Congratulations to our Contest Winners!

Race to summer postSummer is here…so our “Race to Summer” contest has officially ended! The contest offered cash prizes for the 3 non-profits that added the most new members between April 1 and July 1. It also pledged $1 to non-profits for every new member added during the period.

According to our database, the top 3 non-profits were:

1) Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star: $1,000 prize
2) Animal House: $500 prize
3) Advocates for Adolescent Mothers: $250 prize

In response to the news, Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star says “We were so excited to hear that we won the 2014 Op4G Summer Membership Drive! The $1,000 prize will allow us to take 2 children off of our waiting list! That means 2 more children will benefit from a caring, consistent and positive adult mentor in 2014!”

Animal House was also thrilled. “We plan to use the $500 to help with the cost of Brigg’s surgery. He is having his 2nd ACL surgery on August 18th”.

Finally, Advocates for Adolescent Mothers reported “We will use the third prize winnings to support our Educational Empowerment Program. Through this program, we provide financial and socio-emotional support to young moms who are in college”.

Flickr photo credit: Mohamed Malik


Speaking Up for Girls’ Education

paVanThis Monday marked the 3 month anniversary of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping in Nigeria. Orchestrated by Boko Haram, an Islamic Jihadist and terrorist organization, the event involved the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a boarding school in the northeast of the country.

Since then, only a small fraction of the girls have escaped. The remaining girls are believed to be held in capacity in the Sambisa forest, more than 200 miles (320 km) away. Parents of the victims fear that the girls will not return and will be raped or involuntarily married off to movement fighters. Western diplomats are also losing hope, as efforts to locate the girls have barely progressed since May.

However, information has surfaced about the motivation behind the kidnappings. In a series of videos, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed that he will “sell them in the marketplace” as slaves. Shekau has also explained that he will release the girls in exchange for the group’s fighters in Nigerian jails (“Bring Back Our Girls… bring back our army”). Finally, any remaining girls will “remain slaves with us.”

But why did Boko Haram specifically target female students? The group believes that Nigeria should be a pure Islamic caliphate governed by strict Sharia law.  Women should be “at home raising children and looking after their husbands, not at school learning to read and write”. In fact, the name Boko Haram roughly translates to “western education is a sin”.

Regrettably, the situation in Nigeria is not unique. Girls in numerous countries around the world are denied the right to an education. According to Save the Children, “social traditions and deep-rooted religious and cultural beliefs are most often the barriers”. For example, in the Sahel and Middle East, a dowry system encourages girls to leave their studies. In the Horn of Africa, girls avoid walking to school for fear of abduction for marriage. And in parts of Latin America, indigenous girls are “often forced [to care for] siblings, marry early, or leave school to help support the family”. As a result, studies suggest that over 70% of the 125 million children not in school are girls.

These girls pay a steep price for their absence. Research suggests that educated females “lead healthier lives and have healthier families”, with fewer children. They have increased awareness of their rights and the “institutions established to protect and enforce them”, i.e. from violence, rape, and genital mutilation. Furthermore, they earn higher wages and are more productive workers, “boost(ing) their country’s entire economy”.  In these regards, education truly is “a fundamental tool of empowerment and a vehicle through which girls realize their full potential”.

Malala Yousafzai, 17, knows the power of education. Shot by the Taliban in 2012 for her determination to attend school, she is now a leading global education advocate. Last weekend, Malala visited the parents of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls. She stated “I did not think that just one year after my UN speech, more than 200 girls would be kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram simply for wanting to go to school. I can see those girls as my sisters … and I’m going to speak up for them until they are released”.

We should all speak up for the Chibok schoolgirls and all girls who want an education. That means more than joining a twitter campaign (#bringbackourgirls). It means pressuring our governments and international organizations to take action. It also means donating to charities like the Malala Fund, Share in Africa, Girls Education International, and our partners, World Teach and Education For All Children.

For more information on girls’ education, please click here.

Flickr photo credit: paVan



Op4G's Non-Profit of the Month: Advocates for Adolescent Mothers!

AFAMEach year in the US, over 300 000 babies are born to teenage mothers. Often, these mothers struggle to complete their education and are vulnerable to abuse, stress, and social isolation. Thus, Op4G is pleased to reveal that our Non-Profit of the Month is Advocates for Adolescent Mothers.

Founded by Lillian Harris, a former teen mother who experienced homelessness during college, AFAM is committed to providing young parents with the tools, resources, and support needed to escape poverty and prevent child abuse. To this end, the non-profit has distributed over 200 backpacks of school supplies and toiletries to young parents. It has provided over 600 toys and 300 coats to homeless young mothers and their children. Finally, AFAM has established an Educational Empowerment Program that offers mentoring, workshops, and financial support to young mothers in college.

For these efforts, AFAM has earned recognition as a Top-Rated Women’s Nonprofit since 2011. It has also maintained silver status in the GuideStar Exchange Program since 2013. To learn more about AFAM, and how you can help, please click here.

Photo credit: Jamie Solorio
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