In December 2009, I watched Oprah interview Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, both Pulitzer Prize winners in journalism, about their book – Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. I was so intrigued by their stories that I immediately bought the book. It was an emotional read given the stories of brutality and oppression and it changed my perspective on the world and broadened my understanding of my own privilege as a college-educated American woman.
Learning how women are subjugated and subjected to violence across the globe was frightening and frustrating. At the same time, reading the stories of courage and perseverance that would have otherwise gone untold was inspiring.
Most of all, after reading Half the Sky, I was ANGRY! Angry that in the 21st century there are still such outrageous misuses of power being directed at girls and women,
- that a mother living in poverty has no better choice to address her despair than to sell her young daughter to work in others’ homes, which led her daughter to a life of sex slavery and trafficking.
- that in some countries a man can set his current wife on fire because he wants a new wife.
- that a male child soldier in the Congo is trained to believe it’s his right, that he is entitled, to rape any woman he chooses.
- that parents with little access to education themselves are made to believe it is pointless to educate their daughter preventing girls with a desire to learn from gaining an education, which could help lift them from poverty.
When I investigated further into the reality of girls around the world, I was appalled to learn that 1 in 5 children in the United States of America lives in poverty. We know access to education opens many doors to opportunity, yet not even 40% of the U.S. population graduates from college!
As a college-educated woman, these harsh realities were and are alarming. I have since recognized that my reaction to this information was so intense because the experiences were so distant from my everyday experiences as a girl and my everyday experiences now. I almost reverted to the common excuses: “The problem is so big how could I possibly make a difference?” Or “It’s the culture, I cannot change the culture.”
But, reading Half the Sky lit a fire in me. And everything I’ve read since then says there is hope. Something I am privileged to already have can address many of the global issues affecting girls and women—and that is EDUCATION. Millions of girls all over the world will never get a chance to go to school unless those of us with access make a concerted effort to address the barriers they face.
I have been very fortunate to belong to an identifiable community of college-educated women. Incredible women. Sorority women. After spending my career working with sorority women, I know what an influential community we are led by strong conviction and big hearts. In my eagerness to make a difference after reading Half the Sky, I reached out to sorority women I know across affiliation, umbrella group, and identity. I personally asked them to stand with me in a humanitarian effort to help end the oppression of women worldwide. Every sorority member I spoke with back in 2010 has answered the call and is willing to make a difference. It’s awe-inspiring!
The Circle of Sisterhood Foundation (CofS) was incorporated on April 19, 2010, four short months after watching that interview and starting the first conversations. CofS was officially designated a 501c3 charity on September 30, 2010 with the mission to “uplift girls and women from poverty and oppression through education.”
The whirlwind of excitement and momentum over the past decade is breathtaking. I knew that if sorority women stood together in this humanitarian effort to help more girls and women across the globe get the education to better their lives, and that of their families, communities, and countries, it would be transformative. At the end of our tenth year, the Circle of Sisterhood has awarded grants to organizations working on the ground to remove barriers to education for girls and women in 28 countries and funded the construction of schools in 7 countries. Schools where 50% of the students must be girls!
As a sorority community, we know the value of education and we believe strongly that every girl in the world deserves the opportunity to go to school. And we also believe that when more girls and women have access to education, the world will be a better place.
Bottom line, if education is the answer that will start a chain reaction to end gendercide, sex slavery, oppression, sex selective abortion, and intense brutality against women, then there is much we should do as women with access to educational and other resources. Sorority women have the wherewithal and the numbers to have a significant impact for generations to come—like many of our Founders did for us.
So, join us. Through the Circle of Sisterhood, we can show the world the impact we can have as intelligent, thoughtful, and caring citizens of the global community. You can donate here. Be sure to join the conversation by tagging CofS on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter, as well as use #BeHerHero to come together as we work to open doors to opportunity through education.