International Day of Women and Girls in Science: All Things Being Equal

“The roles that men and women play in society are not biologically determined. They are socially determined, changing and changeable.”  –  United Nations

There are scientists amongst us who will leave a legacy on the world. They will help complete the puzzle of disease, provide a light for innovation, close the canyons of ignorance, and invent new ways to look at this world. They will spend years cataloging, equating, failing, and trying again. They will learn another language — that of math and the sciences — and spend their lives using this language to uncover solutions and dissolve mystery. They are our translators of the possible.

With the challenges we face, socially and ecologically, we need every curious mind.

Rahel B. Faustine of Tanzania — supported through primary and secondary school, via the support of Asante Africa Foundation throughout; one of seven children supported by their mother’s subsistence farming — is one of these translators of the possible. After completing primary school in 2011, she joined secondary school, 5 kms away from home. Long distances and limited commuting resources is a major reason why girls dropout of school. Adding to this was a severe ear infection, which made it more difficult for her to travel during cold and rainy days. However, nothing deterred her. She successfully completed her secondary education and joined Arusha Technical College in 2016 to pursue Electronics and Telecommunications engineering.

“I decided to pursue Electronics Engineering because I was curious. People discouraged me and told me that a woman can’t be an engineer. I want to work hard to change these thoughts. I want to prove that a girl can achieve anything, if she has focus and vision. An educated girl has the potential to change the world.”

On this International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we celebrate her and the millions of other girls and women on this path.

                                                      Rahel explaining her recent experiments

But Rahel’s is too rare an opportunity. Two-thirds of illiterates around the world are women, not even permitted the resources or access to a basic education, much less the study of math and science and the advancement to higher levels of schooling. This is a reality of access but it also a long held social choice, an inequity that exists around the world — and a priority that needs to change.

With a higher level of education indicating not just the health and opportunities of women but of whole families and generations, with how essential science and technology is to participation in shaping our 21st Century world, the United Nations has committed to gender equality as a fundamental part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.Actual sustainable development — the breath, freedom, and resiliency of and for our world’s population — is reliant on the opportunities available to girls and women. They are our most powerful translators of the possible. Our investment in the language of empowerment — including the language of math and science — our belief in their possibility, is crucial to expanding the possibilities of generations.

“According to a study conducted in 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%.” – United Nations

In partnership with the United Nations and thousands of organizations and people around the world — and in East Africa, particularly — we’ve made a commitment to education as a path out of poverty and towards sustainability for all. We’ve seen the transformation possible. And we’ve seen what our girls can do.

We want our generation to be the one that ends extreme poverty. We, as a world, are close and it is women and girls around the world, in our classrooms and beyond, that are our greatest levers. We must be their greatest champions. Today marks a day where the world renews our commitment to girls and women in their sciences, and celebrate their possibilities in this fight. Onward, great scientists.

“For this I must work . . . to make sure that I change incredibility to credibility and possibilities from impossibilities.” — Rahel B. Faustine

Additional Resources:
Engaging Women in Science, Technology, and Innovation and Shaping Africa’s Future
United Nations Population Fund: Gender Equality
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Rural Girls’ Education: Integrating Parents into the Equation

As part of its 15 year initiative for sustainable development, the UN included Gender Equality as number 5 on its list of sustainable development goals. Today, gender inequality continues to be a persistent issue around the globe. While women and girls represent half of the world’s population, and therefore half of its potential, 52 out of 143 countries have yet to take the step toward guaranteed equality between men and women (Gender Equality — Why it Matters).

A move toward making gender equality become a reality is providing women and girls with equal access to education and health care. One essential component is also ensuring girls and women have universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Ashley Orton, former Global Programs Director of Asante Africa Foundation shares her thoughts on good practices in girls’ education and gender equality.

