In the twelve years since the creation of the RET, women have increasingly been included within the global agenda. Whether you are one who is disheartened by the slow pace of real change or among the optimists, it is a good moment in time to pause and reflect on why women are so essential, especially to vulnerable communities.
This newsletter is based on the idea of affirming once again a simple truth. There is no humanitarian intervention without the active participation of half of the world’s population. The RET, like so many others, has always perceived this as self-evident. But what does it mean concretely to empower young women and girls? Why is it so important?
The arguments for making special efforts to offer education to young women and girls are part of a complex debate. Here at the RET we have two simple, but forceful insights to guide us: It is ethical and it is “efficiently effective”. Our experience throughout almost a hundred projects has time and again demonstrated this.
We believe it is ethical, as young women and girls are more vulnerable when exposed to displacement, violence, armed conflict and disasters. This newsletter will take us through multiple stories, such as the one of Betty in Haiti. After the earthquake she successfully went through vocational training, but faces the problem of sexual harassment when trying to find a job. Or Kadija from Darfur, so absorbed in daily chores and family responsibilities that she never learned how to read and write. Today she proudly sits at the Grade 8 exam in her refugee camp of Treguine in Chad.
The efficiency of the empowerment of young women has not eluded us either, as the RET is a very results oriented organisation. Young women and girls, when educated, teach an average of five others in their families and tend to invest more of their resources into their communities. Better-educated young women lead to healthier and better-educated children. Susana, for example, had four children upon arriving in Ecuador as a refugee from Colombia. As she received the RET’s psychosocial support and training she became autonomous. Her children now preform well in the local school and she has just bought a piece of land to build a house. Women are generally an untapped human resource, essential to creating peaceful and sustainable societies. Jeanine, a Congolese refugee in Burundi, is an interesting case you will discover here. Through the RET’s training, she has become a community leader alleviating tribal differences and mitigating conflicts.
Each explanation on why to focus on women, either ethical or “efficient effectiveness”, is persuasive. Together they are compelling. In this newsletter we will be taking you around the world. You will visit a new Women’s Learning Centre in Fayzabad, Afghanistan; learn about DRC where youth recruitment in militias is rife or Latin America where Colombian refugees flee to neighbouring countries. These are the stories of the women and communities the RET serves. We aim to provide concrete examples, interesting stories and a good measure of hope. But above all, these articles are a reminder of why it is not only essential, but life-saving for young women and girls to have access to quality education in the broadest sense.