Don’t tell me I can’t succeed

Posted on April 25, 2016

Don’t tell me I can’t succeed

by Savannah Lynn Johnson

“Don’t tell me I can’t succeed. I can make dreams a reality. I won’t stop no matter what. I can reach the top!” The students at the Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER) sing these lyrics every Monday morning as they begin their school week.

WISER is an all-girls secondary school working to empower girls through education and health. It is located right off the coast of Lake Victoria in Muhuru Bay, Kenya and is home to 120 girls from the surrounding community.  In this region, girls are overlooked, under-valued, and not seen as equals. Again and again, parents will fund their sons to go to school and not their daughters.

Two girls smile for the camera in their school uniformsThe girls who attend WISER have no education fees—they are provided with everything they need to succeed (school supplies, uniforms, sanitary pads, access to healthcare, etc.) Having all these supplies provided is life-changing for this students as having transactional intercourse to obtain funds for these resources in not uncommon. In a community that is 30 percent HIV positive, having access to this education is life saving.

I spent four months at WISER in 2015 and am returning for two months this summer. My project last year was to research and evaluate the psychosocial support system that the school has implemented. My report recorded the ways in which WISER is creating an enabling environment for empowerment. WISER is equipping their students not only with the academic potential to transcend poverty, but also with the self-esteem and confidence to do so.

While at WISER last fall, the UN adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs will a classroom full of studentsguide global efforts and funding to end poverty, to promote peace and justice, and to create suitable development for the next 15 years. What is fundamental to meeting these new goals? Girls. I was able to look at WISER as an organization and see how initiatives to reach the goals can be beautifully woven together. Educating girls reduces poverty, eliminates inequality, creates healthier families, and generates economic growth because it is an investment in empowerment.

For the students at WISER, having a funds for education is essential for them to access secondary education. Their story is not unique. This is true for girls throughout the developing world. Worldwide there are 63 million girls who are not in school. As a youth advocate for the Global Campaign for Education-US and a champion of girls’ empowerment, I am calling on communities and nations to #fundeducation. 

Savannah Lynn Johnson is a GCE-US Youth Advocate

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