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Educating Women and Girls
Research has shown that the single most effective tool for lifting families up from destitution is the education of females. Mercy Beyond Borders wholeheartedly believes that WHERE WOMEN LEARN, WOMEN MATTER. In Haiti and in South Sudan we are actively involved in the education of women and girls, and in fact we include educational components into all of our projects.
Listed below we describe our projects. You can read personal stories of the project participants in the STORIES section of this website.
Women's Literacy Classes
Most women in South Sudan have never been to school, but during long years in refugee camps they awakened to the possibility that women have rights, including the right to an education. Mercy Beyond Borders funds afternoon classes for groups of women in rural villages such as Yirol, Angangrial, Mapuordit. In places where the government already has classes in place, Mercy Beyond Borders adds “fringe benefits” that encourage women to participate—such as uniforms and snacks, radios and books. Even after their hard physical work all day long, the women eagerly come to the late afternoon classes to learn their ABCD’s, as they say, and to master basic counting so that they “won’t be cheated at the market.” They meet in simple classrooms or even under a tree, and it is not unusual to see women survivors of polio crawling into the classroom, or women suffering from Hansen’s disease (leprosy) delighting in holding a book in their fingerless hands. Their determination to learn inspires us all.
Financial Support to All-Girls Primary Schools
South Sudan: Mercy Beyond Borders is proud to provide nearly the entire budget annually for St. Bakhita Girls’ Primary School in Narus, South Sudan—the first and still largest all-girls school in the country. With over 500 girls enrolled, it is literally educating the new country’s first generation of female scholars.
Haiti: Mercy Beyond Borders opened its first project in Haiti in the summer of 2011: a financial grant to St Gabriel Primary School in Gros Morne, a mountainous region about 4 hours north of Port-au-Prince (by road). This school educates 500 girls per year and has an excellent reputation. While its teacher salaries are paid by the government, all other costs must be raised. The school building needs repair, as do the outhouses.
High School & College Scholarships for Girls
South Sudan: In South Sudan girls are usually married at puberty to an older man, sometimes becoming the 3rd or 4th wife of a septuagenarian. To offer a “carrot” enticing parents to leave their daughters in school, Mercy Beyond Borders offers scholarships to outstanding females finishing 8th grade. Girls who top their classes academically– and whose parents permit them to continue their education instead of opting for the marriage dowry of cows—benefit immensely from Mercy Beyond Borders’ high school scholarships. Mercy Beyond Borders currently supports nearly 50 girls in high schools and, though it is still rare for females to graduate from high school, we have several scholars now in college.
Haiti: Mercy Beyond Borders awards high school scholarships to the top academic girl in each of 16 primary schools in the greater Gros Morne region. In Haiti, primary school ends with 6th grade, and for many females that marks the end of their schooling because 90% of schools charge tuition that their families cannot afford for all children (and usually it is the boys who are allowed to continue). Mercy Beyond Borders’ first cohort of 16 Haitian girls began their 7th grade education in October 2011 at John 23rd School in the town of Gros Morne.
Underwriting a Weekly Radio Show Promoting Girls' Education
Because most of the adults in South Sudan remain non-literate, radio provides an effective means of teaching the general population. Not many locales have a radio station yet, but Mercy Beyond Borders is collaborating with Good News Radio in the town of Rumbek to broadcast original 30-min programs every week that focus on promoting the education of girls. The lively format includes interviews with young girls, with teachers and with parents. It is, of course, the fathers and uncles who determine whether any girl is allowed to attend school, so the program focuses on reaching these decision-makers and demonstrating the value of schooling girls. Already, the show has made some “converts,” men who say it has opened their eyes and caused them to permit their daughters/nieces to go to school.