As we approach the Christmas season and a time of reflection, why not give the gift of education – empowering girls in developing countries and redefining the meaning of holiday ‘essentials.’
Over 750 million people are illiterate and two thirds of them are women and girls. World change starts with educating children, especially girls. Offering girls basic education enables them to make better informed choices that affect future generations. This is not a luxury, this is a basic human right, and too many childhoods are cut short.
The Power of Education
There are more than 98 million adolescent girls who are out of school today. Schooling can reduce a child’s vulnerability to trafficking, exploitation and forced labour, as well as reducing child marriage and early motherhood. Having the chance to lead a healthier and happier life should be reason enough to advocate girls’ education. Furthermore, there are innumerable benefits for society as a whole.
An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.” By sending a girl to school, she is far more likely to ensure that her children also receive an education. Investing in a girl’s education is investing in a nation. An educated woman has the skills, information and self-confidence that she needs to be a better parent, worker and citizen.
Child Labour – The Reality in Vietnam and Cambodia
At age seven, Tay Thi Nguyen worked the fields after school, alongside her illiterate day-labourer parents. She envisioned attending college to become a teacher. But in the seventh grade, her parents burned her schoolbooks and insisted she drop out to work full-time and help support her six siblings.
Through Room to Read, however, she learned to stand up to her parents — and to stand up for her dreams. “They helped me not only in financial ways, but in spiritual support,” said Tay Thi, 28, now a teacher at the school in her hometown. “Finally, my mom understood me and loved me more.”
Did you know $300 can keep a girl in school for a year? We are passionate about girls’ education and the long-term impact it can have on communities. Since 2016, Aqua Expeditions is extremely proud to be working with Room to Read in Indochina, a successful and internationally-recognized non-profit organization. Focused on increasing global literacy and gender equality in education, Room to Read has benefited 16.8 million children worldwide to date
In March 2015, Michelle Obama visited Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and met with 10 girls. In Cambodia only 36% of females are enrolled in secondary school and it’s estimated that only 20% nationally make it through to graduation — and of those, only a quarter are girls. As part of her Let Girls Learn initiative, Michelle Obama came to Cambodia to meet girls that were about to graduate from school, hear their stories, and learn more about how community-driven solutions like Room to Read are helping to turn the tide against gender inequality in education. Mrs. Obama called the girls in Room to Read’s program “role models to the world.”
Life Skills beyond Academics
In 2019, she visited Vietnam along with Julia Roberts, and experienced a Room to Read life-skills lessons, which had the students work with their celebrity visitors on scripting conversations a girl could have with parents resisting her career choice. The third lesson focused on how the girls should present themselves when asking for scholarships. “I like how you made eye contact with everyone at the table,” Mrs. Obama told one of the girls presenting.
Providing much more than academic support, Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program strives to ensure that girls complete secondary school with the skills and confidence necessary to negotiate crucial life decisions and navigate their futures by engaging with families, schools and communities, and by providing mentorship, life skills education and material support.
Key to the program are Social Mobilizers, local women who are hired as mentors. These women work with girls and their families to ensure that girls stay in school, participate in activities, and navigate the challenges of adolescence with the ability to make their own life choices, both personally and professionally.
About Room to Read
As an innovative leader in global education, Room to Read was founded in 1999 by John Wood, a former senior Microsoft executive. It has been recognized for transparency, operational efficiency, and overall financial excellence with 13 four-star ratings from the Charity Navigator rating organization since 2007 – placing them in the top 1% of fiscally sound and responsible organizations, with 84 cents out of every dollar going directly into the programs.
At Aqua Expeditions we continuously strive to make a meaningful impact investing in local communities and supporting sustainable livelihoods. Learn how we first got involved with Room to Read and more about our campaign activity here.
The Aqua Mekong offers three, four and seven-night cruises in the stunning Mekong region. With our expert English-speaking guides and local community connections, we are able to reveal a more authentic side of Cambodia and Vietnam, offering fresh perspectives and deeper insight for a truly rewarding journey. Fuel your wanderlust and join us onboard for a meaningful adventure this holiday season.