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Girls Learn International
Imagine a life in which all you could hope for was to be married and have children. It is not guaranteed that this spouse will respect you or even be your age because your family is forced to marry you off for money. You have no education to cerate a better life for yourself, so you are stuck in an abusive relationship, never realizing your full potential.
This is the life many girls in third-world countries; such as Afghanistan, Kenya, Cambodia, Ghana, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Vietnam, and more; are resigned to.
Girls Learn International (GLI) is an organization that is working towards raising awareness for the necessity of girls’ education.
“The right to a free and compulsory primary education without discrimination is recognized as a fundamental human right, yet millions of girls around the world do not have access to education,” states the Girls Learn website.
To promote this idea around the country, Girls Learn offers teens the opportunity to open a chapter in their middle or high schools.
While reading a book, Half the Sky, Kaitlin, a junior in high school, found out about Girls Learn. Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argues that if given help and tools, women are capable of holding up half the sky and should be allowed to. It focuses on the abuse of women in Africa and Asia. Kaitlin read this book and decided to take action.
GLI was found in 2003 with the belief that young people have and important role in leading a movement to change that status quo. Kaitlin took on this challenge by starting a chapter of GLI at her school.
“I wanted to start Girls Learn to raise awareness about real issues in the world. Getting girls motivated locally can eventually cause change for girls who are abused, forced into marriages, and neglected of rights. Education is the solution for these issues,” says Kaitlin.
Mrs. Stonitsch, an English teacher, became the advisor of this club over the summer when Kaitlin expressed her interest in Girls Learn and asked Mrs. Stonitsch to sponsor the club's chapter.
“I believe in what she is trying to accomplish with the Strongsville community, especially here at Strongsville High School, and I admire her drive and determination to bring awareness to this community in connection to the lack of education and funding for academic success for females in third world countries,” comments Mrs. Stonitsch.
In GLI meetings, which take place every other Wednesday after school, participants learn about human rights and girls’ education.
“This year I am focusing on teaching about human rights. I want people to know how other countries work and how women are treated. I am learning so much too! I hope to raise some funds, but mostly raise awareness. Once people care more actions will be taken,” says Kaitlin. The group hopes to hold a bake sale to work towards fundraising soon.
United States chapters of GLI are given partner schools once they are established. The partner schools are in countries where girls have limited access to education. The schools communicate and learn about each other.
90% of the funds raised by the U.S. chapters are donated to the partner schools to increase girls’ access to education and help empower them. The club hopes to have a partner school next year.
“My ultimate goal is to bring hope to girls who do not get an education. I hope to make connections and differences in the young girls’ lives. One day they can be successful,” enthused Kaitlin.
An education will give these girls the tools they need to lead independent and successful lives, not relying on anybody. “In 2002, 2% of Afghan girls went to school. Today 35% do. Let’s make it 100%,” states the Girls Learn website in celebration of the accomplishment of many activists.
“I hope we can raise sufficient funds to help Girls Learn International provide the teachers, educational resources, and academic environment for these girls so that poverty, prostitution, drug addiction, and other issues can be reduced and hopefully eliminated. These young ladies need to be given the same opportunities that children in the United States are given, and with fundraisers and being informed, we hope to be a part of that success,” said Mrs. Stonitsch.
Much effort and work has gone into establishing the new chapter of Girls Learn. Hopes are that this will spark and interest and involvement in the feminist movement in Strongsville. A few people getting involved will spread the message and one day the club could help more and more girls live up to their potential.
“I joined GLI because I thought that it was a fantastic opportunity to help girls in other countries, who do not have the resouces I have,” comments Vrinda, a member of GLI.
As Kaitlin hopes, “I believe helping even a few girls will make a difference because they can help even more girls. Eventually new cycles will be started! I’m not going to sit back and wit for change, I’m trying to make it!”