Education for All through the Eyes of a 10th Grade Activist
by Ananya B, School Girls Unite
School Girls Unite (SGU) is a non-profit organization that raises money to help send girls in Mali to school and advocates for equal education opportunities for all girls. It was founded in 2004 by group of seventh graders who continue to be extremely involved. SGU works with their sister organization in Mali, Les Filles Unies pour l’Education to connect with the students in Mali and receive information about the progress of our 11-year-old Mali Girls Scholarship program. Two current members in our school chapter of School Girls Unite, Ilhan Alyanak and Sophie Cobb, skype with Fatoumata Coulibaly, the president of Les Filles Unies, to unite us with the girls who receive our scholarships and learn about how they are doing in school.
As a sophomore at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School just outside Washington D.C., this is my first year being a part of SGU. I have always been a supporter for women’s rights, especially the right to education. I joined SGU because I feel that with an education anything is possible and to be able to give these girls an opportunity to transform their lives and the lives of the ones around them is amazing. As Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and in SGU we give girls, who do not have the financial or societal capabilities, this power. School Girls has also educated me in the struggles girls have around the world when attempting to receive an education.
This year, the B-CC SGU chapter has hosted many interesting events. In September of 2015, about half a dozen students went to Congress to meet with Senator Mikulski’s staff to discuss the importance of equal education opportunities for girls everywhere. In October of 2015 we had an Arts and Action Night for the International Day of the Girl. Members created posters with many issues women face, such as lack of sanitary napkins and under representation in film. Maria Nawrozi, a courageous young Afghani education activist, and civil rights activist Heather Booth were among many inspiring speakers at the event as well. In January, our sister organization in Mali organized a Day of Awareness that invited the people from surrounding villages to learn about why education is important and they received overwhelming support from the Mayor of the commune of Ouolodo. Here’s our report written by two B-CC students that describes this successful event. More recently, on March 11, we held an event for International Women’s Day. We had two delightful speakers join us, Dr. Suzan Murray, Chief Veterinarian at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, and State Senator Jamie Raskin, who is running for Congress. Additionally, we had multiple trivia questions about women and girls that the audience energetically and passionately answered. The questions varied from women in science to the first woman to do something to statistics based on women like “Roughly how many of the world’s illiterate adults are women?” (650,000 women) and “Approximately how many women die everyday from pregnancy or childbirth complications?” (1,600 women).
At B-CC, the SGU chapter is dedicated and supportive. All of the members believe in the cause and want to do things to help. Other than discussing education for girls, we have discussions regarding current events such as women’s reproductive rights. Recently, a group of us went to rally outside the Supreme Court during the Whole Women’s Health vs. Hellestedt case. We are a group of young individuals fighting for not just equal education opportunity rights but universal women’s rights. Join the fight to help provide girls and women with the necessary resources for greatness. Start a conversation and ask your friends to sign our petition: Equal Education for Girls Globally. Get ideas for activities in our free toolkit Activist Gameplan written by girls for girls. Think about starting a School Girls Unite chapter like ours to raise funds for scholarships and advocate for Education For All.
Ananya is a member of School Girls Unite and a tenth grader at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School