Blogs and News - St George's School For Girls, Edinburgh
This week’s Enrichment session was from Mercy Corps, a humanitarian organisation.
Firstly, we watched a video from Rachel, who is the Community Fundraising and Engagement Assistant at Mercy Corps. Rachel shared with us how she ended up in her current role, from volunteering in South Africa with Project Trust to studying politics and international relations at university and then gaining insight into international development through internships. Her main interests at university were international development, women and girls’ rights, human rights, and peace and conflict. In her role at Mercy Corps, she has helped on a project that encourages university students to engage in volunteer programmes and learn about the work of Mercy Corps. Rachel then told us about Move for Mercy Corps and how we can get involved. The challenge is to walk, run or cycle 154 km in 31 days to mark 10 years of conflict in Syria. 154 kilometres is the distance from Damascus in Syria to Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.
Then we watched a webinar on ‘Creating Change for Women and Girls’. We learned that Mercy Corps delivers life-saving programmes to nearly 37 million people around the world. Mercy Corps believes that there is power in girls and that investing in women has great benefits for economies. Women are more likely than men to spend their income on improving family well-being and every extra year a girl stays in school their income increases by 12%.
Karen Scriven is the Senior Director, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion. She informed us that girls are more likely than boys to drop out of school and take care of siblings and household chores. They are more vulnerable to early marriage and pregnancy, and gender-based violence. Karen focuses on investing in girls before this happens to try to change their trajectory. This is done by trying to keep girls in school for longer, providing them with access to resources, encouraging them to become active members in their community, addressing harmful social norms, preventing intergenerational poverty, and empowering them. Mercy Corps has set up community centres in many places across the world which provide a safe space where women can come to learn. Working with female mentors they learn literacy and life skills, for example, financial literacy, how to negotiate, sexual reproductive health, how to keep safe and avoid risk, and basic reading and maths. These skills allow them to enter the workplace and start earning an income.
Another programme in western Nepal sets up funds for Dalit women, who are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy and subsequently have limited livelihoods and career possibilities, are socially excluded, have poor health and are at a greater risk of gender-based violence. The Girls’ Transition Fund provides small loans for them to invest in or start their own business, and they also have access to business workshops and mentoring. This increases their economic opportunities, financial independence, and confidence. They also are given much more respect by community members and gain status and decision-making power within their own households.
Karen also spoke about the importance of educating men and boys, and Mercy Corps has set up centres for this too. There is also a programme which trains couples in how to make household decisions and spend resources.
Next, we heard from Bessun Jaber, who is the Gender and Girls’ Safe Space Coordinator, about the project for vulnerable women and girls in the refugee camp in Jordan. Here, the gender norms preclude girls’ voices and they have limited mobility, especially after puberty. Only a third of young Syrian girls leave home on a daily basis. It was clear that the girls needed a safe space to articulate and identify what they need, express themselves and learn. Mercy Corps also noticed there was a gap in knowledge on puberty, menstruation, and sexual reproductive health among adolescent women. They worked with some of the girls and came up with a programme that uses storytelling to educate them. There is also a nature club, which provides psychosocial support through learning survival skills and stress management. This builds the girls’ capacity in outdoor activities and utilizes natural resources to lead change.
The session's focus on Creating Change for Women and Girls was fitting as we look ahead to International Women's Day on March 8.
Teddy (PR Prefect)