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Gender Equality Fight Extends From Buffalo to Tanzania

*This op-ed originally ran in the Buffalo News on October 7, 2019. 

Millions of girls around the world are out of school, simply because they are a girl.

October 11 is International Day of the Girl, a day when advocates around the world highlight the critical need for global gender equality. It’s a day to amplify girls’ voices and support them as they stand up for their rights. This year’s theme is “Girlforce: Unscripted and Unstoppable,” a theme that resonates with me as I think about the unstoppable girls our Buffalo community is helping in Tanzania, half a world away.

I have been fortunate to travel to Kitenga, Tanzania more than 20 times over the past decade as founder of Buffalo-based Girls Education Collaborative. GEC is working to create a gender equal world where all girls can receive the education they seek and deserve.

Thanks to our partners and supporters right here in Buffalo, we are currently helping to educate 100 girls in Kitenga today. By acting as a catalyst to locally driven, led, and owned initiatives, GEC provides essential support to lift girls up with education, life skills and agency to realize their fullest potential.

Our first project is with the Immaculate Heart Sisters of Africa where we’ve partnered to create an outstanding school for marginalized and underserved girls. We believe that by locking arms with local efforts, we can help create robust educational environments for girls where few, if any, exist.

And like the theme of the day, these girls are truly unstoppable. They are smart, dedicated, and determined to fight the odds of what their lives *should* be. They may be growing up in impoverished areas, at risk of being victimized by gender-based, culturally-destructive traditions, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, but they are not letting that define them or stop them.

We also educate our local community about global gender inequality. GEC has helped bring internationally-renowned leaders Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and best-selling author, and Malala Yousafzai, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, to speak in Buffalo. We host the Taste of Tanzania, which gives our community the chance to experience the wonderful culture of Kitenga through food, music, and dancing.

Because of this collective effort and commitment, there is now a girl with her hand in the air and books on her desk, instead of a baby on her back or an older man waiting at home for his wife.

Someday, these girls will become mothers and leaders and income earners – and perhaps anything they want to be. Unstoppable: There’s nothing a girl can’t do.

Anne Robinson Wadsworth is the co-founder and executive director of Girls Education Collaborative.

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