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3 Ways Girls' Mentors Become Second Family

3 MINUTE READ | April 28, 2018

Girls' Education

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For Mother's Day, we're honoring all the motherly figures who encourage girls to stay in school. The committed local women who make up our Girls’ Education team do far more than facilitate a school mentoring program, they become crucial pillars of support. Offering guidance on situations both in and outside the classroom. Mentors, known as social mobilizers, naturally become inspiring big sisters.

While their primary job is to teach life skills and mentor girls, these incredible women go above and beyond every day with support ranging from helping students find homes closer to school, to standing by girls as they negotiate for school over work or marriage. 

Learn how these three role models from Laos, Sri Lanka and Tanzania have become critical parts of many families:

1. Long-standing Staff Serve as Motherly Motivators

Nine years ago when Phetpasa, a Laos Girls' Education Program officer, returned to her hometown to join Room to Read, she felt like she was finally beginning her life's work.

"When I wanted to continue studying in upper secondary school, my father discouraged me and said I should quit to help my mother sell things. Today, I see many girls in the community that make me think of my past. They want a future. They want an education. They have dreams. And I think, 'Ah, I have been there. I negotiated with my parents. I can know exactly how to help."

Throughout Oudomxay, Phetpasa is affectionately called, ‘The Mother of the Girls' Education Program' for her close connection with countless students. She beams with pride when speaking of alumni, including Phimya, a graduate who transformed from a timid student who barely spoke in class to the star of her school who received a university scholarship and is now studying to be a social worker. 

“We gave birth to her and fed her, but the Girls' Education Program raised her emotionally. Room to Read is family.” Bualee Phimya's father

2. Social Mobilizers Become Bridges to New Opportunities

Because social mobilizers regularly visits students' homes, they quickly become part of the local community. Along the way, they also create networks that can benefit other families in need of support, like Sudarmawathi, a mother from Sri Lanka. 

Sudarmawathi walked 25 miles through the jungle every day to ensure her three daughters reached school safely. Witnessing the effect this had on the family, Prageetha, her daughter's social mobilizer found them a new home less than 1/4 of a mile from school. This allowed the girls to focus their energy on their education. Needless to say, a hefty weight was lifted.

"Room to Read has done more than what they arrived to do. The social mobilizer found us a house 500 meters from school. Umesha is doing so much better in class now."

3. Life Skills Shine a Guiding Light

While our Girls’ Education Program offers incredible external support, its aim is to cultivate a girl's agency and capacity from within. Social mobilizers teach monthly life skills classes, giving girls the tools to handle a wide range of challenges from body image to financial strain. Grace, a Girls' Education Program participant in Tanzania, didn't have a steady family to lean on. She couldn't even afford three meals each day. But after her social mobilizer, Neema, taught her about entrepreneurship, she put her new skills to work and started her own business where she bought goods wholesale and sold them to the community.

"Learning how to start my business has been so helpful. Now I can afford food and household essentials and can also take care of personal things," says Grace.

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“A girl with no life skills is like a girl on a dark road. She can easily fall down or lose direction.” Gloria Mayunga Grace's Teacher, Tanzania

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