Students before brides – how scholarships are changing girls’ lives in Bangladesh

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

The country of Bangladesh—with more than one-quarter of it’s population living on less than $2/day—can be a difficult place to grow up. But 11-year-old Dina is a light to her destitute homeland.

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11-year-old Dina was on the path towards child marriage before getting a scholarship.

Dina was born into a very poor family in a rural community and until recently, her life was going down a seemingly dismal path. Like most young girls in her community who spend their days working for their families—cooking, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of younger siblings—Dina was soon to be married.

Married… at 11-years-old. 

Unable to afford to send Dina to school or support her at all, her father was prepared to make an agreement with another family and sell his daughter off to marry a much older man. By God’s grace, however, Dina’s story took a drastic turn. One day, a local teacher visited Dina’s neighborhood. When he first saw Dina, he felt bad for the thin young girl in tattered clothes that stood before him. “But as we talked,” the teacher explains about first interacting with Dina, “I was so impressed by her and her dreams.”

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Educating girls in places like Bangladesh drastically reduces the likelihood of them becoming child brides and teenage mothers.

After talking with Dina and later meeting with her parents and telling them about an opportunity for her to attend school on a paid scholarship through World Concern, the teacher was able to re-direct Dina’s path completely.

Today, Dina is the top student in her fourth grade class. “Without your assistance, it was not possible for us to send Dina to school and lead her on a track of development to a brighter future,” Dina’s parents explain.

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Ultra poor women like Faranza are becoming empowered through their involvement in micro-credit programs in Bangladesh.

Families around Bangladesh are learning about the importance of sending their children to school. In a male-dominated society that does not traditionally support education for girls, this is a vital step in the right direction. In the past month alone, 60 new households heard about the scholarship program for the first time and 92 sponsored students had their tuition and exam fees paid for. As a direct result, there has been an increase in overall school attendance as well as major improvements in the way that parents are prioritizing and taking better care of their daughters.

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As parents are seeing the impact of education on their children’s lives, they too are becoming motivated to learn and improve their own lives. For women like Dina’s mom, this means getting involved in a women’s micro-credit group. These groups allow women to work together and save money as well as invest in their own small businesses. Not only does this directly impact their economic stability, but it empowers them to stand up for their rights and learn new skills such as how to read and write. In one community this month, advocacy and counselling sessions helped prevent a divorce and two child marriages!

“World Concern showed me the light in my life,” Dina explains, “Otherwise I would grow up as an illiterate woman…in the future I want to be a teacher and teach the poor children in my community.”

To help more girls like Dina become lights in their communities, you can provide a scholarship for $50 and send a girl to school today!

 

A Goat is a Treasured Asset for Fania

Have you seen the 2014 Global Gift Guide yet?  One of the more popular items are goats and for good reason.  Read about a young girl in Haiti named Fania to find out why the gift of a goat means she’ll get to stay in school.

In the rural community of Mersan in southern Haiti there is a primary school called Ecole Mixte Bon Berger.  Since 2012 World Concern has partnered with this school by providing goats and husbandry training to students.  With a goat students are able to earn an income by selling the goat’s offspring and using the money to pay for school tuition and other supplies.

One of these students in Mersan is named Fania Bien-Aime, a shy 14-year-old girl who has a smile that is hard to forget.  She lives a 15 minute walk from the school with her parents and six siblings.  “I always walk to school.  In the beginning it was difficult but now it is easy.”

Fania with her goat

Fania recently received a goat from World Concern and participated in the training where she learned how to take care of her goat and how to maintain its health.

“I know how to take care of the goat because I learned some things in the training,” she said.  “When it’s raining I have to shelter the goat but usually during the day it sits in the shade because the sun is too hot.”

Now her goat is in heat and Fania expects it to become pregnant shortly.  When working with communities, the ‘long view’ must be taken into consideration.  There may be solutions that would provide temporary assistance to Fania, however this lacks sustainability and requires a handout to be given repeatedly.  World Concern is interested instead in long term solutions.

A goat is a treasured asset in rural Haiti because it represents a steady income.  “Each year a goat can give between six and nine kids, and she may produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.

While a goat and relevant training may not produce immediate results, it will provide students like Fania with a way to earn an income for years to come and give her new skills which she can carry into adulthood.

Fania will soon begin the 6th grade and is looking forward to returning to class after the summer break.

Fania and her friend

“The sciences and mathematics are the ones I like.  I like to study,” she shared.  “Education is important so I can help my parents and also for myself to feel good and help in society.”

“I would like to be a tailor but I can’t sew right now.  For now this is the profession that is in my head,” explained Fania.  “You can get money from this skill because when school begins, parents need to send their children’s uniforms to get sewed.”

