A young CARE supporter leads an inspiring effort in Malawi


Guest Post by Sydnie Cobb

Did you know that there are 62 million girls not currently in school around the globe? Or that half the women in the world above the age of 15 cannot read or write? These are only a few of the startling facts I learned last year about the disparity in access to education for girls around the globe while participating in a Girl Scouts program that explored global issues affecting girls and women. I have been a Girl Scout for 12 years in the metro-Atlanta area, and last summer, as I started to think about my final journey with Girl Scouts — completing my Gold Award challenge — I knew that my project had to be centered on improving access to education around the globe.

This focus led me to CARE, an organization I first learned about through my involvement in 21st Century Leaders, which promotes youth leadership skills. When I first started thinking about my project, I decided that I wanted to fundraise $5,500 to support the purchase of school supplies for a community in Malawi, a country in which CARE works to promote girls’ education. I was a bit nervous for my first meeting with the CARE staff because I knew that my project would take a lot of work. I also knew, however, that completing this work would be possible with CARE.

"I saw my project was starting important  conversations that people weren’t necessarily having."

After a few more meetings with CARE, the focus of my project shifted from fundraising to support the purchase of school supplies to funding a much greater need — sanitary napkins. This transition was important to me because it made me realize how items that I take for granted are luxuries for some girls in countries like Malawi. I will admit that when I first started asking people to donate to support the purchase of items like sanitary napkins, I felt a little uncomfortable. But after I presented my project to friends and family, people would comment about how when they thought of donation needs, they never thought of items like feminine products. These discussions helped me move past the initial awkwardness that I felt, because I saw my project was starting important conversations that people weren’t necessarily having.

With the help of my CARE team and a strong support group of friends, family, and my community, I was able not only to reach my goal but exceed it. Like me, the donors that contributed to my project were committed to making a difference in addressing the issues that prevent girls across the globe from attending school. As a result, my project funded more than $6,000 in sanitary products, which were distributed to more than 700 girls in schools across the Kasungu District of Malawi.

Throughout my 12 years participating in the Girl Scouts, a phrase that I have heard mentioned often is, “girls can do anything.” I believe this statement to be true, and that’s why it was important to me to complete this project. An investment in girls across the globe is truly an investment in the world, and I firmly believe that ensuring all girls have access to education is just the first of many steps we can take in making the world a more equal and just place.