How Scholarships Can Help Close the Gender-Gap in Africa

Loren, Business and Marketing Associate at Asante Africa, started a personal fundraiser to send Frank — a student in East Africa to school. It started off with the goal to send 1 student back to school, but with the support of friends and family who believed in the cause, she can now support the education of 2 students (and its still going on). She talks about why scholarships are important and how can they help close the gender gap in Africa.

“With all the different aspects of development, it can be hard to say which is the best at combating poverty and providing the best opportunities for youth. And what I’ve come to notice is that less and less people have an interest in funding scholarships, due to concerns about the organization or a lack of knowledge about how scholarships help youth, especially girls.

Barriers to Girls’ Education

The core goal of a scholarship is to provide education to students (both boys and girls), who’s families cannot afford it (meaning without it, the child would never attend school). As an added bonus, scholarships for girls promote gender equality and help off-set the discrimination girls are facing today. In East African countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania and especially in remote, rural areas, girls face many barriers including oppressing cultural norms and traditional customs which hinder their chance at going to school. There are more barriers that affect a girl’s education than that of a boy’s: female genital mutilation, menstruation and pregnancy are just the tip of the iceberg. These barriers coupled with the chance to marry off their daughters at an early age means that for many families, boys are priority when it comes to education; thus, scholarships for girls are extra important.

On top cultural norms and traditional customs, education is not always free. In many cases, even the smallest school charges fees for students to study. In Madagascar, where I spent time as an English Instructor, students were required to pay 50,000 Ariary ($15) for school a year, when the daily average income for an estimated family of three (let’s imagine one parent and two children) is 5,000 Ariary ($1.50). For the poorest of the poor, school is not cheap by any means. And for families who do have enough money to send their daughters to school, girls often have to travel long distances to reach school. This leaves them vulnerable for miles on long, deserted roads, and many girls face sexual assault and even rape when walking to school.

Scholarships are an underestimated tool for getting more girls into school and closing the gender gap. Asante Africa’s scholarships promote gender equality by giving girls access to education. All AAF scholarships provide students’ school fees (meaning the financial burden is lifted from parents, and they no longer have to bear the hard choice of choosing which child to send to school) and provide room and board (meaning girls are no longer walking to school; they will be safer). Scholarships to girls means more girls will have access to education, closing the gender gap one girl at a time.

Concerns about Scholarships

So, why aren’t more people donating to scholarships? I’ve often heard concerns from people who have donated to organizations with similar causes that ‘there wasn’t really a child’, they ‘didn’t know where their money was going’and that next time, they’d rather spend their money elsewhere. All of these experiences have tainted the view of non-profit fundraising efforts for scholarships and credible organizations and their students feel the affect.

Organizations have to do their part in becoming a trusty worthy organization — and donors need to do the research for a good match. I feel that Asante Africa is a trustworthy and reliable organization and here’s what you should be looking for the next time you decide to fund a student’s education. First, Asante Africa Foundation has strong ties with our employees on the ground. Our CEO visits three times a year and can see first-hand where the money is going and how its impacting communities. Our financials are also public, so you can see where your money is being spent and feel good about donating it (all registered 501©(3)s financial records are public). In terms of the actual scholarship, don’t be afraid if the scholarship is a little more than what you expected. Good scholarships will provide housing, supplies such as school materials and uniforms, and of course, the actual school fees. Our scholarships also allow you to communicate with your student through letters, receive updates about their grades, and even a lucky few get to meet our students in the field.

How You Can Help Close the Gender-Gap with a Scholarship

Choose to spend as little as $80 a month on a girl (the price of a gym membership!) or donate yearly.

Get your family and friends involved and start a fundraiser for student scholarship; you don’t have to do this alone! Don’t believe me? See my success here! Many times friends and families are willing and are excited about the opportunity to help. Take a look at some of the comments my friends and family left me:

 
 

Want to be successful? Send them direct, short, personalized messages asking them to donate small amounts; people will donate what they can afford. Then tag them on Facebook posts, thanking them and getting the word out to their friends that they donated. Keep posting!

Here are some ideas I’ve seen for in-person fundraisers: Take some friends out wine tasting and charge per head; Ask people to donate for entry to a raffle; or Hold a fun game outdoors and charge people to play — It’s all for a good cause of course!”

