl in the world, are educated and empowered so that they too could build their own path in life.
In everyone’s lives they will encounter their own obstacles. While we cannot break down every one, we can empower today’s girls to not see their gender as one of their obstacles, but rather as a beautiful part of their identity. My mother raised me in a home that valued education and taught me to learn to love to learn. She felt that becoming an educated woman would provide the foundation for a bright future. I have always loved school, and through my mother’s encouragement, I have found success. I see this continuing in my daughter and granddaughter, and I have hope that this pattern continues. Women who came before my generation began to break the barriers of what a woman’s role in the world was and could be. Women of my generation were able to take on roles of leadership in a man’s world. We need to empower the women of this and future generations to see the world where the possibilities for themselves are endless. It is the foundation of these prior experiences that empower today’s girls to be their own agents of change. I say, you will be successful not in spite of the societal norms set up you by your gender, but because you were born who you are. And within that, the possibilities are endless.
I am inspired and humbled by the individuals who are reached and whose lives are changed through buildOn’s education and literacy initiatives. Also by the generous members of buildOn who empower communities in the US and around the globe while leaving legacies that will last for future generations.
A young mind is a powerful thing—full of imagination and big ideas that haven’t yet been reined in by societal expectations, financial limitations, or the day-to-day stressors that bog down adults. But those minds need guidance to make their dreams a reality, and education is the support system that can get them there. With education, it’s those minds that will change the world.
When I was growing up, my parents taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. They believed very strongly in education and the role it plays in empowering us to make decisions, ensure success and plan for the future. As a result of their faith in the vital role of education, I attended college, developed skills and went on to pursue a career. Someday, I hope to teach my children the same valuable lesson my parents taught me.
Education is the root of development and knowledge is power. In society, women have the ability to influence their families, peers and communities. Education will enable women to be change agents within these groups. To empower women in developing nations by improving literacy, providing work opportunities and encouraging contributions to society, we can start to turn the tide of poverty. These women will be able to do anything they put their minds to!
Education goes beyond a degree or a diploma. It’s a catalyst for change. Educating just one woman and giving her a voice births new ideas, creativity and healing both personally and for others. Through this voice comes the power to transform her community, which creates a ripple effect throughout the world. We should work together to make sure each and every woman at least has the access to education that will ultimately benefit us all.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you.”
I support International Women’s Day efforts because women have so much to offer the world and often times they don’t get equal opportunity to be heard or showcase their gifts. Last year I was fortunate enough to spend time in a rural impoverished Nicaraguan community. During my stay abroad, I learned so much about the work that needs to be done to level the playing field for women. I was quite intrigued by the strong, bold, and courageous women that labor very hard to maintain their households and take care of their families. With so many stereotypes of gender roles and the perspective that women belong at home and men should be at the office, I want to be a part of the solution to break this cycle. Let’s empower women today and tomorrow across the globe to live their best life!
Women are our first teachers. As daughters, mothers, sisters, friends and wives, women shape those around them. Women love and nurture; they are supporters, encouragers, and comforters. They are creators, inventors, doers, givers, and problem solvers. When we empower and educate women, we allow them to see their worth, and enable them to inspire, act and advocate for themselves. As women gain knowledge, confidence, and strength, there are no limits to the impact they can make in the world.
With education, a woman gains hope and a crucial first step towards freedom. A woman who can think for herself and take care of herself can provide a better life for her children; she can resist oppression; she can enrich her community; and she can inspire others.
Research has shown that teams of men and women are more successful than teams made up entirely of men, or teams made up entirely of women. Educated women can step up and truly be on the team – whether in the workplace, in government, in civil society, or in family life – to the benefit of all of us.
It is not only a privilege for me to support the International Women’s Day buildOn campaign, I view it as my responsibility. I grew up at a time when access to education was not an issue. In fact, there was an expectation set by my parents that I would attain the grades that would allow me entrance into a top university. However, I was also keenly aware that my mother was the first generation in our family to earn a degree in the 1950’s, while neither of my grandmothers were afforded the opportunity to pursue an education. We have come so far.
The privilege of an education, sadly remains out of reach for far too many women and girls around the world. I believe we are a global society, and as such it is our responsibility to support organizations and campaigns that seek to provide access to education to women. We know that educating women makes a difference. The difference is felt by the woman, her family and their communities. Ultimately the world will become a better place when equal access to education is afforded to all! We must to do what we can to make this dream a reality!
After visiting Malawi with buildOn in 2013, I was personally empowered by the women in the village. The women of the village worked tirelessly to provide a stable foundation for both their families and the overall community. Although this was one village in one country, we know this is a universal motivation by women all around the world. Education will provide women the opportunity they want and deserve to enrich themselves and the next generation.
Educating and empowering women around the world is one of the most effective things we can do to help eradicate extreme poverty and its effects. I have witnessed first hand the impact of educating women and girls in the villages in Mali where I have helped to build schools. The girls aspire to become doctors and teachers; their mothers and grandmothers are able to contribute to the financial support of their families. When a village has schools and education, it becomes an integral part of the broader social, economic and political community; and educated women and girls take an active role in that community. Educating women and girls has a far reaching and permanent impact in helping impoverished communities improve their lives.
Providing women with the opportunity to become educated is a crucial step towards ending the global education crisis. When a woman is educated, she becomes empowered to change not only her own life, but also the lives of those around her: her children, her family, her friends, her community. Give one woman a quality education and see her influence broader society. Thank you buildOn for the work you do, and for recognizing the power of educating women across the world.
