This week we are celebrating World Literacy Day, so I thought I’d share with you my thoughts about this issue which is dear to me by answering 5 of the questions I get asked the most.
Why I chose to focus on girls’ education
As some of you know, Akhal Beauty was created to provide a business solution for a social problem, the education gender gap in rural Morocco. I was born in Morocco and I come from a modest background. I was the first woman in my family to go to college.
Education opened many doors for me. From studying in Paris, experiencing college life in Chicago, to pursuing an exciting career in Finance on 2 continents. All of those experiences were made possible thanks to a scholarship offered by private benefactors in Europe and the US to meriting students in my native country, Morocco.
My life is a testament to how powerful education is in improving social and economic circumstances and how impactful choices made by each and every one of us can have on people on the other side of the planet. I felt that my journey and experiences equipped me to address this issue best.
Why should girls’ education matter to everyone
Illiteracy disproportionately affects women all over the world. 2/3 of the adult illiterate population is female. Women who have not completed their education are at higher risk of disease, early marriage, infant mortality and unemployment.
The girls’ education issue gained a lot of momentum over the past 20 years fuelled by two arguments:
1. Educating girls is a moral imperative: All humans are equal therefore, girls should have the same opportunity as boys in education
2. There is a clear economic case for gender equality: When 10% more of its girls go to school, a country’s GDP increases by an average of 3%. Further data indicates that when a girl goes to school, she reinvests 90% of her income into her family compared to 35% for a boy.
Beyond being a fundamental right, education for girls is an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in one generation.
What is the education gender gap in rural Morocco
In the South of Morocco, where all Akhal Beauty ingredients are sourced, women’s illiteracy rate is 83%, or to put it another way only 17 women in every 100 can read. Unfortunately, villages in areas such as the High Atlas Mountains do not have schools for children beyond the age of 12. The choices left for children who want to further their education are limited.
They can travel to the nearest town which can be treacherous due to the absence of roads and flooding risks or they can get lodging in town to be closer to school. The first option is less open to girls as parents fear for their safety. The second option requires money which almost none of those villagers have. This is the poorest region in Morocco and most people live on less than $2 a day.
What follows for girls who don’t finish school is uninspiring menial work or worse, marriage whilst they are still minors.
Why do we work with Education for All
Education for All (EFA) was created 10 years ago and has grown into a leading non-profit in Morocco's South with a reputation for transparency and effective social development.
Their model is simple. They build girls-only boarding houses in the immediate vicinity of schools. Parents feel comfortable entrusting their daughters to the supportive female staff and the girls thrive in this environment.
To date, 5 boarding houses were built with plans to build a 6th to allow more girls to finish school and realize their potential. When the project first started , they could only accommodate 10 girls per year. They have grown over the past decade and are able to support 200 girls per year.
We work with them because they offer an effective and scalable solution to bridge the gender education gap in the region. 90% of the girls they support pass their secondary level exams, with many going on to university. Their work is a testament to the importance of charity work and its effectiveness.
How can you get involved
If you are after good skincare, shop our products here we donate $1 on every bottle sold to EFA.
You can also make a direct donation to EFA here. All donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia.
If you enjoy working with children, travelling and want a meaningful volunteer experience, you can apply to join the EFA volunteer program here.
If you are a cyclist, you can raise money for EFA by participating to the scenic Marrakech Atlas cycle race. More info here.
Whether you are a student, an activist or just a person trying to do some good, you can fundraise for EFA by creating your own project here. Get in touch with EFA to receive info pamphlets.
Data sources: UN Women, HCP Morocco, Education For All
Image Credit: Education for All
If you would like to dig deeper into this, we recommend these reads:
UN Women – Facts & Figures
Women, education and empowerment: a pathway to autonomy
Women’s role in economic development: Overcoming the constraints
Bill & Melinda Gates in the New York Times – Closing the gender data gap
Comments will be approved before showing up.
Bob Melbourne is a zero-waste hair salon based in South Yarra. They turn your offcuts it into hair booms that get taken out to the Great Barrier Reef and help suck up oil spills.