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Investing in the Future of Africa’s Girls: The MasterCard Foundation Reaches Important Milestone

August 10, 2014

Deepali Khanna* [caption id="attachment_10976" align="alignleft" width="300"]Classroom in Rwanda Classroom in Rwanda[/caption] There is a young woman in northern Ghana’s Upper East Region named Monica, the eldest of five girls, who aspires to the highest office in her country.  She tells us, “I want to be President of Ghana.” Monica will face stiff competition, however, as Ernestina – another young woman from Ghana’s Upper East Region – also wants to be her country’s first woman president.  Both girls are pursuing their high school studies with the support of Camfed, one of our committed partners on the ground. And then there’s Witness, supported by FAWE in Rwanda, who told me she wants to be a doctor.  But more than studying biology, physics and chemistry, she says she wants to be a good leader.  She told me, “This opportunity is about creating a vision of the future.” These girls are not lacking in confidence and vision, and it bodes well for the future of Africa when its young women are daring to dream and to think that what was once impossible is now within their grasp. However, despite their aspirations, gains made for girls’ education are constantly under threat. In the last two years, global education investments have dropped by 10 per cent.  According to UNESCO and GPE, this drop threatens hard-fought gains made against the Millennium Development Goals in the last few years. And for Africa, home to over half the world’s out-of-school children, this is particularly true for girls and young women. As we know, when families are faced with hardship, they must often make a difficult choice: will they educate their sons, or their daughters?  Girls are too often on the losing end of this deal. Against this rather bleak backdrop, we are pleased to share some good news. By December 2014, nearly 6,000 young women and men will be enrolled in high school and university as part of The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program – a global education initiative that provides holistic financial, social, academic and leadership support to academically talented yet economically disadvantaged young people.  We will have surpassed one third of the 15,000 students we have pledged to support within the current Program. The milestone was announced as Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation, joined the first spouses gathered at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC  on August 6th, to celebrate women’s leadership in Africa. By the end of the Program, we anticipate that 75 percent of the Scholars will be girls and young women from 30 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa – Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa and many other countries. As Africa rises, so too must its young women.  They are the future journalists, scientists, businesswomen, and politicians of the continent.  Their inspiring stories are featured in the Camfed book “When you educate a girl, everything changes which Camfed and the Foundation presented to Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Lordina Dramani Mahama earlier today. And it is perhaps by supporting budding leaders like Monica, Witness or Ernestina, that we might help a young woman achieve her dream of becoming the first woman president of her country. * Source mastercardfdn]]>

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