Life for the 127,000 inhabitants of Ifo Refugee Camp in Daadaab, Kenya isn’t
easy. Having fled civil war in their native Somalia, they still have to contend
with blazing heat, merciless dust storms, and the twin man-made scourges of
violence and indifference. It is a precarious existence – one in which bare
survival itself is always an open question. It’s hard for adults, but it’s even
harder for children.
And for girls, it’s hardest of all.
Fear of change, traditional attitudes concerning the role of women in society,
and fervently-held spiritual beliefs have combined to further circumscribe the
already limited range of life-options open to the girls of Ifo by denying them
access to virtually all forms of education.
But since 2005, there’s been a new wind blowing in Dadaab – a wind of freedom,
choice, and opportunity – and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, in
cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is behind it.
Together for Girls is a program that recognizes that education can
break the cycle of poverty, desperation and hopelessness that defines camp life
for the girls of Ifo. It addresses the legitimate cultural and moral concerns of
their parents, while providing the girls themselves with the teachers,
facilities, instructional materials, and school supplies that they need. In only
one year, the results have been little short of astonishing.
An educational environment has been created in which the girls of Dadaab are
thriving. Enrollment is 17% higher than initially projected. New classrooms and
adjunct facilities have been constructed. Close to 30 new female teachers have
been hired. Almost 6,000 text books have been distributed. And perhaps for the
first time in their lives, the young women of Dadaab are beginning to see that
they can – through their own efforts – build a better future for themselves and
their families. It is a liberating, hope-filled vision, and a testament to the
transformative power of education.
From antiquity, savants from every culture have recognized that it is the
ability to reason that distinguishes human beings from every other
creature on the planet. As such, the right to be freed from the fetters of
ignorance is surely the most fundamental human right of all. Together for
Girls promotes that right in a manner that respects the traditional values
of the community it serves. The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation is proud to be
counted as its first and most ardent supporter.