Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY


Group works to educate women abroad

A 10-year-old girl in India wants to become a teacher. An 8-year-old girl in Nepal wants to run a school. An 18-year-old girl in Tanzania wants to learn politics. However, there’s a slim chance they will be able to achieve these dreams.

A new organization at Ithaca College, She’s the First, a branch of a national organization, is working to change that.

The organization is based on the national non-profit organization of the same name that focuses on motivating girls to become the first in their family to get a college education. It sponsors girls in developing countries such as Tanzania,
Kenya, India, Nepal, Ethiopia, Uganda and Guatemala.

One in four girls in the developing world attend school beyond the primary school level, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Senior Daisy Arriaga, president of the Ithaca College chapter of She’s the First and founder of Poder: Latino student association, first heard about the national organization over the summer while working with the Young Women’s Leadership Network in New York City. She worked with the network to motivate first-generation sixth- to 11th-graders to go to college.

“I noticed that a lot of the
motivator organizations are African, Latino, Asian, Native American [based],” Arriaga said. “I wanted something that everyone could be a part of, no matter what your race is, your gender, where you came from — it was just the motivators for anyone to do something.”

Senior Elizabeth Stoltz is a researcher for the national division of the She’s the First
organization and founder of Food for Thought at the college. She helps develop relationships with schools in developing countries
that offer educational scholarships to young girls. She meets with administrators from these schools, writes weekly blog posts about students and programming and connects students with opportunities for scholarships.

Stoltz is currently in Washington, D.C., and said she is enthusiastic about and dedicated to She’s the First both as a national organization and as a
campus chapter.

“If we invest in these girls, we’re going to see soaring levels of empowerment and gender equality, but we really need to invest in education to unlock and uplift their potential,” Stoltz said.

The national She’s the First organization, which was founded in 2009, seeks to lower maternal mortality rates, delay childbirth and family size, improve hygiene and reduce sexual abuse and slavery with the education of girls.

Leonora Fleming, campus mentor for the national She’s the First organization, helped Arriaga launch a local chapter on campus with advice and tips for raising awareness.

Fleming said gaining exposure is key to informing others about international issues that may not be accessible to them.

“It’s really starting small and getting your name out there and growing awareness for the cause — that’s really the most important thing,” Fleming said, “A lot of people don’t realize how serious this issue of girls’ education across the world really is.”

The Ithaca chapter of She’s the First is aiming to raise enough money to sponsor a young girl in India by the end of the semester. Though the organization plans to make an impact abroad, it is also planning to address problems on a national level.

Sophomore Kaley Belval, vice president of the college chapter of She’s the First, said the organization plans to target local schools in Ithaca.

“We want to have a relationship with a school here [in Ithaca],
or that affects scholarships, to help someone be the first to go to college,” Belval said.

To avoid being gender specific, Belval said, the Ithaca chapter of She’s the First is dedicated to helping young boys as well as girls in Ithaca. Its goal is to reach out to a local high school and raise money to sponsor a young adult to be the first in their family to
attend college.

Junior Karamvir Bhatti, an
attendee at the first general meeting, said she hopes to be an active member of She’s the First to make an impact on the young girls who deserve the support.

Bhatti said the funds the club raises will have larger benefits.

“That’s good knowing that something [comes] out of this money,” Bhatti said.

The campus’s chapter of She’s the First is currently partnering with Food for Thought for the national cupcake sale this week. They are selling tie-dye cupcakes from Purity Ice Cream for $2 Nov. 12–16 in the Campus Center and the Park School of Communications.