As a little girl, I remember reading in history class about the philosopher Sir Francis Bacon who lived way back in the 1500s. Even though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, his phrase “Knowledge is Power” stuck with me all those years. I didn’t realize what a privilege it was to go to school. I didn’t know the power I would have because of that education. While we’ve made great strides over the last forty years, 774 million people are illiterate (14% of the world population), 66% of which are women.
One of the many ways girls and women are kept in oppressive circumstances is through the denial of access to education. Among children not attending school worldwide, 70% are girls. Now, while our world faces a pandemic, the disenfranchisement of girls and women continues – and in some cases worsens. COVID 19 pushed 188 countries to close schools, impacting over 1.5 billion learners. It is projected that an additional 10 million girls may not get back to school after this crisis subsides.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in their book Half the Sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide, indicate that “one study after another has shown that educating girls is one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. Schooling is often a precondition for girls and women to stand up against injustice, and for women to be integrated into the economy. Until women are numerate and literate, it is difficult for them to start businesses or contribute meaningfully to their economies.”
In 2010, the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation (CofS) was established to leverage the influence of one of the most educated communities of women in the United States to answer the call to help end the global crisis in girls’ education. That community is comprised of sorority women. Whether founded in the 1800s, 1900s or in the 2000s, sororities place a high priority on volunteering and community engagement. Together, sororities donate tens of millions of domestic dollars every year to help eliminate life-shattering diseases, raise awareness for important health issues, eradicate domestic-violence against women, illiteracy among youth, as well as environmental stewardship, and aid to persons with disabilities and those aging. They believe, as sorority women, that they have a responsibility to use our privilege to work worldwide to eradicate inaccessibility to education for girls and women and we will keep doing so until all girls go to school.
Half the Sky inspired CofS founder, Ginny Carroll, to take action on a global level. She works every day to give women power through knowledge. Over the next 30 days, we invite you along to hear the stories that have developed over the last ten years with the help of her circle. On the last day, we will celebrate the accomplishments to date, as well as share the vision for what’s possible with your support. This 10-Year Anniversary Party will feature Pulitzer Prize Winner and best-selling author, WuDunn, as the keynote speaker addressing the CofS donors on September 30.
As we share our stories over the next 30 days, we hope you will join in the conversation. Share your knowledge as part of this empowerment. We would love to hear about your favorite book and how it made an impact on your life? Tag us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, as well as use #BeHerHero so we can learn together.
Written by Tracie Hitz, a small business owner, mentor to college students, and supporter of the Circle of Sisterhood.