Loren’s fundraiser is still live on Facebook. To support her efforts, click here! Every dollar matters!

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Giving Tuesday: Let’s Celebrate!

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

We are in the cacophony of the holiday season: the music, the traffic, the lights! The deadlines! The noise inside and outside of us collides for our attention. We invite you to turn down the volume. Step over here: in East Africa, we’ve quite a celebration going. Come, share our joy.

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At Asante Africa Foundation, teachers at over a hundred schools were trained through our programs, ensuring improved instruction and chances for tens of thousands of students across East Africa. This wouldn’t exist without you and the work of so many at Asante Africa. What a ripple we’ve created!

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You know the boldest challenge before us: we must empower our girls. Girls are far less likely than boys to complete primary (elementary or middle) school, especially in low-income countries where only 20% have achieved gender parity at the primary level and 10% at the lower secondary level. We, together, are transforming these numbers. We’ve empowered thousands of girls with an understanding of their basic human rights, the chance for schooling, and the confidence and skills to navigate the complex realities they face.

Supporting us in our efforts is the Quest Foundation, who have decided to match every dollar (upto 23,000) we raise for girls leadership.

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Through the Leadership Entrepreneurship Incubator, nearly a thousand youth have built their capacity to lead the next generation of change agents. Young leaders like Samson Nyongesa and Carolyne Sunte, have truly imbibed out motto of ‘Paying it Forward’. Every day they are making efforts to make a difference in the lives of people around them. 

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And we’re only getting started.

“How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” – Anne Frank

There are many ways we vote for the world that we want. Most often it comes in the choices of where our time, mind, and dollars are focused. Giving Tuesday is an international effort to cast a vote for your belief in the capacity of others, for human rights, for equal educational opportunity.

“No one is useless in the world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

We know you hold these values. These numbers can only be buoyed by your support. We invite you to join our celebration: send this post on, spread the celebration.

“It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.”— Nigerian saying

Thank you for joining us, from East Africa and beyond, with the millions of others who, today, celebrate!

 donate

 

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Thanks in Living, Giving, & Receiving

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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

In 1620, the harvest of the early American colonists had failed. Starvation settled in. Half of the settlers we now call Pilgrims perished that winter. The local Wampanoag tribe taught those that remained how to grow corn, catch fish, and collect seafood. They taught them how to survive. The following year the Pilgrims reaped a successful harvest and, in their gratitude, shared a feast with the locals.

In all the battles for survival and place and opportunity — then and now in the world — Thanksgiving invites us to see each other and the power within us as a blessing. It is a way we stop to find each other and ourselves. We share a grand meal as a ritual, a celebration, and a humbling pause.

What have we harvested? What have we given and received?

We asked our Asante team — What are you most thankful for?

“I am grateful for the staff in that live and breathe our mission in KE and TZ, and similarly for the USA-based staff and volunteers who tirelessly support the efforts on the ground. I am equally grateful for the executive leadership and advisors that guide our Global Mission and do a great job of holding us accountable. And most of all, I am grateful for partners, investors, and donors who have shown the same passion as we have in promoting education and knowledge.” — Erna

“Thankful for San Francisco, where everything feels like a new experience. I’m thankful for the chance to learn from, and work with, a great group of people. I can tell it will lead to even more things to be thankful for next year.” — Christy

“This thanksgiving I am grateful to be part of an amazing team, working towards a collective goal of changing lives in East Africa. I also feel very fortunate to have wonderful family and friends that support my crazy dreams!”— Jenn

“I am most thankful for my family and home. I am thankful that I enjoy good health so that I am able to travel and enjoy life.” — Shirley

“I’m thankful for the opportunity and privilege of being a part of a team working very hard today to create a better tomorrow for all.” — Fred

“I am most thankful for a good supporting system around me.” — Soumya

For us, our gratitude and faith pushes us forward: faith in the impact of our work for thousands — and faith in you, our supporters. Powerful change has already occurred. Educating thousands of children who would otherwise not receive access to education does not happen without all of us. As we come together, we know it is not often simple or fast but we are ever moving forward. We are ever changing the trajectories of our youth. Just imagine what is ahead!

