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Pursuing An Education Despite the Odds

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WRITTEN BY Esther Martinez

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” —Malala Yousafzai, education activist

As each new day of 2020 brings more anxiety and stress over the current state of global and local events, it’s important to celebrate the good news and stories of success — many of them a long time in the making.

One of which is the recent graduation of Malala Yousafzai. The young Nobel Peace Prize winner and female education activist recently shared about her graduation from Oxford University on social media. The world celebrated with her. This victory comes eight years after the Pakistani Taliban shot Malala on a bus as she fought for her right — and that of all girls — to attend school.

Young women like Malala are an incredible inspiration to others as they fight for a more equitable world. But not all women’s struggles and victories make into the media headlines, though their fights are just as worthy.

Women like Abang Omat in South Sudan.

A late start in her education

Abang grew up in an impoverished community that didn’t have a school. Fortunately, before she became a teenager, Food for the Hungry (FH) began walking alongside the community and helped to build its first school.

Abang was 11 years old when she first began her studies. She faithfully attended classes until she became pregnant at age 17.

During her pregnancy, Abang’s life became very challenging. Her parents were unwilling to support her. She depended on the kindness of her neighbors and relief organizations working in her community. She fed herself and her growing baby with what little produce her family’s farm harvested.

After Abang had her baby, she still yearned to receive an education. She knew it was the only way she could provide a better future for her child. Fortunately, friends like you equipped FH to implement a cash transfer project to help the most vulnerable individuals in Abang’s community.

She was, thankfully, among those receiving help.

Making a comeback

After receiving her first cash transfer, Abang finally felt a flicker of hope for her education. Additional cash transfers helped Abang get back on her feet and motivated her to return to school.

The financial assistance helped Abang afford school supplies, but also things she needed just to survive, such as hygiene items and feminine product kits, and milk and food for her child.

Even at 19 years old and far behind most students her age, Abang is determined to graduate. She hopes to complete her primary education in 2021.

Unfortunately, Abang recently had to stop going to school once again. Except this time the school closed because of the life-threatening COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the closure, she will most likely have to repeat the same classes next year. But against all odds, Abang remains hopeful.

“I’m not certain when schools will reopen, but I am always praying to God that coronavirus will go and we [can] go back to school,” she said.

Hope for the future

During this time, she is grateful for the hygiene and COVID-19 safety measures training she and others in her community have received. She was taught the importance of social distancing and washing her hands frequently. She immediately went home to teach her family members these life-saving lessons.

Child washing her hands

Though Abang is in the middle of an unpredictable obstacle to her ongoing education, she is very thankful to go back to school at all.

She knows she wouldn’t have been to do it without the support of her family and teachers, and the financial assistance she received from FH through the cash transfer project.

“Education is the only gateway to achieve a prosperous life,” she said.

Abang’s dream is to return to her studies after the school reopens and one day become a nurse, so she can save the lives of other women in her community.

Learn how you can help more young women like Abang achieve their dream of — and right to — a life-changing education.

Young adult woman in yellow shirt and multicolor skirt against white wall
Meet Abang

You may also be interested in:

Sintayehu’s Story: From Vulnerable Orphan to Thriving Entrepreneur

Widchy’s Story: Pursuing Slam Poetry in Haiti

Bruz’s Story: Guinea Pigs Jumpstart Change


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