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Awareness Days

Celebrating how we empower girls this International Day of the Girl Child

What’s the best way to eliminate poverty? Educate a girl.

day of the girl

Did you know that for every one girl educated, she pulls four people out of poverty with her? That’s because women can provide a second income in male-dominated households, and are also more likely to send their own children to school. Educated women also have fewer children, marry later in life, and their wage increases by 10-20% for every year they stay in school. Sadly, women make up two out of three of the world’s illiterate people.

This International Day of the Girl Child, we’re celebrating our female empowerment programs. As part of our mission to create a more just world, Oaktree runs an international project in Cambodia’s Kampuchean region providing 400 scholarships to female students. It’s called the Girl’s Education Initiative (GEI).

We interviewed our Director of Cambodian Programs, Rebecca Stark, to bring you more information on how our programs operate, and why we choose to support girls:

GEI is a funded Oaktree education program, run in Cambodia by our partner KAPE. They provide scholarships to students, mainly girls, who might not otherwise receive education opportunities.  We also support students through career-counselling, student counseling, and leadership groups. Some families receive additional support [livelihood support] to allow their children to attend school.

In the countries we work, often, there are only a few in each family, if any, that attend school. There is demand of children to support family business’, like agriculture, to help their households make an income. If there’s only enough funding for one child within the household to go to school, it’s often a boy, because he’s seen as a better investment to take education forward in his career and then provide back to his family. I think there are other gender stereotypes at play influencing the perceived capability of children.

Rebecca says that getting an education meant that a number of GEI scholars were able to pass exams allowing them to attend university.  

It feels really great. When I was younger and going through Primary School and High School I didn’t realise how much of a privilege education was... It’s exciting to harness the opportunities that I’ve had and to impact the opportunities of girls in completely different circumstances.

There are challenging aspects of the role too, especially parts of the program out of our control.

It’s difficult  to hear stories of students who drop out. Students might have to drop-out of High School halfway because their families don’t have financial capacity to have them out of the home regularly, instead of supporting family livelihood.

Even though our GEI scholarships provide livelihood support through agricultural resources and training, it’s not always enough.

Sometimes there’s only so much support we can provide and sometimes it’s not enough. On the flip side, it’s also good to think about all the education a young person has received up to that point that they wouldn't have otherwise.

Despite these challenges, our programs do a lot of good work that we’re proud of.

The strong, long-lasting partnership that we’ve had in Cambodia increases the value and impact the program have because we know they have these strong links with the schools and communities.

Working with local partners, they understand the situation, they know the solutions to these challenges. The area where we are best placed to assist them is to help fund the great work they’re already doing, to increase the impact they’re having.  

If you believe in the power of educating girls, click here to donate to our GEI programs. If you want to stay updated with our international youth empowerment work and education projects, join the movement.