COMMUNITY: Giving girls in Africa access to education via One Girl
Late last year, we gave you the opportunity to suggest a cause that deserved a $1000 donation from us. Read on to find out what good those dollars are doing now!
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The recipients of our Festival of Giving $1000 donation was One Girl, a Melbourne-based non-profit who assist girls in East and West Africa to attend school and provide them with life-changing education and resources.
We couldn’t be happier to learn that the donation we made on your behalf has enabled three girls to attend school this year! A result that will not only change their lives, but the lives of their family members and communities.
With a new school year beginning in Australia this week, we thought we’d find out more about the barriers to basic education for girls in Uganda and Sierra Leone, and about the work One Girl do to break them down.
Tell us a bit about One Girl, how it began and its mission.
One Girl started when two young Australians, Chantelle Baxter and David Dixon, were on a research project through East and West Africa. In Uganda, Chantelle met a 14-year-old girl called Brenda. After losing both parents, Brenda was living with her aunt who could no longer afford to send her to school. So, of course, Dave and Chantelle decided to help! It cost $150 to put Brenda back in school – and it was that first $150 investment in just one girl, in Brenda, that inspired the beginning of One Girl.
That was 10 years ago, and since then we’ve supported thousands of girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda with access to life-changing education. One Girl currently runs girl-focused education programs that provide high school scholarships, education in business and entrepreneurial skills, menstrual hygiene management — along with access to sanitary products — and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) education. These four programs are all uniquely designed to combat the barriers that girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda face when accessing education, and they give girls an opportunity to drive their own change and reach their full potential!
What are the barriers to education for the girls you support?
In Sierra Leone, only 16% of girls complete high school. This can be due to a number of factors such as teenage pregnancy, the cost of sending a girl to school, the societal preference to send boys to school whilst girls tend to household duties, or the difficulties girls face attending school when they have their periods. All our programs are designed to help combat those barriers:
Our Scholarships program aims to support girls with everything they need to graduate. One Girl Scholars are supported with school uniforms, school books, textbooks, shoes, a backpack – even lunch money! They also have regular meetings with One Girl focal teachers who support them so they have every opportunity to succeed in school.
Our Business Brains program aims to equip girls and young women with skills in how to begin and run their own businesses – because we want to make sure girls have every opportunity to succeed both in and out of the classroom. As part of Business Brains, we also hold education sessions on career development, life skills, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Our LaunchPad program aims to change the fact that a lot girls don’t attend school when they have their period – 60% of girls in Uganda! This can be due to a lack of menstrual hygiene education, little access to sanitary products, or poor toilet facilities in schools. Enter: the LaunchPad program. This program focuses on education in menstrual hygiene management, supporting young women with access to affordable sanitary products and challenging the stigma attached to menstruation. That’s why also we include boys and men in this program so that the entire community can break down harmful taboos surrounding menstruation.
Our School Awesomisation program has provided students with education in water, sanitation and hygiene and constructed toilet facilities in rural schools in Sierra Leone that either don’t have any, or don’t have enough! We know that when you educate a girl, she will impart her WASH knowledge to her family by promoting healthy habits at school and in the home.
Last year Obus donated $1000 to One Girl on our customer’s behalf. Can you tell us how those funds will be used?
In Sierra Leone, it costs just AU$300 to educate a girl for an entire year. So this incredible donation from Obus is enough to educate three girls! And when you educate a girl, you’re not just changing her life, you’re also changing the lives of her family and community members – that’s the incredible impact Obus will have by supporting the power of education!
Do you have any special memories of the girls One Girl has supported over the years?
Our One Girl Scholars are pretty extraordinary and they constantly inspire us. After not being in school for nearly four years, Bintu* became a One Girl Scholar.
When she was able to begin school again with our help, she said: “School is important because it helps each and every one in order for us to be able to achieve our dreams. I’ll help other people who cannot pay their school fees for themselves. If I am educated, if I have a job, I’ll be able to help them as well. Going back to school has changed my life completely. Completely!”
It’s an amazing dream: to use her education to support others in her community so they too can have the opportunity to fulfil their dreams. One Girl Scholars aren’t just inspiring because of what they’re achieving, but for the change they’re driving within their own families and communities.
What are some other ways to support One Girl and spread your awesome message?
Every year we run Do It In A Dress, a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that calls on everyone to put on a school dress and raise funds for girls’ education. We’ve seen some pretty incredible things happen in school dresses; we’ve seen people jump out of planes, trek the Camino de Santiago, run marathons or wear school dresses non-stop for a month! And all to raise funds and spread awareness of the importance of girls’ education. To sign up, visit us here.
*Bintu’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
Photo credits: Olivia Acland/One Girl.