Fania’s goat receives vaccines

With a goat and specific training, Fania is well-positioned to earn an income and therefore continue with her education which will give her opportunities to provide for herself and her family.  It is because of your generosity and partnership that we’re able to help keep girls like Fania in school!  Give the gift of a goat today.

 

Goats and Girls Education: A “Baton” For Life

girls goats haiti1Although we’ve been taught that there is no “silver bullet” to combating poverty, education may be an exception.  The impact education can have in the lives of children—especially girls—is overwhelming.

–  One extra year of school boosts a girl’s future wages by 10-20 percent.

–  A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.

–  Education drastically reduces child marriage. On average, a girl with 7 years of education will marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children.

If statistics are not convincing, listen to girls themselves.  I’ve found that in Haiti girls yearn to attend school and know full well the value of an education.

“School is important because you need to learn things so you can have an occupation,” said 12-year-old Rocheka who lives in the small coastal village of Crabier in southern Haiti.

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Rocheka with her goat

So what’s with the goats we talk so much about? And what do goats have to with education?  Well I’m glad you asked.

In rural parts of Haiti World Concern has found that the gift of a goat can help keep girls in school for the long run.  Here’s how:

In partnership with schools and churches, World Concern gives a female goat to a young girl who also receives basic goat husbandry training so she knows how to take care of her goat.  Once the goat has babies (called kids; funny but totally legit), the first kid is given back to the program so another child can benefit.  Then all other kids that the female goat gives birth to can be sold by the girl to pay for school fees and other related costs such as books, materials and uniforms.

This way the girl is given a skill (goat-raising) and she is able to contribute towards her education, reducing dependency and making her an active participant instead of a passive receiver.

There are three primary advantages to the ‘goat model’:

1.    Life lessons.  When a goat is initially given to a girl, she also receives basic goat husbandry training.  The training focuses on how to feed the goat and keep it healthy.  A goat is an asset in rural Haiti and represents an important source of income that girls can use to pay for school fees and other necessities.  It’s important from the beginning to give girls the skills they need to take care of the goat.  The goat husbandry knowledge they gain during the training is something they can use for years to come, even after they finish school.  Since a goat requires consistent attention, girls learn important life lessons such as responsibility, discipline and ownership.  Aside from the initial training, World Concern staff returns each month to teach girls and other students about additional tips and techniques for raising their goat.

2.    “Multiplying effect.”  When a goat is given, its impact goes beyond the girl who initially received the goat.  The first kid that goat produces is returned to the program so it can be given to another child.  This is one reason that our goat program in Haiti has existed since 1998 and continues to this day.  The gift of a goat has a significant impact in the life of a girl but it also is a gift that multiplies over time, impacting other children as well.

3.    The gift that (literally) keeps giving. “Each year a goat will give between six and nine kids, and she typically can produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.  The kids that a goat produces represent income for a young girl so she can attend school and most importantly stay in school.  All goats, minus the first, are hers to sell.  Enabling a girl to earn an income and pay for school lightens the financial burden on her family and allows the family’s precious resources to be spent on other critical needs.

World Concern provides vaccinations to goats in the program as well as on-going veterinary care.  This ensures that the investment of a goat will truly benefit a girl long term.

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Rocheka (second from left) and friends outside their church in Crabier.

Rocheka is one of many girls in Haiti who are able to stay in school thanks to the gift of a goat.  Rocheka is a soft spoken yet determined and bright girl who has big dreams.

“After I finish secondary school, I would like to be a nurse so I can take care of children because many children suffer from disease,” she shared.

Youslie is a 7-year-old girl who lives in the village of Guilgeau and is currently in the second grade.

“In school I like to read stories,” she said.

Youslie recently received her goat and is enjoying taking care of it.

“I feed the goat twice a day things like corn and corn husk,” said Youslie.  “Once the goat has babies I will drink the milk.”

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Youslie (left) and her friend Belony in Guilgeau.

In Haitian Creole, the language spoken by all Haitians, the word baton is significant.  Translated directly it means ‘stick’ or ‘baton’ however it has a deeper meaning.  A baton can also be a skill or ability that a person possesses which will help them succeed in life.  This meaning is often used in reference to education.

Following earning a certificate from a trade school or graduating from high school, someone may say, “Now I have a baton I can use to fight in life.”  With a baton, a person is given a tool which will help them in their pursuit of a more healthy and productive life.

In Haiti, girls face many challenges which leave them vulnerable—generational poverty, limited financial resources and lack of opportunity.  At World Concern, we want to give girls a baton that will help carry them through some of these challenges.  Education is one baton that has a long-term impact on the life of a young girl.

Girls like Rocheka and Youslie are the future of Haiti.  Helping them stay in school is an investment in their life but also has an impact on their family, community and country.

Help us impact more girls in Haiti by giving the gift of a goat today!