One of the biggest challenges of our time is the ability to invest and provide education access to girls and young women.This is particulary true in conflict stricken communities where refugee children often do not have  access to quality education.  Yet, it is necessary because  until  we give these girls equal access to a good quality education, our world will continue to suffer from child and maternal mortality, various diseases and other by-products of poverty.   Last March 22 and  25,  2014 more  than  40  Karenni  students from  WE VE’s supported community schooling program  in  the 2 Karenni  refugee camps on  the Thai-Burma  border has successfully graduated. Twenty three  (23)  girls and  young women  from  Ban  Mae Nai  Soi refugee camp  have completed a 10  months  intensive course in the Women’s Study Program (WSP). Meanwhile another twenty two (22)  students  of  which 50% girls  from  the  Karenni  Further  Studies Program (KnFSP),  our local partner in Ban Mae Surin who is implementing the 2 years post-high school education to Karenni youth celebrated their 6th year graduation

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w01  Photo credit: Goragot Khetmas, WEAVE MHS

Reality tells us that education is connected to the age where women marry and have children. Many reports also show how education gives girls and young women the freedom to make decisions to improve their lives. For example at least 15% of the previous students in WSP (in 2010-2011 school year) told us that they got married as early as 15 years old. Education is a potent tool to empower these girls, to decide over life choices through the provision of safe spaces, where they can develop their confidence, stand and speak up for their rights, as well as demand the opportunity to further improve themselves. ccording to one of the WSP graduates, “I started learning at WSP because in my village there was no opportunity to study and I wanted to know about my rights and to help my community.” Participating in the WSP means these disadvantaged and vulnerable refugee girls and young women have developed confidence in their abilities and take more of an active role within their community. Moreover, they have now possessed relevant right-based knowledge and have found their voice to reason and debate with their peers and community leaders on women’s issues that is important to them and their community Education also helps girls and young women resist social limits on what they can or cannot do. It can assist them in making informed decisions on how many children they want, and how frequently they will get pregnant. By learning about the health risks associated with years of consecutive childbirth they can choose to delay getting pregnant. Moreover, on more practical terms, improving functional literacy and numeracy among girls and young women offers enormous economic benefits. Until the number of girls and boys attending school is equal, there remain the presence of more non-literate women than men, and with only very few women able to secure, well-paying jobs. Only when a young woman is seen and recognized as a potential wage-earner for her family, is the likelihood for her to make her own/personal choices and resisting cultural and family pressure to have children. Finally, education is also closely interconnected to health. A UN report showed that at least 12 million children — a quarter of the world’s population of malnourished children — could be saved from malnutrition if all mothers in poor countries were given a secondary education. Malnutrition is not only about food; it starts with poverty and can be avoided if women received relevant education needed for them to earn a decent living. WSP was founded in 2006 and KnFSP in 2008 by WEAVE and its local partners in response to the lack of access to post secondary education for many girls and young women in the Karenni refugee camps in Ban Mai Nai Soi and Ban Mae Surin. With the main goal of providing opportunity to these young refugee have safe access to non-formal girl’s education, more than 300 ethnic minority girls and young women and young people are now engaged in various refugee community structures and organizations, creating and supporting meaningful changes. WEAVE is proud to see the transformative power brought by its education program despite the challenging context and WEAVE will continue to create opportunities for these young women and their communities through education, economic, social and political empowerment. To support, please contact us at weave@weave-women.org. For volunteer and internship inquiries, contact volunteer@weave-women.org