“Systems-level approaches are necessary to promote and support girls’ education and agency. School-based comprehensive sexuality education has an important function to serve by accurately informing youth about their bodies, health and rights; building demand for products, facilities, services that enable youth to act on healthy decision-making; and gradually transforming social attitudes and harmful cultural practices that curtail girls’ education. As UNESCO conducts the process of reviewing and identifying appropriate updates of the 2009 International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education (ITGSE): An evidence-informed approach for schools, teachers and health educators, now is a prime opportunity to reflect upon the role and efficacy of extra-curricular interventions, like Asante Africa Foundation’s Girls’ Advancement Program, which fill implementation gaps that inordinately affect rural schools. Through UNGEI support, the organization conducted an end-point evaluation to measure the results of its program’s first two years. The process of compiling findings for the case study led to scrutiny of the intervention design and a better understanding of how different pieces may affect outcomes. In particular, findings highlight how the intervention’s parental engagement model appears to augment the demand for girls’ education in rural, East African communities by addressing barriers that come into play at puberty.

The Asante Africa Foundation initiative, Wezesha Vijana (Empower Youth) is based on the theory that adolescent girls equipped with a combination of health and social assets will have the know-how, confidence, and conviction to attend school regularly and advance academically. The project develops health assets through after-school puberty and sexual and reproductive health workshops grounded in a human rights framework. When strategic partnerships and/or funding allow, the project also addresses supply-side issues related to managing menstrual hygiene at school by providing feminine hygiene products, safe and sanitary latrines and handwashing facilities.

 
                                            P&G, manufacturer of Always, donates sanitary pads to girls

Complementary social assets consist of peer support generated in after-school clubs and the opening up of family dialogue around the value of girls’ education and barriers to it. The assumption is that knowledge, behavior and confidence changes fueled by these assets will improve school attendance and decrease pregnancy-related dropout, favorably affecting academic performance and enabling girls to advance further in school. Indeed, a key finding of case study research was a promising outcome seen in academic performance: more than ten times as many Wezesha girls sampled scored above average marks in standard examinations compared to the control group.

Schools, teachers and community-based mentors are critical partners in workshop and club implementation. However, a focus on engaging families is equally important. Through structured meetings, mothers and their daughters examine barriers like early marriage that cut education short and preclude the potential economic and health gains more schooling and additional years prior to motherhood afford. They explore incentives that underlie these traditional cultural practices, such as parental desires to curtail sexual activity out of wedlock. Then they consider alternative strategies that address concerns and recognize girls’ ambitions. Case study research indicates that the intervention may affect family attitudes about the value of girls’ education and result in a more “hands-on” approach to parenting adolescent girls than traditional social norms promote. For example, findings showed that control group girls reported missing school to stay at home and help with household work 3.5 times more frequently than participants. This suggests that participants’ parents may place greater value on educating their daughters and supporting school attendance than parents not involved in the project.

Community & Family members are an integral part of meetings and workshops

Comprehensive sexuality education provides an opportunity to build children’s understanding of their bodies and how to confidently manage the changes of puberty.It gives them the intellectual tools they need to make informed decisions about sexual and reproductive health, and it can foster understanding and behavioral changes regarding gender-based violence.

All of these factors empower girls and build boys as allies in promoting girls’ equality. But, it is inadequate and unfair to place the burden of changing social norms about the role and value of girls solely on the shoulders of the young. Girls need the support of their families to succeed as much as their families need their success to thrive. Sexuality education interventions must intentionally integrate parents and create space for parent-child dialogue if they are to pack a stronger punch in promoting girls’ education.”

To know more about our program, click here. To support our efforts, clickhere.

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Asante Africa contributes to Brookings Institution Panel on Innovation for Education

As one of the world’s leading think-tanks, The Brookings Institution has had a long history of conducting in-depth research that pave the way for ideas that have the potential to solve some of the thorniest problems in the world.

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“We need to focus on the pockets of neglect and exclusion [in education].” – Rebecca Winthrop, Director for CUE at The Brookings Institution

The Brookings Institution hosted a session in December 2016 on Diversifying the Education Workforce and Promoting Innovation for the Learning Generation to share some of the most promising strategies and approaches in strengthening the teaching workforce including  panelists from esteemed organizations like PEAS Uganda, Teach for All and Asante Africa Foundation, and was moderated by Rebecca Winthrop, Director for CUE at Brookings Institute.

Asante Africa’s Strategic Partnerships Manager, Marie Bush, shared recent promising data and evidence from  Asante Africa’s Integrated Teachers Training (ITT) Program funded by Mastercard Foundation and an Anonymous Donor through the  PSIPSE Program. 