We remain ever grateful for the collective efforts to impact one million lives by 2020. Together, we will transform opportunities for the youth of East Africa.

But today, together, we pause. We see each other. We see the power and gifts within us and say: thank you.

A very Happy Thanksgiving!

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Carolyne’s Road to Success

Carolyne Sunte, mentor, daughter, aspiring journalist and leader, is one of Asante Africa Foundation’s passionate advocates for making a change in her community of Maasai, Africa. Carolyne motivates us with her dedication to her work as a program coordinator and mentor. With today’s post we wanted to give you a glimpse into who Carolyne is and what motivates her. We hope you are just as inspired and excited by what she has to say as we are!

When you educate a girl, you have educated the whole community.”

Carolyne knows first hand the value of an educated woman. Afterall, she is one, and has seen the impact of her own growth on her community’s.

When we asked Carolyne why she wanted to be a mentor, she had to speak first about the struggles she and countless other women face by being marginalized in society. Growing up in the male-dominated society of Maasai, Africa, as a woman, Carolyne was not expected to continue her education. She was not expected or encouraged to take on a leadership role. She was not encouraged to pursue her dreams, or even to have dreams at all. It was a constant struggle to find her place.

But it was Carolyne’s ability and willingness, “two necessary traits”, that fueled her desire to make a change. She says, “I had a strong will that one day I would change the trend in the male dominant society”. In fact, Carolyne was the first educated girl ever in her family lineage, an achievement that she does not take lightly.

“[The Asante Africa Foundation] made me realize my dream and helped me to see the leadership qualities in myself.”

After O level studies, Carolyne was not able to pursue higher education due to lack of finances. That’s when she volunteered with Asante Africa Foundation. This allowed her to pursue her education, and by doing this she was already taking the first step to changing the male-dominated trend in her community. She later got involved as the Girls Program Coordinator. Through Asante Africa’s Girls Advancement Program, Carolyne learned social, financial and life skills that gave her the confidence to pursue leadership roles in her school and her community. Her passions for journalism and entrepreneurship were ignited. Finally, she was beginning to gain the confidence to build her dream, and gaining the skills to achieve it.

                                              Carolyne with Asante Africa Foundation team

Carolyne also attended Asante Africa’s LEI program. She says, “Life changed for me and my siblings after I attended the LEI program. I began to put the skills I learnt into practice. I began an orange plantation and started coaching young and old people about entrepreneurship. That instilled the feeling of being a mentor in me.”

 
                                                                                       Orange Plantation
 
                                  Coaching the elder men and women of her community

“My mother was the best mentor during my childhood life, she was the kind of a woman who would want us to be leaders and to give back to the community.”

Carolyne also has an important woman to thank for inspiring her desire and ability to succeed: her mother. Having a strong, female figure in her life no doubt is an example of the importance of women teaching and leading other women in their community. Carolyne had a strong desire to mentor others who were struggling with the same issues she was; to provide the same support and encouragement her mother gave her. She says, “I believe it’s important to communicate what you know. To provide useful, honest guidance while ensuring that you give best solutions to different individual needs, capacities and opportunities.” These are the marks of being a great mentor.

I love giving back to the community and country at large. What I admire most is creating a system approach that everyone believes in.”

As a mentor, Carolyne sees the necessity of her work, and finds joy in changing the lives of young people who look up to her with admiration. Creating a “system approach” means engaging the locals in her community. Not only educating girls and women, but also engaging boys and men as allies to the cause as well. As Carolyne says, “change begins gradually and attained in small degrees” but taking the first step is the most important.

“Being a mentor also means you should continue learning about what’s going on in current trends, country economy, the school, the community, or the world at large.”

Carolyne is a continuous and avid learner. Her learning did not end after graduation — it became a part of her everyday life as a mentor as well. Carolyne does all she can to make sure she doesn’t remain stagnant in her knowledge of the world and it’s ever-changing technology, society, and economy. She believes that having an education should impact every part of her life and her future as well.

Educate the next generation of change agents whose dreams and actions will transform the future of Africa and the world.

So, what can we do to encourage our young women to be leaders in their communities? For Carolyne, it’s as simple as one word, and it comes as no surprise: education. We must continue to educate our young women to set sustainable goals, and Carolyne particularly mentions goals that will provide economic empowerment, such as creating financial freedom. Our young women can and will be the change agents in their society.

