Category Archives: Girls Education

New Grantee: Young Feminists Movement in Pakistan

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Pakistan is only second to Yemen in a list of the ten worst countries for girls to be born in according to The Global Gender Gap Report in 2013. Women receive 43% less educational opportunities than men, there’s a 21% gender-based income gap, and only a quarter of the national labor force are represented by women. When it comes to violence against women, according to a study by The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Human Rights, just from January 2012 to September 2013, there were 860 honor killings, 481 incidents of domestic violence, 90 cases of acid burning, 344 cases or rape or gang rape, and 268 incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province in Northern Pakistan, girls and women are living under a tribal and Feudal system that promotes male dominance, presented as Islamic norms and values by religious groups. These traditions create even more extreme gender inequality and chance of gender-based violence as girls and women can be forced into marriage for the sake of peacemaking between tribes, are excluded from political activities, plus face violence and religious extremism when making efforts towards promoting girls and women’s rights. All of this is what sparked an international movement behind young activist Malala Yousafzai after she survived the Taliban’s targeted shooting for her promotion of girls’ rights to education.

In a place where even young school girls face extreme violence for speaking out, and “feminism” is a bold concept, Spark is thrilled to support giving these young women a voice through our newest grantee, The Young Feminists Movement.

The Young Feminists Movement was created in 2011 by young women at various local colleges from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and adjacent tribal areas focused on raising awareness around gender equality issues plus giving young women a safe space and a voice in an oppressed society. They provide 5-day trainings for girls ages 15-25 around equal rights, reproductive health and abuse prevention, plus they promote activism around girls’ and women’s rights and gender equality. From these trainings and other activities, they form “Girls Power Clubs” which continue the cultivation and promotion of feminism and activism. So far, they have successfully organized a group of 23 young women who speak for equal rights and are equipped with the knowledge and tools to challenge the patriarchy, plus they have influenced many more through their activist activities.

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A Spark grant will cover:

  • 50 scholarships for girls to attend the training program, and
  • Volunteer services in the areas of development plus organizational and financial management.

If you are interested in being a part of providing these volunteer services, we would love to hear from you. Email programs@sparksf.org.

We are so excited to feature this progressive and innovative organization at our upcoming Cocktails For A Cause event!

Please join us at SparkSF’s Cocktails For A Cause event on April 23, 2014 at Mr. Smiths in San Francisco to help raise funds for the young feminists of Pakistan. #MoreMalalas

A Punk Prayer, Facebook Gender Options, and Surfing The Wage Gap

One Billion Rising dances to end violence against women and girls, Pussy Riot Members Arrested in Sochi, Ways To Squash The Wage Gap, and Facebook Expands Gender Options but not Gendered Ad Targeting. This is your Spark News Digest.

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By Spark Fellow: Kendra Hyett

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HUMAN RIGHTS: Behind The Music – Pussy Riot’s Fight For Justice

The music must play on. Pussy Riot members recently released from prison forged forward to hold a Pussy Riot action in Sochi, only to be detained repeatedly by police without any excuse at all. While the police action continued, so did the press as the incidents became a media sensation.

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In an opinion piece, Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina expounds upon the Olympics’ “deceptive face,” and arrests of multiple groups showing support for the L.G.B.T. community.

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WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Rise Up For One Billion

One Billion Rising is a global campaign started by the V Day Movement demanding an end to violence against women and girls. Why One Billion Rising? Because one in three women in the world will be abused in her lifetime. ONE. BILLION. On February 14th, thousands gathered in cities around the world to dance, share stories, and promote justice for women and girls. Check out the local San Francisco news coverage and coverage of one of the many NYC events.

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TECHNOLOGY: Cheers for Gender Options or Jeers For Wrinkle Cream Ads?

Facebook expands their gender options from only male and female to include 50+ gender descriptions. Is this the right step toward inclusion, or would it be a better step to remove gender entirely to spare us from sexist gender-target ads like weight loss and wrinkle cream?