BrookingsBlog3.jpgMarie shared “Providing quality education through national strategies is a challenge in itself. But it’s made harder when implemented in rural school districts where a variety of factors from remote locations to the lack of resources come into play. Teaching critical thinking, problem solving, and effective communications are 21st century skills that are required from students today.” How are they to learn it in the current landscape?

The fact that you’re getting to the source of the issues is key. Students weren’t engaged because teachers weren’t trained to encourage participation. Focusing on teachers is innovative because it’s going to shape how they deal with their classrooms forever. It will make them more impactful.” Marie Bush shared.

Because evidence has demonstrated that teachers have a greater impact and influence on their students’ learning, their gains from development and access to the latest tools means gains for students as well. Not only have outcomes shown increased participation, performance, and confidence from both teachers and students, it has also resulted in students successfully demonstrating more of those 21st century skills that are held at such a premium today.

“Some times the best innovation comes from the need to be frugal and low cost. Frequently referred in the technology development world as frugal innovation.” –Erna Grasz, CEO Asante Africa Foundation

In the need to be cost effective, ITT made use of a “Train the Trainer “cascade model that allowed for larger scale and high penetration. “We were doing something elevated, low-cost, and scalable at the same time. We didn’t just make a bigger impact with limited resources, we changed the way teachers engaged with their students, and that’s something they’ll have in their toolkit forever.”

Being mindful to align with national education priorities also resulted in recognition from the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training and has opened the possibility of adopting the ITT Program for national implementation.

Marie’s thoughts about her participation say it best:  “The other panelists were representing organizations that were teaching a creative approach that were both innovative and impactful. It was an honor, and an extremely humbling experience, to be included and recognized for the caliber of our work amongst other high-caliber and super impactful organizations.”

To date, Asante Africa’s ITT program has brought learner-centered, participatory techniques to over 2,500 teachers, and has impacted over 25,000 students from 86 schools in rural Tanzania.

More About Marie Bush:

Marie Bush joined Asante Africa Foundation in 2016 after recently completing her advanced degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison – School of Business. Her passion for sustainable solutions, social enterprises and developing countries comes from her prior work experience with  World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU), USAID, and International Rescue Committee.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day

How often do you think of others?  I spend the majority of my day thinking about myself.  I think about the things I need to get done at work, what I am eating for lunch, what I have to get done at home after work and a multitude of other things that revolve around me.  Maybe I am unusually self-centered, but I would bet money that I am not.  It is easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and live in silos – mentally in isolation from the world around us. Sometimes it takes a catalyst to change our thinking.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was such a catalyst and each year we remember his life and his message.  His impact is well known and he gave everything, including his life, in the pursuit of justice and equality for all.  As he famously said:

“An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.  Every person must decide at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.  This is the judgment: Life’s most persistent and important question is, what are you doing for others?”

What are you doing for others?  The people of Asante Africa Foundation are focused on keeping the youth of rural East Africa in school, learning relevant skills and tools that will allow them to advance as change agents in their communities.  Their efforts shine brightly in the wonderful success stories such as that of Carolyne Sunte and Samson Nyongesa. These people are not just the staff conducting business in California and East Africa.  Rather, it includes each and every one of our beloved donors who also give their hard-earned money, which they invested their time earning, to support Asante Africa Foundation’s mission.

With their help, Asante Africa Foundation is able to make a difference correcting educational and social injustices in an impoverished region.  It is our calling.  Dr. King heard that call as well.  He felt that the world was connected and part of the same story.  One could not simply dig a hole and hide – hoping never to have an impact or be impacted.  It was unavoidable. In Dr. King’s own words:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Today, nearly 50 years after his assassination, Dr. King continues to impact the world through the efforts of others to keep his message and memories alive.  It was not easy work.  Though the legislation creating the federal holiday was passed and signed into law in 1983, it was not until 2000 that ever state recognized the holiday.  Spend some time and reflect.  What are you doing for others?  The smallest act can change a life, even change the world. 

                                                                                                            –   Written by Joshua Donnelly

You have an opportunity to engage with Asante Africa Foundation in more than one way. To volunteer click here. To support education click here.

 

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Refreshed Brand | Revitalized Website

2017 is looking to be a landmark year for us at Asante Africa Foundation. With our 10th year anniversary celebrations on the horizon, starting the year strong is definitely the intention.

