One reason we started Enhance Worldwide is that we believe in responding directly to the needs of program participants. I’ve worked in many organizations where a need can’t be met because it isn’t part of the program plan or budget. I’ve seen requests for life-saving services be turned down because of bureaucracy. Our western standards may ensure efficiency, but they fail to ensure ethical response.
Last week our Kinship Care participants started their two month school break. Last Friday our field team requested that we send four of our participants, four 14 year old girls from very poor households, to summer school. They had passed their classes and advanced to the next grade, but, the email said, we need to invest in them. Now. Research from organizations such as the UNFPA and the Population Council note that adolescent girls in urban slums are among the most vulnerable and are at high risk for child marriage, trafficking, child labor and street violence. Without school, in this community these risks escalate to the point of probability.
Investing in these girls means putting them in school year round. For instance, the International Center for Research on Women says that school protects girls against child marriage because it offers them a safe space and helps them to be seen as children- and therefore not marriageable. When they aren’t in school, there is no safe space.
To the Enhance Worldwide team, this is a life-saving request. But summer school is neither in our program plan nor budget.
We received this email on Friday and I immediately Skyped with our president and our treasurer.
Today, we transferred the money to Ethiopia.
Tomorrow these four girls will be enrolled in summer school.
On Monday they return to a space that not only protects them from marriage, labor and violence, but that provides them with academic and social resources needed to remain on the pathway out of poverty.
We started Enhance so this could happen. And it is.