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GLOBAL HEALTH: India’s Next Generation Takes A Stand

A new generation of girls is emerging in India: girls ready to demand safety, education, and their right to the same opportunities as men. While traditions like forced marriage continue, with innovative opportunities and platforms like Pathways, an organization educating youth on basic reproductive and sexual health, girls are finding ways to make change in their lives and communities.

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ECONOMY: Pay It Forward To Yourself

It’s one thing to be informed by Lean In about the current existence of the gender wage gap. It’s another thing to know what to do about it in your life. Find out what an employment attorney says you can do if you think you’re not being paid fairly.

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Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers

Modern-Day Chastity Belt, Swedish Movie Ratings, and Google Shockers.  This is your Spark News Digest.

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By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Ellen Tejle

ENTERTAIMENT: Rating Feminism

Move over Rotten Tomatoes. Last week, Swedish movie theaters started a new rating system for films. Does the movie have at least two female characters? Is there at least one scene where women discuss something other than a man? If yes, congrats! You get an A. The goal of the rating system is to encourage more multi-dimensional female characters in film.

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GLOBAL: British emergency funding helping women and girls

We’ve seen it in Syria, Haiti, and now, in The Philippines. In countries in crisis, women and girls are disproportionately impacted. Gender-based violence increases dramatically. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has recently announced a £21.6 million in funding for protection and support of women and girls in crisis.  The project will fund simple investments that reduce the risk of violence against women.

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WOMENS RIGHTS: Let Girls Lead

Puberty is tough enough. Going to school often means dealing with sexual advances and peer pressure. Let Girls Lead started a video contest as a part of their global movement to encourage girls to lead social change. The contest allows girls to share their own stories around solutions and successes. The winners get to be the next Sofia Coppola, creating their own short films.

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BUSINESS: Modern-Day Chastity Belt

Will a pair of anti-rape underwear provide security when we are “putting ourselves in potential risky situations”? The NY based company AR Wear created lockable shorts that aim to prevent rapes from completion. Successful or not, the product sparks controversy. Is this just another way of teaching women how not to get raped versus addressing the root issue?

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TECHNOLOGY:  The Dark Side of Google Search

Type in the word “feminism” or “feminist” into Google. Watch the auto-complete results. Shocking? Here´s PolicyMic´s version of the results, together with the faces of the women that won´t accept it.

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Avon for Good, Mobile BFF’s & Lady Gaga’s Credo

Avon for Good, Mobile BFF’s, & Lady Gaga’s Credo. This is your Spark News Digest.

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Authored By Spark Fellow: Linn Hellerstrom

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Anat Binur, co-founder of MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology)

TECH: Can a mobile app help Israelis and Palestinians MEET in the middle?

MEET (Middle East Education Through Technology) – is a mobile app that helps Israeli and Palestinian students break both cultural and physical barriers. Anat Binur, co-founder, aims to help students forge bonds between students by studying programming, marketing, and strategic planning side by side.

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BUSINESS:  How do you say Ding Dong in Swahili?

 Avon Products inspires more than good looks. By applying Avon’s renown door-to-door business model, Living Goods, a non-profit, helps thousands of Ugandan micro-entrepreneurs earn an income while saving lives by selling anti-malaria medicine, clean burning stoves, solar-powered lamps, and sanitary supplies.

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GLOBAL: What one thing is holding Iranian women back from running for President? A word.

The Iranian constitution says that the president should be from political rejal, a word with adual meaning of politically qualified and men. Iranian Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi sheds light on why women aren’t qualified to run for president in Iran but why they still keep on registering as candidates. You can’t stop, nay, won’t stop the ladies from pursuing what’s right and fair.

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 U.S.  NEWSLady Gaga credo, “Baby, You Were Born This Way” Swings legal.

Delaware agrees. Their House recently approved a bill outlawing discrimination against transgender people. Now, the category of gender identity is among race, age, religion, and sexual orientation as protected non-discrimination categories.

