Kyra Sichinga, managing director, Urban League of Battle Creek, spoke to our branch recently. Her talk focused upon the acute need for educational opportunities for girls, particularly in urban settings. Salient points included:
~Education is especially significant for girls; it is the entry point to opportunity.
~Women’s educational achievements have ripple effects within the family and across generations.
~ Just one extra year of schooling for a girl can increase wages up to twenty percent, while also lowering birth rates, which has a profound economic-societal impact.
~Investing in girls’ educations is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty.
~The dividends of education move across generations. More-educated people have fewer children and provide their children with better health care and education.
~More-educated girls and women know their rights and how to claim them.
~Parents’ educational attainments are linked to their children’s educational attainments. The mother’s education is usually more influential than the father’s.
~If we expect individuals to be held responsible for their own lives, they need to be given opportunities through which they can excel.
Although, women have been fighting for equality for a long-long time, there is a special
poignancy about the daunting challenges youth face in today’s misogynistic society.
Due to looks, school performance and familial relationships, 70% of girls don’t believe they measure up, that they are good enough to succeed! Peer pressure rushes many girls into decisions they are not ready to make. The consequences of their rash decisions are overwhelming:
~ 23% of teen girls are pressured into having sex
~ 25% of teen girls are pressured into using drugs and alcohol
~41% of teen girls are pressured into being mean to or bullying others
~44% of teen girls are pressured to lie, steal or cheat
~67% of teen girls are pressured into dressing provocatively
Everyone has daughters, sisters, nieces, neighbors who suffer low esteem which makes it everyone’s problem.
Kyra Sichinga counsels wisdom: “Our girls need to know that we are each gifted in a unique and important way. When a person believes in themselves, they have the first secret to success. Of all the judgments we tend to pass in life, none is more important than the judgments we pass on ourselves.”
She suggests we can help by being generous with praise, that we need to teach them to perceive themselves in positive ways. Criticism that takes the form of ridicule or engages shame must be avoided! Girls must be taught to perceive themselves in positive ways.
“If we women, as mothers, teachers and friends continue to rally on their behalf, they will be able to get the education they deserve, develop self-esteem, fend off peer pressure and get the education they deserve.”
Kyra Sichinga expressed her gratitude for having been a recipient of grant funds from AAUW. Sojourner Truth Girls Academy in Battle Creek has an after-school program for girls in grades three through eight which emphasizes STEM education. Sichinga believes, “we need to be intentional about exposing them to science, technology, engineering and math if they are going to change the trend of mostly males gaining employment in those areas.”
Southeast Michigan needs to grapple with these ideas as well! Clearly, there is much work to be done!