If you’ve been on any of our social media platforms lately, you’ll already have noticed a difference. Our newly refreshed brand and revitalized website is now live for all to see. As physical representations, we believe that both show our renewed commitment to continue doing what we do. Innovation and adaptability is a vital aspect to our programs and the tools we give our young people. Our ability to be able to do the same speaks to our readiness to face a new decade and a hopeful future.

                                                              Snapshot of the new website
 
                                                                       New logo, fonts & colors

Since we started Educating Children | Transforming Lives back in 2007, our organization has achieved milestones in the form of our youth being recognized for their achievements, and our educators for their innovations. It feels good to be acknowledged as thought leaders by industry peers for staying true to our mission all these years.

“As a donor, I have seen and continue to see how Asante Africa is educating children and transforming worlds, not just for our students, but also for their families and communities. As a Board Advisor…I have seen the growth of Asante Africa Foundation from a mere concept to an organization that is making a difference and teaching young people skills and empowering them to initiate change in their world and beyond.” — Shirley West, Advisor

To date, our programs have impact 259,00 lives and our vision is to impact over 1 million by 2020.

“Asante Africa made me realize my dream and helped me to see the leadership qualities in myself.” — Carolyne Sunte, LEI alumnus, and current Girls’ Advancement Program Associate

Our collective experiences from the past 10 years, coupled with our recent refresh, means the ground is set for continuing the work of educating and empowering the next generation of change agents.

Onward and Upward to the decade ahead!

To know more and to stay updated with what’s happening at Asante Africa, subscribe to our news letter.

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Our Top Six Milestones of 2016

2016. What a year!

timeline-2016-infograph-final

While it’s a great time to look fondly at the memorable milestones that marked the last twelve months, we’ll never tire of going back to the highlights that reinforced who we truly are, and our commitment to the young people we serve.

Accelerated Learning in the Classroom

1. Part of our efforts at improving students’ results is focusing on uplifting the quality of education. That’s why it was such an honor to be able to share the efforts we’ve put behind our 3 year project, Accelerating Tanzania’s Secondary Level Teachers’ Development through Partnerships, at the CIES conference panel in March. We also had that same privilege, at the Brooking Panel Presentation in December, to talk about what our teachers are able to do on the ground and how our model is recognized as a sustainable practice worth replicating even by the Tanzanian government.

LEI — Leadership Program

2. For an organization that believes in readying students for life beyond the classroom, it’s always satisfying to see our program mature and get better each year. We ended 2016 with 110+ new entrepreneurs and critical thinkers that are just as eager to make an impact in the world as their predecessors. To date, thousands of individuals have been impacted directly from their Pay it Forward activities.

3. This year we also launched a 5 year plan for how we can make this program self-sustainable by 2020. We witnessed companies underwriting the program to access our alumni, and other youth willing to pay to attend the program.

Scholarships

4. We have scholars that graduated high school, others who graduated university, and many are set to join the workforce. We were particularly excited to meet Samson Nyongesa, who came to the USA to share his journey, strifes, and achievements. It makes it all real to hear it firsthand.

Girls’ Advancement Program

5. Coming up with a program that can successfully keep girls in school has always been a priority. Our efforts were recognized as Good Practice by the United Nation’s Girls’ Education Initiative among hundreds of others is an incredible achievement. We’ve had 6000 girls graduate from Wezesha Vijana this year, and we can’t wait to build on present successes to keep our momentum going.

Partnerships make it all possible

6. Of course we can’t forget the funding partners that have helped us advance the above mentioned. Recognizing LEI’s unique strength of partnering with local professionals, companies, and universities and its emphasis on sustainable results, Social Capital Foundation matched , for the 3rd year, $20,000 in support of LEI.

Quest Foundation, who is aligned with us for girls’ leadership, pledged $23,000 in a match fund that stretches through the following year.

P&G has been a constant partner for our Girls’ Program, and Mastercard’s invaluable assistance has seen us through major growth in our teachers’ program. Their continuous support will surely ease our way into 2017.

As we prepare for this next year, we know we represent the hard work, dedication, and commitment from a broad community working together. Officially signing off for 2016, and primed for hitting the bigger goals ahead.

We have a big reveal coming up in January’2017. To know more connect with us on Facebook (AsanteAfricaFoundation), Twitter (AsanteAfrica) and make sure you follow our blog.
 
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