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Spark’s News Digest

The coolness of coding, using contraceptives and men leaning in. This is your Spark news digest.

Read, discuss and SHARE. 

BUSINESS: Opening a Gateway for Girls to Enter the Computer Field

BUSINESSOpening a Gateway for Girls to Enter the Computer Field

The secret’s out, coding is cool. Women earn just 12% of computer science degrees and that needs to change. Girls Who Code and other similarly focused organizations are aiming to increase the amount of girls in tech. These groups open up the gateway for young women by teaching them how to code at a young age.

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WORLD REPORT: Contraception is good for the economy, everything else

Janet Jackson is not the only one who thinks control is a positive thing. A new study finds that giving women access to control their own fertility is a really good thing for themselves, their relationships and the economic state of the world.

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BUSINESS: Career Advice from Sheryl Sandberg and Amex CEO Chenault

Work place dilemma’s are not just when someone takes your stapler. 64% of men are afraid to be in a room alone with a female employee. In this video, Amex CEO and Sheryl Sandberg discuss creating informal mentoring programs for male bosses and female employees without feelings of discomfort.

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GLOBAL: In country of sustained conflict, two DRC women work toward peace

Spark member’s don’t just show up, they create change. Spark’s own Larkin Callaghan authored a piece about gender justice in the DRC.

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GLOBAL: Malawi’s Leader Makes Safe Childbirth Her Mission

1 out of every 36 women are at risk of dying from childbirth in Malawi. Joyce Banda, the country’s new president is out to change that. Despite a national ban on childbirth at home, most Malawians ignore it in favor of customs that have governed their lives for as long as they can remember. In order to shift the norms, Banda is working with the real power brokers of Malawi, the 20,000 village chiefs, explaining the dangers of home births while still respecting tribal traditions.

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From Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, Donut Security and Progress Made In China: Spark News Digest

From Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, donut security and progress Made In China: This is your Spark News Digest.

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NATIONAL: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Calls Out Military Leaders For “Good Order And Discipline”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a word, ROCKS. Our Senator will not accept rhetoric for an answer. Last week Sen. Gillibrand questioned military leaders on sexual assault, demanding zero tolerance in the military justice system.”I appreciate the work you’re doing, but it’s not enough,” Sen. Gillibrand told military officers during a recent Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. We appreciate your leadership, Senator. Rock on.

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NEXT GENERATION PHILANTHROPY:  NPR Wants To Click With Those Who Tweet

Pivoting from Lake Wobegon to Lake Havasu, NPR is taking a crack at the under 30 crowd. Their presence at South by Southwest Interactive Conference (SXSW) was part of their Generation Listen campaign. Their aim is to inspire a new generation of listeners to support local stations to keep public programming alive and out of retirement.

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INTERNATIONAL: Empowering Women To Improve Food Security – What Works and Why

Food security is not just hiding the last donut from your co-workers. In Olivier De Schutter’s report to the UN on Gender and the Right to Food, he notes that one of the most promising approaches to alleviating poverty is to include gender-sensitive elements to existing food security programs.

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INTERNATIONAL: China Signals Greater Role For Private Nonprofits

Social progress – Made in China. Last week, China declared  that it will allow nonstate groups to take a bigger role in tackling economic and social issues within the country. This is a big, positive step for a government that has been repressive to social sector actors.

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WOMEN IN BUSINESS: Speak Up, Believe In Yourself, Take Risks

Lean In closer to the debate. In this opinion piece and video, Sheryl Sandberg takes notice of the conversation swirling around her book and movement, Lean In, explaining that we need a national dialogue in order to break the barriers holding women back from achieving true equality in the workplace. Can Lean In help create a world where passions, interest, and talent are king, and stereotypes take a backseat?

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Celebrating Women’s History Month. Spark’s News Digest

The Day, Month, and Year of Women: Spark’s News Digest

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“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” - Gloria Steinem

Celebrate International Women's Day

March – Women’s History Month – is a our favorite time of year. It’s a time to reflect, celebrate, and move.

