CHARLOTTE WEST (GRADE 10)
Around 1 billion people around the world do not receive a basic education. Two thirds of them are women.
In America, teens have been exposed to education for all of their lives. From the moment we gained cognizance until now, we have been constantly learning. The law forces us to attend school until age sixteen. This means we are required to attend school for ten years. That is 1,800 days of school, which is a whopping 12,600 hours of required education. Although every hour at our boring and dreadful school feels like a day, and every day feels like a year, there are 65 million young girls globally who are not in school. They don’t get to learn about trigonometry or the natural laws of physics. They will never get to go to school, let alone walk through the shiny, new, 200 million dollar school I get to attend. Instead, they may have a child while still a child, become a child bride, or be unable to leave home.
Here in Newton, when a teenage girl gets her period, she throws a tampon or pad in her backpack then heads to school. Simple as that. But 4,000 miles across the world, it is not so simple. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, more than a fifth of girls miss school because of their periods. Girls in Kenya miss an average of 4.9 days of school a month due to menstruation. This means these girls would miss forty-four days of school a year. These girls cannot attend school because they do not have the sanitary products that make leaving the house an option. Even if they did have sanitary products at hand, some schools don’t even have bathrooms for girls to use.
Alongside the hardships of periods, girls’ education around the world ends prematurely due to marriages and pregnancies at ages the Western world would consider to be absurdly low. According to the UN, 37,000 girls under the age of 18 are married each day. And in developing countries, the #1 cause of death for girls 15-19 is childbirth. Once all of these girls get married or have children, their education ends. They can no longer dream of becoming a lawyer or a doctor or even attending college, let alone finish primary school. If a female in a developing country does have a child, her life with the child would be drastically improved if she was able to fully complete her education. A literate mother has a 50% higher chance that her child will survive past the age of 5. And if the child does survive, a girl with an extra year of education can earn 20 percent more as an adult, ensuring she will be able to support herself, as well as her child.
It can be difficult to imagine life without education and opportunities, as those things have been a given for most of us for our entire lives. It is hard imagining gender norms putting an end to my education. But thinking about those less fortunate than us across the world is important. Here are some organizations devoted to helping girls less fortunate than I, longing for educations: Aid for Africa, Akili Dada, American University of Nigeria Foundation, Camfed, For Her, Girl Rising, Girl Up – United Nations Foundation, Global G.L.O.W., The Malala Fund, Mona Foundation, and Peace Corps’ Let Girls Learn Fund. If you act, you can change someone’s life, and maybe even your own.