Published September 14, 2017
The Buffalo-based Girls Education Collaborative (GEC) has a message for Western New Yorkers: Malala Yousafzai, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is helping girls achieve their potential every day. And so can you.
GEC is one of the sponsors for UB’s upcoming Distinguished Speakers Series lecture by Yousafzai on Sept. 19.
Yousafzai — an outspoken advocate for the right of girls to receive an education — was shot by the Taliban in 2012 at the age of 15 while traveling home from school on the bus in Pakistan. Now living in England, she has continued to campaign for the right of every child to go to school.
That mission dovetails with the work of GEC, which works to equip girls in developing countries to realize their fullest potential and become catalysts for change.
A video discussing the organization’s fight for justice will play before the lecture, showing footage of a school for girls that GEC helped build in Tanzania.
The facility, the Immaculate Heart Secondary School for Girls, opened in January 2017 in the village of Kitenga in northwest Tanzania. It creates new opportunities for girls in an area where early marriage and female genital mutilation are continuing practices.
The GEC video will highlight how Western New Yorkers got involved in this cause, working with the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa — a group of Tanzanian nuns — to plan and raise funds for the project. The footage will include photos of Kitenga girls, with each snapshot held by GEC donors and volunteers.
“One girl can make a difference — for herself, her community and the whole world,” the video will say. “Malala has. And so can you.”
Local residents can learn more about girls’ education by visiting www.TheWholeGirl.world, a website that GEC created to share information on how an education can empower girls, leading to declining rates of child marriage, child death and early births. Visitors also can donate and sign up to volunteer through the site.
GEC launched in 2012, growing out of efforts that partnered UB’s Center for Educational Collaboration, then led by Mara Huber, with the Western New York community to help the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa improve life in the village of Kitenga.
The organization supports education-centered, community-driven initiatives in underserved rural areas, bringing resources, expertise and thought partners to help communities realize the vision they have for their future.
The project in Kitenga village included not only building the school, but also working with the community to plan and raise money for amenities such as a new road to the school and a guest residence where trainers, researchers, volunteers and parents can stay.
“In today’s world, traditional boundaries have dissolved, and human rights issues that are not necessarily in our own backyard are still our human rights issues,” says Anne Wadsworth, executive director of GEC. “People here in Western New York can make a real, tangible difference in the lives of these girls living thousands of miles away.”
“The data is very compelling about how if we educated the world’s girls, the global gross domestic product would go up and poverty would go down,” Wadsworth adds. “Stability increases, radicalization decreases, and the impact on the environment is lessened due to the decline in population growth. The entire world benefits from increased access to education for girls.”