Let's Let Them Try

To say that it's hard to be an African girl would be a gross understatement. SONY DSC

This is Verona.

Her greatest fault is that she was not born a boy.

Her greatest contribution is household labor: carrying water, cleaning, cooking, working the fields, caring for siblings. And then, staying out of the way.

She is powerless to defend herself from abuse of every kind. You would puke with disgust at the rate of rape among our young girls here.

She is precious. She is delightful. She is worthy. She is valuable. She just doesn't know it.

There is no silver bullet here. Trust me, decades of do-gooders have tried to find it. But the closest thing we have found?

Keep a girl in school.

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This is Diana.

She will be less likely to get pregnant as a teenager or marry early.

She will have a lower rate of HIV/AIDS and lower transmission of the disease to her future children.

She will produce higher crop yields of up to 25%.

Every extra year of primary school increases her eventual wages by at least 10%.

She will have more power against a man when she is earning her own income.

Every extra year of her education decreases future infant mortality by 5-10%.

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Proven ways to keep a girl in school? New uniforms (to replace their irreparable ones), clean water supply at school (so they can return from school with water for the family), latrines and re-usable sanitary pads (most girls skip school during menstruation for lack of facilities and supplies), and community education about the benefits of girls' education.

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This is uniform distribution day at Kanyadigiro Primary School.

The girls in grades 6, 7 and 8 are given a special ceremony in front of the teachers, parents and community members to receive their uniforms.

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They are privately mentored from the women in the community about menstruation. And they are each given bags with their own set of reusable menstrual pads. Latrines, rain tanks and health outreach are already in process.

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These are our girls. They are your girls, too. They are beaming with potential, and I truly believe they have the greatest ability to shape the future of Africa. Let's let them try.

(If you are interested in learning more about issue, check out this blog post on the amazing book, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.)