“Imagine if you didn’t have the power to choose. The power to attend college, or even high school— how about middle school? … How would you feel? How do you think the millions of girls feel who don’t have the opportunity to be educated?” – Erin Lassner ‘14
On Friday, Oct. 12, Archer students gathered in the Dining Hall to celebrate the International Day of the Girl. The meeting was led by Ashley Steimer, a leader and representative of Girls Learn International, as well as members of the Girls Educating Globally club.
Black box-pleat skirts, knitted evergreen sweaters and rigid gray blazers—the required attire for formal dress days—united the eager audience. But there was a deeper connection between the Archer students that had nothing to do with the required uniform: recognizing the importance of Steimer’s mission and the relevance of education equality for girls. As a single-sex school that constantly emphasizes the advantages of an all-girls environment, Archer was the perfect receiver for Steimer’s message.
“This year’s theme is innovating for girls’ education,” Steimer told the gathered students. Her presentation focused on five ways international schools—who share a partnership with Girls Learn International—have made a difference in the lives of girls’ educational attendance and progression.
Steimer talked about building bathrooms in the St. Rido School in Uganda, emphasizing why providing girls with a hygienic, comfortable and safe place to use the bathroom at school can improve their daily lives. She also explained the benefit of “Rags to Pads”— a program that offers tampons and pads to girls attending schools in India and Pakistan who would normally not have access to these necessities due to economic or locational disadvantages.
One story that stood out was that of Pov Pisey, a young girl who lives in a rural, far-eastern province of Cambodia, eight hours from Phnom Penh—the country’s biggest city and capital. Steimer explained how “she walked three hours every day [there and back] to get to school. Sometimes she was even walking by herself.”
However, through the efforts of Girls Learn International, Pov was given a bicycle. She now rides to and from school, not only cutting her travel time in half, but also securing her safety: “Getting her this bicycle is pretty simple, but definitely very effective. It’s the simple things that can make a big difference in cases like this.”
The desperate, restrictive conditions in which these girls live display the stark contrast between their lives and that of Archer students. To embody these exact limitations, students gathered in their advisories after receiving a piece of paper outlining the theoretical life of a girl. Students took on the role of that girl to see concretely how education, healthcare, and financial status affect a girl’s opportunities.
Head of School Elizabeth English summarized why Archer honors the critical necessity of letting girls around the world access education: “We celebrate the International Day of the Girl at Archer because we believe that education is the universal path to personal independence and social justice. And we believe that every girl has the right to an education equal to her male peers.”
She added, “Finally, we know that when a society makes a commitment to educating its girls, the society is transformed for the better—economically and socially. We celebrate the International Day of the Girl to lend our voices to the millions of girls around the world who do not yet have a voice of their own.”
To watch a video about this day, follow this link.