HER

A Peacemaking Project by Zoha S.

What is the injustice we are solving?

According to UNICEF, across the developing world, 26% of primary school aged girls are not enrolled in primary school. Furthermore, 65% of secondary school aged girls in those same countries are not enrolled in secondary school. This is detrimental to global women's literacy, which in turn yields adverse effects for child health, mortality, and nutrition as well as the economies of developing countries. Moreover, through research that we conducted in 2014 in Pakistan, many girls enrolled in school lack basic educational resources such as books and safe reading spaces. This means that even girls who graduate from secondary school often lack proficient literacy.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of educational disparity between boys and girls in the developing world
we will address the lack of quality educational resources in public girls' schools
by building libraries with quality educational materials for underfunded girls' schools in developing countries.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Build sustainable libraries with quality learning materials for underfunded girls’ schools in developing countries.
  • Improve female literacy.
  • Improve digital literacy by integrating information and communication technology (ICT) and skills training into an existing and expanding network of HER libraries in Pakistan, Morocco, Liberia, and Kenya.
  • Educate others about the educational needs of girls.
  • Involve as many people in our project as possible, including people from local and abroad communities.
  • Expand our project into more countries.
  • Engage our beneficiary communities in the success and maintenance of their new educational resources.
  • Make our libraries sustainable for future generations of students.

We will increase my / our compassion by...

Educating ourselves on the lives of our beneficiaries and understanding the rules and customs in the country we are working in. To achieve these goals, we will interview students more often over Skype, conduct research on their lives when we visit the host country to build the library, and learn from the organizations we partner with in the host country. We will also achieve these goals by conducting research online about the communities, countries, and people we work with. Through learning from both primary and secondary sources, we can increase our compassion towards the students and local people. In general, to be compassionate, Zoha and I must listen closely to others, observe our beneficiaries and the local communities we work with, seek to learn from others, and inspire the students using the library to be changemakers in their own community.

How will you show courage?

There were no bookshelves, no desks, and no chairs. The girls had to sit on dirty mats on the ground and all 1,600 students in the school shared the same 50-100 books available. So began the story of our first in library in Hair, Pakistan--a collaborative effort between committed students working in the U.S. and supportive partners working overseas. Locally, HER student clubs raised $2,500, collected 3,000 books, and arranged shipping. In Pakistan, we collaborated with a local NGO to identify the library location, facilitate construction of bookshelves, desks, and chairs, and train the teachers how to maintain the library. To celebratory cheers, we opened the library in March 2016. The process described above made an incredible impact, but it also took a significant amount of courage to implement. Zoha and I illustrated courage when we took the first step in the process of creating a library, even though people doubted us because of our age, when we worked with countries outside of the U.S. and had to work with people who had a very different lifestyle from us, and when we continued to push on with our work despite the many obstacles we encountered, such as not having enough money, not being old enough to qualify for 501(c)3 status, and having trouble shipping the books.

How will you collaborate with others?

Our mission depends upon, and benefits from, collaborating with others. As it says on our website, “Every person regardless of background or circumstance has the potential to make change for others.” We believe anyone can start a book drive, organize a fundraising event, or make a small donation to support a library. Through the activities of our local HER clubs, we have created a growing community of people who are passionate about girls’ education. To involve other young people as leaders in making a difference, we will continue to expand our network of HER Clubs. In addition, as young social entrepreneurs, supported by experienced mentors, we have learned how to develop business plans, budgets, and grant proposals, how to market our venture to donors, and how to incorporate feedback. Most importantly, as cofounders we have learned to work well together by listening to each other’s ideas. We also seek to partner with other young Changemakers involved in similar work, such as Books for Bedtime, Books and a Blanket, and Students for Scientific Literacy. On a larger scale, we are exploring collaborations with Room to Read, https://www.roomtoread.org/, the International Book Project, http://www.intlbookproject.org/, the Gates foundation Global Libraries, http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/Global-Development/Global-Libraries, and the U.S. Peace Corps’ Africa Library Project and their Sustainable Library Development project.

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

We measure our impact by a girl with a book and a dream! More specifically, by the number of people that benefit from our libraries, the number of libraries we build, the number of people that are involved with HER to help create the libraries, and the amount of money we raise. Most important, we gain feedback from our beneficiaries. For example, we skyped with the girls from our first library in Pakistan and here is what they had to say: “We love the books,” “The library is a good idea,” “We like to sit here,” “Our favorite books are the Spiderman books!”

Key Steps

  • Create HER clubs at our school, Sidwell Friends School, and in the DMV and abroad. The mission of the HER club is twofold. First, to promote an understanding of girls’ education initiatives. For example, this past year we showed the movie “Girl Rising”. Second, to conduct fundraising events and book drives to support the mission of HER.
  • Collect books. We collect books for all ages in English and in the school’s local language. We have collected over 20,000 books for the 13 libraries we have built.
  • Transport books to host country. After the books are collected and sorted, we transport them to Pakistan via a military aircraft facilitated by the Pakistan Embassy in D.C. or to another country through our partner, “The Orphan Grain Train”.
  • Fundraise money to build the libraries. We solicit donations through crowd-funding and promoting HER at local events. For example, this past year we set up a booth and sold student-made crafts at the Alexandria Country Day School's Country Market.
  • Construct the library. Abroad, we hire a local carpenter to clean, paint, and build desks, chairs, and bookshelves for the library.
  • Work with students and teachers at the school to unpack and organize the books by language, genre, and grade.
  • Hire a local professional librarian to train the teachers how to catalog the books and maintain the library.
  • Create an art station. For each library we purchase art supplies and create a small art station.
  • Put the finishing touches on the library as it is nearing completion!