Over the past century, we have seen great strides in the advancement of women’s human rights.  Women are chefs and CEOs, educators and engineers, Prime Ministers and mothers. Women have more choices than ever before.  While there is still work to be done to close the equality gap, this news digest is dedicated to our movement leaders. Thank you for getting us this far. We are ready to work with you to carry us the distance.

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UNITED STATES: House Passes Violence Agaisnt Women Act 

The House approved the expanded Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act last week. Originally passed in 1994 and reauthorized since, the Act provides support for organizations that serve survivors of domestic violence. The new version increases protections of particular at-risk groups — Native Americans, undocumented immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

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GLOBAL: Join Spark in asking the UN to End Rape Now

As tens of thousands took to the streets across India to express outrage over the brutal gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student in Delhi, smaller protests were held in Ohio to condemn the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, allegedly by members of small town’s beloved high school football players. Millions of women are not safe in their homes, on the streets, or the workplace. We must speak out.

Spark’s partner The Global Fund for Women along with partners in India, and activists around the globe are demanding the United Nations pressure world leaders to make ending sexual violence a top priority. Join us.

Sign the petition

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MEDIA: Makers: Women Who Make America

Did you know the single greatest impact of Title 9 is not on sports fields but in our medical and law school classrooms? We didn’t until we watched Makers. This documentary shares the story of the most sweeping social revolution in American history. Women like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah Winfrey share their memories, as do countless women who challenged the status quo in industries from coal-mining to Congress. Makers captures the memories and emotion of a movement that changed America forever. 

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INTERNATIONAL: Afghanistan’s First Female Mayor Proves Critics Wrong

The first female mayor of Nili, Azra Jafari, has been nicknamed “Mr. Mayor” by her community. At the start of her term, she received threats from a high powered mullah who later thanked her for all the work she’d done for the community.  This nickname is a sign of respect. As Afghanistan’s first and only women mayor, Jafari is determined to continue changing attitudes towards women while improving the quality of life for all in Nili.

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP: A Titan’s How To On Breaking The Glass Ceiling

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, is launching a book called “Lean In,” about women finding themselves at work. In her book, Sandberg argues that women are sabotaging themselves in the workplace; “we hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in,” she writes, and the result is that “men still run the world.” She hopes the book will spur the creation of “Lean In” conscious-raising groups where women use self-awareness exercises to increase their confidence in the workplace.

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Millennials, Women, and Impact: Spark News Digest

Next gen donors, a girl’s battle at home, and contraceptive prowess. This is your Spark News Digest.

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Next Generation Donors

PHILANTHROPY: Next Generation Donors And Their Plan For Greater Impact

Next generation donors, Gen Xers and Millennials are shaking up the state of philanthropy. A new report on our understudied generation states that next generation donors  “perceive their parents and grandparents as driven by obligation, recognition, and tradition, [and] they see themselves as driven by strategy and impact.” Once criticized for being cynical and entitled, next generation donors are proving their worth by pushing philanthropic strategy to be more effective.

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INTERNATIONAL: Girl Soldiers Face Tougher Battle On Return To Civilian Life

40% of child soldiers around the world are girls, and while programs are in place to help soldiers reintegrate into society, these programs are not addressing the needs of girl soldiers. This articles discusses the alarmingly low enrollment rate of girls into disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) programs.

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EDUCATION: Women – The World’s Best Investment

Who runs the world…GIRLS! Although research links the success of women with increased GDP,  women in developing nations face limited access to education and economic advancement. Programs’s like Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) help narrow this gap by teaching women factory workers in developing countries technical and life skills.

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INTERNATIONAL: Justice Is Blind, But Not In The Case of Gender Violence

Famous South African paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Similar to the gang-rape in India, this case has rightly attracted massive public attention and may be a catalyst for fighting violence against women in South Africa.

