Right now, 66 millions of girls around the world dream of going to school.
Educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation, yet millions of girls aren’t in school. Educated girls stand up for their rights, marry and have children later, educate their own children, and their families and communities thrive.
Yet millions of girls around the world face barriers to education that boys do not. Removing barriers such as early marriage, gender-based violence, domestic slavery and sex trafficking means not only a better life for girls, but a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all.
Lack of access to education for girls is a real issue, but I must admit I often don’t think of it. Yes, in my daily work with the Cisco Networking Academy I am constantly reminded of the lack of females studying IT, and am involved in projects to help increase these numbers worldwide. But I often forget about the issue one step back. What about the girls who don’t have the luxury of choosing what to study? Those girls who just want to go to school, but can’t?
A few months ago I was reading our Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility newsletter when I saw a post about this very issue. Cisco offices around the globe were showing a documentary called Girl Rising. I was curious and asked for a copy. A few weeks later with a group of co-workers in our Barcelona office we were moved by the story of 9 girls from around the world portrayed in the video.
For example, the story of Suma, a young girl from Nepal particularly touched me. I was planning my second trip to volunteer in Nepal on a project to sustain an elementary school in a remote village, so I understood firsthand some of the difficulties faced in the country. We learned how Suma was forced into bonded labor at age 6, learned to read, and eventually released from her bonded life through the help of a local woman determined to change the system. Today Suma is completing her studies and exploring future opportunities.
This was a message worth sharing.
On 26 November nearly 100 members of the local community, including many young girls, joined us to watch the documentary and discuss the issue. Cisco, the Social Coin, and Intel, a founding partner in the creation of the documentary, co-sponsored the event at the French Institute – a perfect venue to share the film and engage in conversation. We invited several local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work on these issues to join us for a short round table to discuss ways to overcome barriers to access to education. A few of the girls who attended prepared questions for the panel, and it was incredible to see how they facilitated the discussion. We should empower these girls to be part of the change!
During the event we also collected donations for Plan International, an NGO that strives to give girls around the world access to food, water, education, financial security and protection from sexual violence and exploitation. Plan is also one of the documentary’s 7 nonprofit partners.
Find out more about Girl Rising, including how you can show a screening in your community, at www.girlrising.com
I am happy to work at a company like Cisco that supports educational opportunities for girls around the globe. To highlight just a few:
- In Jordan the government partnered with UN Women and Cisco to launch the Achieving Equality in the ICT Sector (E-Quality) program, a national initiative to empower women to pursue advanced ICT careers and to create a gender-sensitive workplace.
- The SPARK for Women Program in Turkey has taught more than 150 women technical skills through the Networking Academy curriculum while helping them increase their self-confidence and integration to social life.
For more about the Cisco Networking Academy visit www.netacad.com