How Scholarships Can Help Close the Gender-Gap in Africa
Loren, Business and Marketing Associate at Asante Africa, started a personal fundraiser to send Frank — a student in East Africa to school. It started off with the goal to send 1 student back to school, but with the support of friends and family who believed in the cause, she can now support the education of 2 students (and its still going on). She talks about why scholarships are important and how can they help close the gender gap in Africa.
“With all the different aspects of development, it can be hard to say which is the best at combating poverty and providing the best opportunities for youth. And what I’ve come to notice is that less and less people have an interest in funding scholarships, due to concerns about the organization or a lack of knowledge about how scholarships help youth, especially girls.
Barriers to Girls’ Education
The core goal of a scholarship is to provide education to students (both boys and girls), who’s families cannot afford it (meaning without it, the child would never attend school). As an added bonus, scholarships for girls promote gender equality and help off-set the discrimination girls are facing today. In East African countries, such as Kenya and Tanzania and especially in remote, rural areas, girls face many barriers including oppressing cultural norms and traditional customs which hinder their chance at going to school. There are more barriers that affect a girl’s education than that of a boy’s: female genital mutilation, menstruation and pregnancy are just the tip of the iceberg. These barriers coupled with the chance to marry off their daughters at an early age means that for many families, boys are priority when it comes to education; thus, scholarships for girls are extra important.
On top cultural norms and traditional customs, education is not always free. In many cases, even the smallest school charges fees for students to study. In Madagascar, where I spent time as an English Instructor, students were required to pay 50,000 Ariary ($15) for school a year, when the daily average income for an estimated family of three (let’s imagine one parent and two children) is 5,000 Ariary ($1.50). For the poorest of the poor, school is not cheap by any means. And for families who do have enough money to send their daughters to school, girls often have to travel long distances to reach school. This leaves them vulnerable for miles on long, deserted roads, and many girls face sexual assault and even rape when walking to school.
Scholarships are an underestimated tool for getting more girls into school and closing the gender gap. Asante Africa’s scholarships promote gender equality by giving girls access to education. All AAF scholarships provide students’ school fees (meaning the financial burden is lifted from parents, and they no longer have to bear the hard choice of choosing which child to send to school) and provide room and board (meaning girls are no longer walking to school; they will be safer). Scholarships to girls means more girls will have access to education, closing the gender gap one girl at a time.
Concerns about Scholarships
So, why aren’t more people donating to scholarships? I’ve often heard concerns from people who have donated to organizations with similar causes that ‘there wasn’t really a child’, they ‘didn’t know where their money was going’ and that next time, they’d rather spend their money elsewhere. All of these experiences have tainted the view of non-profit fundraising efforts for scholarships and credible organizations and their students feel the affect.
Organizations have to do their part in becoming a trusty worthy organization — and donors need to do the research for a good match. I feel that Asante Africa is a trustworthy and reliable organization and here’s what you should be looking for the next time you decide to fund a student’s education. First, Asante Africa Foundation has strong ties with our employees on the ground. Our CEO visits three times a year and can see first-hand where the money is going and how its impacting communities. Our financials are also public, so you can see where your money is being spent and feel good about donating it (all registered 501©(3)s financial records are public). In terms of the actual scholarship, don’t be afraid if the scholarship is a little more than what you expected. Good scholarships will provide housing, supplies such as school materials and uniforms, and of course, the actual school fees. Our scholarships also allow you to communicate with your student through letters, receive updates about their grades, and even a lucky few get to meet our students in the field.
How You Can Help Close the Gender-Gap with a Scholarship
Choose to spend as little as $80 a month on a girl (the price of a gym membership!) or donate yearly.
Get your family and friends involved and start a fundraiser for student scholarship; you don’t have to do this alone! Don’t believe me? See my success here! Many times friends and families are willing and are excited about the opportunity to help. Take a look at some of the comments my friends and family left me:
Want to be successful? Send them direct, short, personalized messages asking them to donate small amounts; people will donate what they can afford. Then tag them on Facebook posts, thanking them and getting the word out to their friends that they donated. Keep posting!
Here are some ideas I’ve seen for in-person fundraisers: Take some friends out wine tasting and charge per head; Ask people to donate for entry to a raffle; or Hold a fun game outdoors and charge people to play — It’s all for a good cause of course!”
Loren’s fundraiser is still live on Facebook. To support her efforts, click here! Every dollar matters!