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GLOBAL: Sexularism and The Female Body

Should there be compromises in contraceptive governess? In her opinion piece, feminine theorist, Zillah Eisentein discusses the blurred lines between public and private; political and religion; church and state; and secular and religious divides and what we can do as a worldwide community to stand for a women’s rights to her own body.

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In solidarity we trust. Spark News Digest

Maternal Mortality in Malawi & Texas,  Tabloids & the Men who Write Them, and a Flash Mob for LOVE. This is your Spark News Digest.

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An event organized as part of the ‘One Billion Rising’ campaign in New Delhi on Thursday.

GLOBAL: The ‘One Billion Rising’ on the Streets of Delhi

In almost 200 countries around the world, people took to the streets on Valentine’s Day to rise and dance. These flash mobs are part of One Billion Rising, a campaign initiated by Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues” to end violence against women. The mob message resonated in India which is still reeling from a highly publicized gang rape. Hundreds of men and women took the streets of Delhi to demand a JUST love grounded in equality for all.

Delhi Rising Promotional Video:

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GLOBAL: Searching for Gender Equality

A new study found that mobilizing grassroots women’s groups may have the most long-term impact on policies to eradicate violence against women around the world.

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GLOBAL: Boys: The Trouble with Female Celebrity Profiles and the Men Who Write Them.

The sex, the fantasy, the minimization, the disillusionment. This opinion piece illustrates the inherent sexism male writers continue to use to portray female celebrities in glossy magazines.

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GLOBAL: Malawi’s Leader Makes Safe Childbirth Her Mission

In Malawi, 1 out of 36 women are at risk for maternal mortality. The country’s new president, Joyce Banda,  is out to change that horrifying ratio. Banda has a plan to sensitize Malawi’s 20,000 village chiefs, the country’s power brokers, to the dangers of childbirth, while still respecting tribal traditions.

Read the full story 

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NATIONAL: Pregnant? Watch Your Risks In Great Texas State

When one think’s of maternal mortality rates, Texas is not the first place that comes to mind. No place in the US should be the first place that comes to mind. However, Gov. Perry’s budget cutting support for Texas’s women’s health services coincides with a shocking increase in maternal mortality rate in the Lone Star state.

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Fostering Social Entrepreneurship in Rwanda

It’s not every day that you get to see the foundations of graduate school flourish into a burgeoning non-profit organization halfway across the globe. So, when one of my close friends from graduate school told me in 2008 that she was starting an organization in Rwanda where she had been living, I was of course eager to support her. And the more I learned about Rwanda and the work her organization was undertaking, I became invested in seeing its success grow.

Named The Komera Project (in Rwanda the word “Komera” means “be strong, have courage”), Margaret Butler developed the idea to start the group over the course of her many runs through the Rwandan countryside. She noticed that sometimes girls from the local villages would jump in and join her on these runs until she realized that her behavior wasn’t going to be considered socially acceptable. Combined with the fact that Margaret was seeing first hand how most girls did not make it to secondary school, she decided to host a girls-only ‘fun run’ one day to promote the education and rights of these girls. As they started off, supporters shouted “Komera!” to the girls, and the group was born.

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Working with the local government, schools, and some on the ground staff from Partners in Health based in Rwanda, Margaret steered the first of Komera’s 10 girls onto their fully funded secondary education path. Komera has since grown to over 60 scholars, and has expanded their reach beyond just funding the girls’ schooling. They now also provide mentorship, a leadership program, and now a social entrepreneurship program.

Some context and understanding of Rwanda is essential to underscore how significant this is. Only 17% of girls in Rwanda go to upper secondary school (high school). 87% of the country lives in rural areas. All Komera scholars are from these rural areas and live on about $1 a day from families working as subsistence farmers or tin miners – so these girls would be farming, mining, and/or working in their households if not in school. Komera focuses on supporting the girls in grades 10-12, since the majority of girls begin dropping from school in grade 10. Komera never takes on a scholar unless they have the cash to fully fund them for those three years – this cost is $500 a year for tuition, uniforms, boarding, all school supplies, and personal supplies like hygiene products.

