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Paul Hawken, noted American environmentalist, entrepreneur, activist, and author, has just released his latest book: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.

In Drawdown, Hawken argues that one of the most effective solutions to climate change is educating women and girls. Educating women and girls provides a foundation for vibrant lives. Education empowers women and girls to be more effective and resilient stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. 

In Africa and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, there’s been a lot of progress on student enrollment. Kenya has made significant gains in education, with more than 80 percent of all boys and girls currently enrolled in primary schools.

But according to even the most optimistic statistics, the proportion of Afghan girls who are in school has never gone much above 50 percent. Relying on Afghan government data from 2010-2011, UNICEF found that 66 percent of Afghan girls of lower secondary school age—12 to 15 years old—are out of school, compared to 40 percent of boys that age. 

Indeed, economic, cultural, and safety-related barriers continue to impede 62 million girls around the world from realizing their right to education.

Key strategies to change that include:

  • making school affordable;
  • helping girls overcome health barriers;
  • reducing the time and distance to get to school; and
  • making schools more girl friendly.

Organizations are working to change this narrative within the MENA region. One such organization, Code to Inspire (CTI) is the first coding academy for girls in Herat, Afghanistan. Founded by Fereshteh Forough in 2015, CTI has given more than 150 female students the skills and confidence to code, build apps, and generate work opportunities for themselves.

Code to Inspire uses technology education and outreach to provide Afghan women with leverage in their fight for social, political, and economic equality. As role models for other young Afghan women, CTI graduates demonstrate that women are capable of adding value to their communities far beyond simple housework or early marriage. Through empowerment, CTI builds skills and infrastructure for women to compete in the global tech market, empowering them financially and socially.

The Blossom Hill Foundation is another organization that’s working to empower girls from the MENA region through education.

The Blossom Hill Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2009 by Shiva Sarram, a former child of war from Iran, who fled Tehran in the early 1980s with her family and came to America where Shiva and Blossom Hill’s Board of Directors are committed to investing in social entrepreneurs to help children affected by conflict in the Middle East thrive. 

To date, Blossom Hill has invested over $933,000 into fellows projects that in turn have impacted 56,000 war-affected children in ten countries. Fellows have engaged and created impactful projects that are foundational in education and have reached many women and girls across MENA and beyond.

To give refugee children an opportunity to learn, Blossom Hill fellow Aris Papadopolous is opening a STEM Center, which places STEM education at the heart of an early childhood education program. While this will give the youngest refugees an opportunity to learn science within Greece, it will also train unaccompanied minors as apprentices in the Center to inspire them to continue to pursue their education and possibly become teachers themselves.

Blossom Hill fellow, Lexi Shereshewsky, is opening an Early Childhood Center in Jordan, to support early academic and behavioral needs of young refugee and other vulnerable children through alternative education activities inspired by Montessori methods. The project will additionally benefit parents of young children through workshops and other awareness sessions.

As we navigate the landscape to create a more sustainable and low carbon future, it becomes apparent how much more globally we have to think and be aware for every corner, voice, and perspective of our global community. Through the multi-prong approach that social entrepreneurs, scientists, nonprofits, investors, and fellows take we can not only educate more women, girls, and students but ensure our world will be a better and healthier one.

Originally published on Bard MBA student stories

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