If educating every girl will start a chain reaction to end most of global issues affecting women – gendercide, sex slavery, oppression, and intense wartime brutality, etc. – then there is much to be done. When girls and women are educated they better their lives and that of their families, communities, and countries. As a college educated women, I am very clear about the value of education and I believe strongly that every girl in the world deserves the opportunity to go to school. As well, I am part of community of millions of college educated women who believe the same. Through the Circle of Sisterhood, sorority women across North America are standing together to remove barriers to education for girls worldwide. As the most educated women in the world, we believe strongly that when every girl has access to education, the world will be a better place. We will continue to work to that end.
I believe that every woman deserves a chance to be heard, an opportunity to be a leader, and the support to follow her dreams. As women, we must stand together to make a push for women globally to have the rights to education, so that we can all reach our fullest potential.
Educating women has a transformative impact on so many aspects of society and makes great economic sense for a family, a community, and a nation. Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth, a mother’s education improves child nutrition, and girls with higher levels of education are less likely to marry early and have children at an early age. Education narrows the pay gap as well. The list of benefits continues. This is why I support buildOn’s adult literacy program.
I support buildOn and its global educational efforts, as well as International Women’s Day because I strongly believe that in order to promote just and democratic societies, women must be part of the decision making process and leadership. It is therefore imperative that girls receive equal access to education and that they are encouraged and supported in their educational endeavors. Without education women are faced with a bleak future; Without educational access for girls, societies are faced with that same bleak future. If you evaluate all the regions in the world where poverty, hopelessness and violence abound, you will find that women are absent from the public square. The educated woman is a powerful force for good in society and although we must be mindful of cultural differences, we can never excuse the denial of education for girls because the consequences are dire for those societies.
I believe every individual should have the opportunity to assemble a toolkit full of knowledge and experiences to build a life of joy, achievement and security for themselves and their families. Benjamin Franklin once stated that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Through my experiences as a banker, community volunteer and mother of two teenage daughters, I have experienced firsthand the power of education and the importance of diverse leadership in building a better world. It is exciting to witness the personal growth experienced by women through the buildOn programs and the enrichment it brings to communities across the globe. I am honored to be a part of the buildOn journey and I am inspired by the impact that education has on widening opportunities and breaking cycles of poverty and disenfranchisement.
Kimberly was nominated by her sister, Kyle Schauenberg, who writes:
Education provides a woman with a sense of self-worth. My sister and I were blessed with parents who taught us to believe in ourselves and recognize our self-worth from a very young age. It was their confidence in our abilities that encouraged us to take risks and embrace challenges; however, it was our successes in education that empowered us to become independent, thriving women. Educating women opens worlds, transports us and allows us to dream far past our present circumstances. When women trust their enlightened minds, it leads us to new ideas, new territory and new experiences. I believe that when women are given the opportunity to learn, it ignites a passion, a flame that cannot be stifled by naysayers or oppressors. The pride and liberation that comes from accomplishing any degree of education leads women to greater and increasing challenges. As women confront each new educational step, it creates an inspirational path to guide other women and grant them the confidence to accomplish what may have once seemed impossible. It is not only our obligation to support other women in their educational endeavors, it is our honor to support them and encourage their deep understanding of self-worth.
As the African proverb says “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family (nation).” This quote came to life for me on two buildOn treks, the first to Nicaragua and the second to Malawi, when I saw the power of women in some of the poorest nations in the world. Their passion and drive fuel their families and their communities. Whether they were cooking meals (as early as 4am!), digging trenches for their children’s new school or learning how to read and write in buildOn’s Adult Literacy Program, they did it with a quiet fortitude that radiated purpose. It is imperative that we empower all women across the globe to educate themselves and their children. I will never forget their strength, nor their smiles.
Education is a fundamental human right. Educating women and girls has a lasting impact that ripples through her family and community. In honor of International Women’s Day and buildOn, I am thrilled to support this campaign. As Malala Yousafzai said: “Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Wise words which buildOn makes a reality every day.
Karen D. Vachon
Imagine the massive increased contribution to society if half of the global population were able to achieve more than they previously believed by removing self-limiting belief patterns through education. This reality is within reach by the education and empowerment of women. The impact to the globe is comprehensive. It is without racial, economic, political or religious bounds. Women’s education and empowerment in all walks of life can introduce a necessary balance in successful decision making for families, villages, businesses, and governments. Women have shown to introduce inclusive, progressive, creative, constructive and generative solutions to problems faced in all facets of life.
Each woman realizing their self-empowerment through the education will be a building block upon which other women can build. The witnessing of another woman breaking through the conceived limit of possibilities will inspire the next and highlight the possibilities for all. What the standard was before will be shattered and the next level of achievement will be expectation for the next generation.
Women provide unique value that needs to be leveraged in all aspects of life. Empowering women through education will also provide the self-confidence to identify and share their discovered value with others resulting in the propagation of knowledge with both women and men they encounter. Societies need to acknowledge the potential for growth and prosperity that can be achieved when women are included and valued contributors.
I am committed to empowering and educating women across the globe as I feel that it is every person’s right to be educated and to be able to fully understand what is going on around them – not only in their own communities, but globally. Education is the stepping stone to making smart and informed decisions.
Other International Women’s Day Investors: