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We are pleased to present to you, our March 2013 highlight of the month, the Maasai Girls Education Fund (MGEF). The Maasai Girls Education Fund was created to improve the literacy, health and economic well being of Maasai women in Kenya as well as their families through education of girls and their communities. MGEF provides scholarships from primary school through university to girls who have never enrolled in school, or who would be forced to drop out of school for cultural or economic reasons, and is committed to each student until they have the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in Kenya.  With economic empowerment, this new generation of Maasai women will end early marriages and circumcision of girls and bring greater literacy, health, and economic well being to future generations.

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MGEF also organizes community workshops to address the social customs and cultural beliefs that prevent girls from getting an education and works in partnership with the Maasai community, including local area chiefs and women advocates for education of girls, to achieve its mission.

“A woman needs two things to rise out of poverty: 
self-esteem and self-reliance. 
Education will give her both.” -MGEF

MGEF’s Successes:

  • Over 6,000 Maasai women, men, girls and boys have participated in their Community Education Program since inception
  • 120 girls have benefited from their Scholarship Program
  • In July, 2012, MGEF’s partner organizations in Kenya received a Community Philanthropy award by the East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG), an honor that truly illustrates their reputation in East Africa

Like most of our interviews of the month, MGEF is a small organization, and one of its main challenges is soliciting funds that cover general/administrative costs.

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Why is their work so important?

MGEF believes that education is key to eradicating poverty, improving individual lives and bringing sustainable development to communities across the globe. The organization focuses on the Maasai community in Kenya as only 48% of girls are enrolled in school with only 10% reaching a secondary school level. High rates of poverty and a strong cultural belief system in this community perpetuates the subjugation of women.

MGEF improves the lives of women, girls and whole communities through a multi-faceted strategy to overcome the obstacles Maasai girls face in achieving an education. Their strategies focus on increasing enrollment, reducing early marriages and FGM, providing the means for economic independence, and promoting cultural acceptance of educating girls.

Enrolment and overcoming barriers:

MGEF identifies young Maasai girls who might never have an opportunity to go to school and, after obtaining permission from parents, enrolls them in a boarding school. They also aim to sustain the number of girls who are already enrolled in school and would be forced to drop out against their wishes because of cultural reasons, such as early marriage, or the belief that girls do not need to be educated, or poverty.

Physical barriers such as the long walk to school are removed and cultural barriers are weakened by placing girls only in boarding schools, as boarding schools offer girls a place to escape the pressure of early marriage. The boarding schools provide regular, nutritious meals, health care and structured time for study.

Following through:

MGEF is committed to the complete education of its students, from nursery school to post-secondary education, with the goal of students achieving economic independence and gaining the knowledge and skills needed to enter the workforce in Kenya.

Focus regions in Kenya:

MGEF is concentrating its effort in the Kajiado County, Kenya, where approximately two-thirds of Kenya's Maasai population lives. This area, which is about the size of the state of New Jersey, has one of the lowest school enrollment levels and highest poverty rates in Kenya.

Partnerships in the community:

MGEF is structured to maximize community participation. They work in cooperation with a community-based organization and members of the community, and by doing, so are able to incorporate the Maasai cultural perspective and local concerns into MGEF strategies, gaining greater acceptance of their work.

 

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Educating beyond the girls:

MGEF offers a Business Training Program for rural Maasai women who have no formal education. This program provides training, mentoring, and seed grants to a generation of women with a 20 percent literacy rate, and brings immediate results by giving them the means to generate sufficient income.. Through this effort, the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters of our students will be gaining knowledge that will improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities. MGEF has also created a Life Skills Program for girls, boys, mothers, and chiefs and elders to address the myths, misinformation, and customs about HIV and FGM, the social structure that makes girls vulnerable to teen pregnancy, and child marriage, which prevent girls from getting an education.

Want to further connect with MGEF? Take a look at their website http://www.maasaigirlseducation.org/ or catch them on one of these social media feeds:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaasaiGirlsEducationFund

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaasaiGirlsEduc

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/maasaigirls/

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/company/maasai-girls-education-fund/

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/barbarashaw

 

 

 

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