Youth Empowerment

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Water is essential to life. And yet it could have kept Susan out of school for good.

 

“I remember feeling sick often. Stomach pains and diarrhea made it quite difficult to concentrate in class. [I]n one instance, I was so sick that my parents had to take me to the hospital,” says Susan, age 14.

Illness not only made her miss class, but put a financial strain on her family when they had to pay hospital fees.

This ‘burden’ said no to child marriage, and demanded an education instead.

 

It was all arranged, even the dowry.

After she completed her primary education, Lutfa, now 17, had to drop out of school to help her family with the housework. And yet, they still saw her as a burden -- just another mouth to feed, a girl who couldn’t bring value to the family.

“I was broken inside, as my dream to educate myself remained unfulfilled, and on top of that, I started to doubt my abilities to change my life.”

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Thanks to the Join My Village maternal health program in India, women like Seema are learning about prenatal care and safe births in their local villages. This program from Join My Village – a Merck, General Mills and CARE partnership – is aimed at building stronger communities through healthier pregnancies.

Seema doesn’t know the exact year of her birth – she’s in her mid-twenties – or the number of years she has been married.

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When I left for Lalwi village, in Bahraich, to meet the girls of Ekta adolescent group, little did I know that I was about to discover a gold mine of inspirational stories. The group is one of the many that are part of Join My Village’s Girls’ Leadership Program.

“Please Henry don’t talk to me in vernacular, I don’t want to be punished once my colleagues and teachers hear me talking our vernacular while in the campus.”

Rhoda Chaima

These were Rhoda Chaima’s first words when I recently visited her at Santhe secondary school in Malawi. Rhoda was referring to a policy by the school that requires every student to speak English as one way of improving their fluency.

I work for the Atlanta-headquartered humanitarian organization CARE. My job title is “Staff Writer” but, in reality, I’m as much of a finder as I am a writer. I find CARE program participants who want to talk about their experience with CARE, and connect these individuals with the people who support our work, or will support our work when they learn about what we do.

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Marie-Goreth, 18, has never been to school. She cannot read or write. She wakes in the morning to walk almost one hour to a field where her family grows rice and sweet potatoes. After returning home from laboring in the fields all day, Marie-Goreth, who has nine brothers, prepares the family's meals lunch and dinner, fetches water, gathers firewood and helps her mother tend to her younger siblings. But none of that slows Marie-Goreth's ambition to improve her life and the lives of those around her.

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First she learned to weld toys. Then jet engines. Then she helped put a country back together.

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Jacqueline Ntunzwenimana, 21, is a seamstress who operates her business out of her home in Musaga, Burundi. Jacqueline was able to start her business with a loan she acquired through her solidarity group's microfinance  activities as part of CARE's ISHAKA program.

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