8:00 am. You wake up to the sound of your iPhone alarm blasting in your ear. You groan and reach over to snooze it. After 10 minutes of begrudgingly fighting to open your eyes, you finally grab your phone from the nightstand and scroll through all the social media updates you missed during the six hours you were asleep. You roll out of your bed, grab some breakfast from the kitchen, shower and leave your apartment 10 minutes before class starts. During your three-minute commute to campus, you roll the windows down, listen to some music and think about all the assignments you need to complete for the day. You feel a sense of frustration both at the amount of work you have and that you had to wake up early for class. You wonder what the point is slaving your life away to the educational system when all it does is make you tired and grumpy. However, you can’t help but wonder: how would your life be different if you was born in another country?
Imagine that you are a young girl in rural Malawi. You have a large chance of living below the poverty line, living off about $2 a day. Your community does not have the resources or technology that a city in Malawi might have. Sanitation standards are lower, and clean water is hard to come by. You may even have to travel early in the morning to find clean water for your family. It’s expected of you to not attend school but to learn to be a wife and mother. You spend most of your days at home cleaning and cooking, waiting for your family to marry you off once you turn 13.
Say your family decides to let you have an education. Since you live in a rural area, you need to commute to school. This commute could be up to 10 miles long through the countryside and to make it to school on time, you must wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and walk for up to four hours. This barrier alone could be enough to keep you away from school. This commute is exhausting and can be extremely dangerous to do early in the morning and late at night. Once at school, there are far more boys than girls. You are made fun of, talked down to and discriminated against. The technology in schools is lacking, and the information you are being taught may be incorrect or out of date. These barriers make it almost impossible to get a quality education. So, what can we do to fix it?
Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation that focuses on the health, education and well-being of girls in developing countries like Guatemala, Malawi and Liberia. Since Girl Up’s launch in 2010, we have been able to help countless girls get the quality educations they deserve and to live lives free of violence and inequality through both fundraising and advocacy. Ithaca College Girl Up started in 2015 and has remained a presence on this campus, dedicating its time and resources to changing the world, one girl at a time. Last semester, Girl Up hosted a Bike-a-thon during which we raised enough money to give bikes to three girls in Malawi so they can get to school quickly and safely. This semester we are looking to work with UNHCR Her Turn to ensure that young refugee girls are getting an education while being displaced from their homes.
So, the next time you wake up in the morning and think about skipping class, think about the girl you could have been. Think about the girl who would do anything to be in the position you are in right now. Be thankful for the education you are receiving, and if you have the opportunity, please give some of your time to help these girls.