Alternative Rite of Passage Empowers Girls and Enlightens Communities
Girls denied education are more vulnerable to poverty, violence, abuse, exploitation, Female Genital Mutilation, malnutrition, AIDS, and maternal mortality. As many as 80% of girls in rural Africa drop out prior to reaching the 6th grade. Girls’ education is essential to eliminating global poverty.
Women’s Global Education Project (WGEP), founded in 2003 by returned Peace Corps volunteer Amy Maglio, has grown from its initial modest outreach, helping 10 girls access school, to providing a comprehensive education program impacting over 5,000 people in Senegal and Kenya. By helping girls in remote rural regions of these countries enroll in and stay in school, WGEP is changing underlying attitudes and beliefs towards educating girls.
Last year, WGEP conducted a yearlong campaign against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Working with our local partner organization in Kenya, WGEP led outreach to 10 rural villages, reaching over 700 people to sensitize their communities about the harmful effects of FGM and the importance of girls’ education. Girls who undergo FGM often suffer physical and psychological trauma in addition to ending their education for early marriages.
In December of 2011, the year-long campaign culminated in an Alternative Rite of Passage (ARP) ceremony for a record number of 263 girls. The ARP program weaves together the themes of girls’ education, empowerment and the eradication of FGM. Rather than undergo FGM, girls formally enter adulthood by participating in workshops with female role models where they learn about human anatomy and reproduction, personal hygiene, interpersonal relationships, decision making skills and the harmful effects of female circumcision. They celebrate their passage to adulthood with these empowering messages.
The ARP ceremony brought together over 300 community members including girls, parents, civic leaders, teachers and local government officials. This year’s ceremony was particularly successful not only because of the record number of participants, but also because a local chief, previously a proponent of FGM, was a guest speaker at the event having become an ardent supporter of ARP. He was the first chieftain in the region to prosecute a practitioner of FGM, demonstrating the shift that is occurring among community leaders and parents as a result of this program.
Inspired by WGEP’s successful approach to combatting FGM, two church groups in the region have started their own programs using the ARP model. Since being adopted by WGEP four years ago, the ARP program has helped over 600 girls and their families abandon the deeply rooted tradition of FGM.
In addition to community support programs such as ARP, WGEP assists girls who are falling through the cracks of larger initiatives by addressing the multifaceted factors that keep girls out of school. These obstacles include lack of financial resources for school fees, systemic bias towards boys, concerns for girls’ safety, early marriage and poor health. WGEP scholars have maintained a 95% retention rate for the past four years; and inspired by WGEP scholars, more girls are remaining in school in these regions. Investment in girls’ education is uniquely powerful, creating ripple effects that benefit entire communities and future generations.
More About This Charity
Women’s Global Education Project
The mission of Women’s Global Education Project is to provide access to education and to develop training programs that empower women and girls to build better lives and foster equitable communities.
- This Achievement raised $25,000
- This Charity has raised $170,000 in the past year
- This Achievement helped 250 families
- This Charity has helped 5,500 people in the past year
- 263 girls abandoned FGM for the Alternative Right of Passage Program