By 2010, the focus at the Komera Project had shifted from primarily scholarship to figuring out how to keep the girls in school and create a real Komera community, and that’s when the themes of mentorship and leadership came into play.

The transition into boarding at school can be really difficult for the girls, especially since they are spread between 13 different schools. In Rwanda, once you have the funds to pay, the local government decides what school you will go to, so while Komera would prefer all the girls to be in the same 4-5 schools, that isn’t possible. However, they are all in the same district (there are 30 districts in the country total).

To help combat some of the difficulties around these transitions, Komera provides school-based volunteer mentors for all the girls – female staff or teachers who meet one-on-one with the scholars every week. They actually use curriculum to cover topics like health education, financial literacy, what their rights are as women in Rwanda, to any personal concerns they may be having. The girls also meet with the Komera social worker (one of only two paid Komera staff members!) regularly when she visits each school throughout the year. Their next goal is to launch a university mentoring program, and they have started to do some outreach to universities in Kigali (the Rwandan capital) to see if there is interest among Rwandan university women to mentor these girls.

Leadership is another key component of the Komera Project. The Komera scholars attend Leadership Empowerment camp during their month-long summer break, where they take part in the now-annual Girls Fun Run and participate in workshops focused on topics like English-speaking skills, how to use computers, and sex education. These have been essential for the girls, because these month-long breaks can be vulnerable times for the girls who go back home. Most stay with extended family, get pulled back into working with the family and can potentially be convinced that they need to leave school – especially true for the nearly 20% of girls who come from families who don’t fully support their education efforts.

In regards to the new Social Entrepreneurship Program that Spark is helping to support, most recently the idea of sustainability has come up – how does Spark keep the momentum of being a Komera Scholar going once the girls graduate from secondary school? This was particularly pressing since 15 girls will be graduating in 2013.

The girls had been requesting a social entrepreneurship type training for some time – wanting to learn the skills necessary to starting and maintaining a business, a non-profit or grassroots venture. When asked about social entrepreneurship training, all the girls said that they had never even considered how they might be able to give back to their community or considered themselves leaders, and they were really excited about the idea of learning how to create something to benefit and incorporate their community.

The winter break, in November-December hasn’t been able to be filled by Komera because they haven’t been able to fund camps both in May-June when they have the leadership and empowerment camps as well as during the winter months. Finding funding for this new social entrepreneurship training became essential, as well as a way to get a tested and evaluated curriculum in their hands.Komera Scholars

A local Rwandan group, Global Grassroots, has been offering entrepreneurship, business training, and skills-based workshops for women in Rwanda since immediately after the genocide – and they’ve been doing so pretty successfully. They have agreed to modify their program for a weeklong intensive program for teen girls, as well as moderate the weekly follow-ups. This will be called the “Girls Academy for Global Conscious Change.”

The girls will work in groups of ten, separated by interests – they’ll select a topic they want to focus on, like health, education, water, and they will learn how to craft a mission statement, develop a program goal and implementation plan, and how to write and follow a budget. They will be given small grants of $50, which will be managed by the social worker and through each phase can retrieve part of the money for supplies, then implementation or advertising. The goal is to have them create these mini-organizations and incubate them throughout the school year, with the hope of maintaining it beyond that year, turning it into a profitable business, and growing it beyond their immediate school community.

When I heard that this was their well thought out plan, I thought Spark would be the perfect place for Komera to seek funding help to cover the costs of the girls supplies, food, transportation, and personal supplies throughout the training. The perfect way to blend two of the organizations that are most dear to me.

The Komera Project embodies the exact kind of values and practices that Spark looks for in grantees, and I look forward to what these budding entrepreneurs are up to in just a few years.

Check out their Facebook and Twitter pages, and visit their site to learn more about Komera and meet some of their scholars.