The Hidden Message Behind The Waving Girls.

So here we are on beautiful Lake Malawi. Now that we’ve completed over half the distance of the Kigali2Joburg ride, we plan to take it a little easier over the next three days and cruise down the lake, stopping for a couple of days at Mayoka village to take in this wonderful Maui-Esque place. Then it’s onto to Botswana, Zambia and our next two day stop at Victoria Falls. 

The route has really been superb and the excellent planning that Andrew of Ride Down South has done has all paid off, as has his hard work on maintaining the bikes. They have now done well over 10,000k of African roads and tracks on both the ride up to Kigali and back again and they show why Africa Twins are a great choice for a crazy adventure like this (though I still love my KLR!). A few small maintenance issues, but they are making it happen, especially on the sand slalom into our camp last night! 

Now that I have time to pause, I’m reflecting on something I and Wellspring have been thinking about for a while, that is coming into focus on this trip. 

Everywhere we go in East Africa we see girls along the street. We wave and they wave back, but you have to ask, why aren’t they in school? 

The truth is that, often girls don’t receive the same education as boys, who are prioritized by many parents due to their earning potential and the still prevalent patriarchal culture dominant in many parts of Africa. As a result, girls are often taken out of school to look after younger siblings so that parents can go to work. 

Also, even though many countries offer universal education, there are hidden fees such as uniforms, books, exams and others that place the costs of educating all of a families children beyond the ability of many families living in poverty. In these cases, it’s the girls who suffer most and are first to have their school places taken away. As a result, girls face many challenges and dangers including the possibility of sexual exploitation, human trafficking, the daily grind of living in poverty and abuse of every type, including high degrees of gender based violence. 

One’s Poverty Is Sexist Report shows that Globally 130,000,000 girls are out of school. That’s a HUGE number. It would take 5 years of non stop counting to get there. 

Yet it has been proven that:

  • An additional year of schooling for girls is estimated to result in an almost 12% increase in wages.
  • A dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, returns earnings and health benefits of $10 in low-income countries.
  • For less than the cost of a loaf of bread each day, a girl in the world’s poorest countries could go to school – a small investment that could change the world.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, fertility rates fall to 3.9 births for women with a secondary education compared with 6.7 for women with no schooling. 

(Source, One: Poverty is Sexist report 2017).

So I keep looking at all these girls waving as we ride by when they should be in school and wondering what is our role is in all of this? We can’t just let this continue. 

At Wellspring, we have made a commitment to have a far greater focus on girls education and have set targets we want to see achieved in our new Rubavu District project in Rwanda, where we are working with over 90,000 children. We want to see girls graduation rates dramatically increase and we want to see some of the attitudes towards them change as we focus on building community values and development. It’s a start, but there is so much more to do. 

As a white male, I am a recipient of all sorts of privileges and I am reflecting more and more in what that means. On this trip I am taking my cultural glasses off and trying to understand the power dynamics I have benefited from and what my role is in trying to redress the balance. I have a long journey ahead both in kilometres and understanding and despite my inadequacies and in built biases, I want to do my best to take the right road. I hope we can take it together. 

(To help Wellspring give girls a quality education that will change their lives, please sponsor us here