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.