Recognizing that the basic requirements for success are often withheld from girls in developing countries, the Girl Up campaign works to give these girls a leg up. By striving to end the practices that they claim are “unjust,” “unfair,” and “plain and simple, not smart,” Girl Up helps girls lead successful lives and advances countries socially and economically. Though the campaign began as a program for American girls, they partnered with the UN in 2010 with a focus on impacting the lives of girls living in the hardest to reach areas of the globe: Guatemala, India, Malawi, Uganda, Liberia, and Ethiopia. Largely, the campaign strategically targets health, education, and documentation.
Shockingly, 28 percent of girls in sub-Saharan Africa know how to protect themselves against HIV, although they are twice as likely as young men to be living with the virus. In Liberia, for example, a 14-year-long civil war destroyed the healthcare system, leaving girls at a higher risk of becoming pregnant during adolescence, and of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. So, Girl Up works with the UN, and people in the community, to rebuild and standardize reproductive healthcare. They teach local advocates and health workers about maternal mortality and STD prevention as well.
Statistically, receiving better education means receiving better economic opportunities and leading a healthier lifestyle. However, costs of attending school, prices of mandatory uniforms, distance from home, and societal practices of prioritizing sending boys to school over girls often keeps girls from attending school in developing countries. Providing scholarships (which help girls afford to attend classes), solar-powered lamps (which allow girls to study at night), and other school materials (which help girls succeed once in school) define Girl Up’s main approach to the education deficit in one of the countries that Girl Up helps in expanding access to education: Ethiopia. It’s also worth mentioning that they build toilets and provide water access in schools to create a healthy, proper learning environment.
Furthermore, Girl Up focuses on improving documentation of girls in developing countries to make sure that their lives count as legitimate, allowing them to vote, own land, open a bank account, and live more independently in general. Moreover, the lack of official and accurate data about the female population, created by the insufficient documentation, weakens assessments of the entire population’s well-being which hinder foreign countries’ abilities to provide the appropriate financial, educational, and medical support.
Although Girl Up has been making a difference for countries around the world for several years, they have drawn more attention by the media recently from model and actress Cara Delevingne’s vocal support of the organization. By sharing details about her visit to a refugee camp in Uganda, where Girl Up is working to provide and improve education for girls, Delevingne sheds light on the pressures that the country is under with the influx of refugees to provide better education and Girl Up’s role in relieving some of that pressure. Above all, she commends the pure resilience of the young women in the country who, despite all they have been through, have hope for the future.
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