 

Finally, we asked Carolyne for some advice she could give to young girls who want to be leaders in their community. She left us with this: “The change we want to see today begins with you being the change. Nothing is impossible … when you educate a girl, you have educated the whole community.”

Thank you, Carolyne, for sharing some of your unique experiences with us as a mentor and as an Asante Africa Foundation advocate. We are also so thankful for the work you do in your community and beyond!

We thank everyone who has helped us make dreams come true for many students like Carolyne. To know more on how you can support click here.
 
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Interview with Charles Wahome

Veterans Day in America is always a good time to remember the sacrifices our servicemen and servicewomen do for country. It’s not an easy profession, and it certainly demands a lot from the men and women that are called to do it. We share this short interview with Charles Wahome, an AAF alumnus that has gone on to join the military in his own country of Kenya, and dedicate it to all the vets out there on this special day.

AAF: Charles is part of a brood of 4, with only 2 of those siblings educated. When did Asante Africa Foundation first come into the picture?

Charles: I got to know Asante Africa back in the year 2007 while I was in secondary school. My head teacher made the introduction because I was unable to pay my school fees anymore.

AAF: We know, of course, that training for the military is tough and that it requires physical strength and mental abilities. What made you decide to pursue it?

Charles: The main reason that motivated me to join the military police is that I didn’t have much options open to me. I wanted to move forward with my life, and I wanted to make money in order to continue getting educated. This is what I tried to do to take me were I wanted to be.

AAF: What have you learned from being an Asante Africa Alumnus that helped you cope with the challenges of military training?

Charles: The Leadership & Entrepreneurship Incubator Program teaches you skills that are useful outside the classroom. Dream-mapping is very relevant because it has helped me, and those around me, to have more hope in our lives. It also helps us to work at realizing and making those dreams come true.

AAF: What’s next for you?

Charles: My future plans include continuing my studies so that I can secure my future and help improve lives in the community where I live. Right now I’m completing my first diploma in criminology and forensic science, but I want to continue learning more so I can work with other institutions apart from the military.

AAF: What has Asante Africa Foundation done to help you achieve your dreams?

Charles: Asante Africa Foundation had many roles in shaping my career. I wouldn’t have made it through secondary level education if they hadn’t paid for my school fees. And I have grown a lot from the internship, pay it forward programs, seminars, and regular visits that really help me.

This holiday season give the gift of education to students who are waiting to go back to school. Click to know more.
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Empowering through Education:Day of the Girl Child!

12876985614_1a726a5901_oFive years ago, the United Nations designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child as part of their campaign to highlight the discrimination that girls around the world face every day. I grew up in Zimbabwe in the 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000’s, in a country that had after independence from white settler rule declared that education for all children – boys and girls – should be free. But as Zimbabwe faced economic decline, social services were cut, including the opportunity for free education at government schools.

I was one of the lucky few, part of a privileged elite. An only child, my parents prioritized my education above all else, sending me to one of the best private all-girls school in the country for my high school education, despite the massive increase in tuition fees that occurred almost monthly due to hyperinflation. As the country struggled to maintain its infrastructure, I would often study by candlelight on nights of prolonged power cuts. In my last year at school, supermarkets were often full of empty shelves, and my parents had to resort to the black market for imported food supplies from other countries.

And yet, these were minuscule challenges compared to what the rest of the country faced in those years, and still does. Across the country, and the continent, girls are often not given the choice to go to school because of parents forced to make an economic choice between educating their son or their daughter. When they do have the opportunity for an education, they lack access to basic resources that we here in the United States take for granted – books, stationary, new clothes, tampons.

While researching schools in the rural areas for my dissertation in journalism at Columbia University in 2013, I talked to girls who had to walk for several hours to get to the nearest school. When they did get home, they were exhausted, and had no time to read for pleasure or even do their homework because of the chores they had to do in order to help their parents. When girls do complete their education, they often lack the funds to make it to university, or find a skilled, paying job. They face domestic and sexual violence, discrimination in the workplace and legal systems, lack of governmental representation, access to basic resources, and violation of their human rights. Even when educated, they are not always empowered.

