When my staff said that July 12 was Malala Day, I had to ask, “What’s that?”
Malala Yousafzai (Photo by Simon Davis/DFID)
I immediately knew when I heard the name of Malala Yousafzai. She’s the Pakastani teenager who the Taliban shot in the face for wanting an education. She recovered, moved to another country, and won a Nobel Peace Prize as an advocate for the education of girls and women.
Food for the Hungry knows that a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of 5. As a leader at FH, I’ve seen how educating and empowering women benefits an entire community and its economy.
Shortly after joining FH, I visited Peru. I remember sitting with a mom who FH educated through our Care Group model. She became a Care Group leader, managing the education of 12 other moms. We taught her to teach them how to better care for their children. The group learned about health, nutrition, financial management, domestic violence prevention and much more. Those who couldn’t read learned to read.
Educating Women Empowers the Entire Community
Eventually, the community convinced my new Peruvian friend to run for a position as a leader of the community. She hesitated because she didn’t consider herself a leader, and she didn’t like to speak in front of groups.
But she had hopes and dreams for her children and for her community, so she ran … and won.
While I sat in her home on a hillside slum outside of Lima, her daughters came home from school. As she introduced me to each of them, she emphasized how important their educations were to her and to them. Her daughters talked about their hopes and dreams.
That’s one of the ways FH knows we’re succeeding in a community. When more and more women and girls talk of their dreams for the future, we know we’ve helped to make social change that will end poverty in that community.
Social Change Makers
In another country, I visited a community with no school beyond 6th grade. The middle school was so far away that the kids would have to get up at 4:00 a.m. and walk for hours on an unsafe road. The parents thought more education was unnecessary, especially for girls. They believed girls needed to stay at home to help raise food, fetch water, and take care of other chores.
All the children thought they would be poor because their parents were poor.
After FH walked alongside them to help them overcome the issues they faced, attitudes changed.
One of the community’s girls showed so much promise that her parents bought her a bike so she could get to school. Her dad accompanied her to make sure she stayed safe.
In a culture that values girls less than boys and considers education unnecessary, that was a huge social change.
Whenever my own kids complain about having to go to school, I tell them about that family’s dedication to getting an educating so one of the community’s kids could become a doctor or a teacher and then come back to the community to help others.
It makes me proud to know that when you give to Food for the Hungry, you become a giver of hope. Among other things, you help us make sure girls and women get the education they need to pull entire communities out of poverty. You help parents learn to care for their children and allow them to dream.
Want to help in this effort? You can become a giver of hope by sponsoring a child or giving a one-time donation right now.
Believe me, it feels great!
Mike Meyers is Food for the Hungry’s Chief Development Officer. He travels extensively and has personally witnessed the impact of walking alongside communities to help them overcome poverty.