The following post is an excerpt from STAND UP!, which came out Tuesday. You can purchase the book on Amazon. Three GLI students are spotlighted in the book, and we’ll be posting their stories this week to honor their work.
Every story in STAND UP! !: 75 Young Activists Who Rock the World, And How You Can, Too! is a launching pad for lessons and discussions on many topics—bullying, the arts, equality, disabilities, empowerment, family, environment, peer pressure, community service, education, friendship, leadership, race relations, faith, diseases and other medical issues, poverty, cultural understanding, healthy eating and living, animal welfare, drugs, military issues, social entrepreneurship, and so much more.
The free download, companion eBook STAND UP! DISCUSSION GUIDE is meant to be a starting point for exploring these issues and causes in the classroom, in the community, at home and anywhere else teachers, students, parents, book clubs, advocates, activists and the simply curious may be gathered. Like the stories themselves, the goal of this guide is to use the discussion questions as gateways to debate and exchanges that will encourage participants to further expand their knowledge, share experiences, open minds, take action, inspire change and bring people closer together.
by Sarah Musa
Imagine a six-year-old girl sitting on the side of her yard in Afghanistan. She eagerly watches as her younger brothers head off to school. Meanwhile, she fantasizes about the day she will have the opportunity to go to school and proudly wear her school uniform. She has dreams and aspirations about her future, but unfortunately without an education, she will not realize her potential. She feels a sense of animosity growing inside her because she feels oppressed by her society. She knows that she is not permitted to go to school simply because SHE IS A GIRL.
I became aware of the denial of girls’ rights to education, especially in developing countries, four years ago. It was around that time that my friend Rachel introduced me to Girls Learn International (GLI). The goal of GLI is to provide girls worldwide with an education. I was touched the most when I heard stories of girls in some developing countries who were sneaking off to the forests with their school supplies in order to continue their learning. That was the turning point for me to offer help to those girls.
In September 2009, with the help of Rachel and some GLI staff members, including Ms. Choudhury, Ms. Salthouse and Ms. Steimer-King, I started a Girls Learn International chapter at my high school in Virginia and we partnered with a group of girls in India. These girls are unable to attend school because of their parents’ preference for educating a boy over a girl, as well as economic constraints.
I am filled with passion for girls who are deprived of education because I know that education plays an important role as a foundation for a young persons’ development toward adult life. While serving as president of my high school’s GLI chapter, I ensured that our chapter established strong communication with our partner school in India. For instance, we wrote the girls letters at the beginning of each school year to see how they were doing and also to learn of their plans. Every year, the responses received from our partner school motivated me to inspire my team members to make more contributions for them.
Through fundraising activities, our team has been able to raise more than $1,700. The fundraising activities we organized over the years included bake sales, selling Indian bracelets and holding movie screenings. Henna tattoos done by Azka, a GLI member, were also a popular fundraising activity. Proceeds from these fundraising activities were transmitted to our partner school through the GLI headquarters. Our efforts increased the number of underprivileged girls in India having access to education, which makes me very proud.
Through our Girls Learn International chapter, I learned that I should never take anything for granted, especially the right to get an education. I believe that with freedom of education, girls can become the brightest and most successful leaders.
Now, as a freshman at James Madison University, I hope to build upon my high school efforts and to continue to be an inspiration and advocate for girls around the world. My mission is stronger than ever: No one should ever be denied an education or equal rights simply because she is a girl.
Sarah is the co-founder of the Girls Learn International chapter at her high school.