International Day of the Girl Child highlights all these issues, and brings the world’s attention to them. It strives to ensure that girls can grow in a safe and healthy environment into young women, with all the opportunities I was so fortunate to have both in the past and now. Today is a day to recognize strides that have been made towards gender equality in Africa and across the world, and to call for more to be done.

So how can we help with these efforts? We can volunteer and help out with non-profit organizations such as Asante Africa Foundation. We can sponsor a girl’s school fees for a year what we’d pay for our cell phone bill in a month. We can work with governments, we can become teachers, we can write and talk about all the challenges that girls face to raise awareness. We can try and figure out what the underlying problems challenging girls’ education are, rather than simply donating money that often doesn’t go to the right places. We can listen to girls and women, and make their voices heard. We can challenge the status quo that sees girls’ education as less important. We can help women to be both mothers and workers, daughters and students.

We don’t have to check our privilege – we can use it.                                                                                                                                                                                         – Trishula Patel

Trishula Patel is currently a PhD student at Georgetown University, focusing on African history. She has a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. She has written articles for The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, PassBlue. 
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International Day of the Girl Child: Why Should We Care?

524642_10151327561973618_962487558_nAs a girl, it’s pretty obvious. I am instantly up in arms when made to imagine a life where the only viable option is securing a husband for support. Thankfully, that was never a problem I had to deal with growing up in the Philippines. But not everyone is as lucky. Even now that it’s 2016, when most concerns have evolved towards virtual pursuits, many are still stuck in the struggle against culture and old traditions.

I’ll never forget how the problem was illustrated to me at the first Asante Africa Foundation event I attended last May. Joseph Nsengimana, Director at Intel and advocate of African development, was our guest speaker. He shared this in response to a question about girls and education:

 “Many societies in Africa are very male oriented. You have children that are boys and girls, and you’re looking at them. When girls grow up, they get married and become part of their husband’s family. And the boys will marry and one day bring their wives to become a part of your family and become your responsibility. So when resources are limited, and the parents have to make a choice of who to educate, they are put in a very difficult situation.”

If you put it that way, it’s an easy decision to make. The girl stays at home and misses out on school. If only that was the worst of it! Since I became a part of AAF, I’ve heard all kinds of stories from bartering daughters for cows to young girls being kidnapped for marriage. UN Women’s latest fast facts on child marriage states that 1 in every 3 girls in developing countries is married before reaching the age of 18 [Click here for details]. How can any girl deprived of education ever gain the tools to fight such a fate?

Advocating Girls’ Progress

Asante Africa Foundation’s efforts at education have always included the girls. But it soon became apparent that extra effort had to be made just to keep them in school. Early pregnancy, and even menstruation, had joined child marriage as key issues that kept girls firmly at home.

In 2011, AAF launched its Girls’ Advancement Program as a response. Its mentors chose to call it Wezesha Vijana, which is Swahili for “Empower Ourselves”. A fitting title for a special curriculum that included teaching girls about their own bodies, building confidence, and imparting practical skills like handling finances.

Most important, it opened young girls to a world of possibility. Because when girls are allowed to be girls, they learn about their own strengths and abilities. It inspires them to make themselves better. And sometimes, it even moves them to consciously make a positive impact in their own communities.

Why Everyone Should Care Too?

It’s easy to make the case for how girls have the potential to become partners in building a better future. We all know what we’re capable of. But the truth is that effecting such a huge change requires more than just ourselves.

As our CEO, Erna, says: “Complex systemic problems require a systemic solution. When keeping girls in school, we need the community, parents, and boys to be a part of the equation.”

Overcoming years of tradition requires every single person to lean in. And I’m positive of success when organizations like the UN encourage the world to make gender equality priority. I feel it every time I hear stories from our communities in Africa about a father sending all his daughters to school, or a young boy asking why no one ever told them about what their sisters had to go through. I see it when our girls graduate and do their part by paying it forward.

Girls can rock just as well as anybody. All that needs to be done is to let girls be girls.

Written by Christy Monastrial. She joins Asante Africa Foundation this year as Marketing Manager and considers women empowerment as the cause closest to her heart.

 Help us send 5 girls Back to School. Click here for details.

 

 

 

 

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