A group of sixth graders in Dalian, China, along with their teacher, will run on June 19 as part of the Komera Global Run 2013. Here’s our interview with Mr. Ngo:
Daca Ngo is a sixth grade teacher at the Maple Leaf Foreign National School in Dalian, China. His fundraising page on crowdrise is called Mr. Ngo & the Super 6’s! He says, “We are located in Dalian, China. We are a BC-Certified offshore school. Our students are foreign nationals that come from many different countries: Korea, India, Iran, Russia, Japan, the U.S., Canada, Malaysia, Pakistan, Italy, Singapore, and others. So while we are a school in China, our students are international.”
How did you discover The Komera Project?
I discovered The Komera Project through a friend of mine I work with, who is good friends with Margaret (The Komera Project’s executive director).
What motivated you to get involved with The Komera Project?
I wanted to get involved with The Komera Project because, obviously, being a teacher, I think education is very important. Also growing up with two older sisters, I’m very aware of the challenges girls face with regard to discrimination, inequality, and the pressure of gender roles. I believe it’s vital that everyone have an equal opportunity to go to school. The Komera Project tackles both issues, which is great. Lastly, Rwanda is an area that I, along with my students, know little about and it is a good way to learn more about the global village we all live in.
How have your students responded to learning about Rwanda? Have they found any similarities between Rwanda and China? What about Rwanda did they find most interesting?
The students have been very enthusiastic. They had little to no knowledge about Rwanda, so when I told them about the project, hands were shooting up in the air asking all these questions (which I didn’t know the answers to myself yet). They are curious and excited. Some similarities that they found between Rwanda and China are that there are expected gender roles for men and women. Taking care of the household duties is usually the woman’s responsibility. The culture in China favours boys over girls. While both countries have taken steps to create equal status among men and women, there is still much work to be done. One of the most interesting things they’ve discovered is that Rwanda is very mountainous, and that Rwanda is home to the world’s largest mountain gorilla population.
Why do you think girls’ education, health, and empowerment are important issues?
Girls’ education, health, and empowerment are all very closely connected. Educated girls create tremendous social and economic benefits. They gain self-confidence and have a higher self-worth. They make informed choices about their health and future that benefit their community and beyond. They are important to a country’s economic development by earning a higher wage for themselves and breaking the cycle of poverty. Given the opportunity and support, I feel their potential is limitless.
Why are you doing the Komera Global Run 2013? What are your plans for it?
We are doing the Komera Global Run to show our support for the Komera Scholars and their desire for education. We believe that education, for girls especially, is the key to a better world for everyone. We are planning on getting the entire school (approximately 170 students) involved to run or walk on June 19th.
Are there any particular thoughts or experiences you’d like to share?
Since this is my first year involved with The Komera Project, it has been a real learning experience not just for the students, but for myself. It really makes you appreciate the education you’ve received; to understand that education is so valuable and not to take it for granted. It also makes the students feel guilty when they groan about too much homework.
Please support Mr. Ngo & the Super 6’s as they run in solidarity with the Komera Scholars! Their fundraising page is here.Categories: Blog, Events, Komera Global Run 2013
By Executive Director Margaret Butler
It’s ironic that I founded and am running a non-profit that focuses on girls’ education, because my conclusion, after six years of hard work, is that girls’ education alone is not the definitive solution.
For a while now the development pundits, international corporations, celebrities and leading aid agencies have been pontificating that in order to solve the world’s problems, all you need to do is to educate a girl. Educate a girl and she will lift herself, her family and her community out of poverty. Educate a girl and she will change the world. The development community is constantly searching for the silver bullet, that quick fix that will make everything better. So the world has decided to put the weight of the world on a young girl’s shoulders. It’s her responsibility to finish school, go on to University, find a job and lift her family out of poverty. Yet again we choose to objectify the girl and ensure that she will be indebted to her family, her community and the world. What if she fails?
Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that education is imperative. A girl must go to school, she must have the same rights as boys—and she must have every possible opportunity provided to her. I have spent the past six years working in Rwanda—a country where 56 percent of the parliamentarians are female, where more girls access primary school than boys and where opportunities are abundant for young women. The country is working towards parity in educational access, but girls still struggle in secondary school. Why? Because they become pregnant, they get married, they take care of the family at home, they work in the fields to earn income and, ultimately, they don’t make it to secondary school or drop out once they are there. Nine times out of ten, the reason girls don’t go onto secondary school isn’t because of cultural bias; it’s because of economic barriers, health barriers and a lack of social and emotional support to remain in school.
That is why we must stop saying that simply putting a girl into school is the answer. It’s only part of it. We must start treating a girl as a whole human being who is unique in her own right. We must understand that she will find it hard to go to school and stay there. She will worry about her family, she will get sick or she may even become pregnant. She will want to succeed so very badly and will often find herself feeling so much anxiety about success that she fails.
We need to think about how we can ensure that she stays in school. We must work with that girl and listen to her needs, her family’s needs and her community’s needs. We need to integrate education with health care, especially sexual reproductive health and rights, and we need to focus on economic development. We need to figure out how we can help a family send their other children to school in the future and not leave the burden of economic prosperity on one girl’s shoulders.
The Komera Project has learned from our community over the past five years. We have learned what our scholars need in order to succeed, and we continue to learn on a daily basis. We provide our Komera Scholars with scholarships to upper secondary school education, and we provide them with a school-based mentor at their boarding schools who delivers leadership training and advice on health. We provide our scholars with business skills through an intensive social entrepreneurship academy where they become social change agents within their own community. And we leave space to provide the scholars with training that they request on an annual basis. We listen and learn together.
Girls’ education is not the full answer. Providing a holistic system of support to each individual girl is how we will truly see the girls of this world prosper and build a brighter future.Categories: Blog, Events, News
How did you discover The Komera Project? What motivated you to get involved with The Komera Project?
Beth Lev and her daughter, Sara, became involved with The Komera Project last summer as a result of an internship Sara was completing at Alberleen Capital. The management of the company has ties with The Komera Project, so when Margaret came in for a meeting Sara’s boss thought Sara would be interested. Beth says that–after hearing Margaret talk about her personal story and the evolution of The Komera Project–both she and Sara were inspired and wanted to help. Sara added, “Margaret is a very inspiring woman; I really respect her and her motivation.” Plus, Sara was interested in the mission of The Komera Project, as she believes inequality between men and women still exists in the modern age and women deserve more opportunity than they are currently given.
Why do you think girls’ education, health and empowerment are important issues?
Beth believes these issues are important because “women should have personal choice and empowerment.” She says that, often, we take empowerment for granted, while women in Rwanda don’t even have it at a basic level. Therefore, it’s imperative that we attempt to help them.
Sara asserts that inequality is still a major issue in education, especially in Rwanda. “There’s a misconception that women can’t do what men can. This is really wrong. The right person, given the right opportunities, has the potential to do great things. Success depends on motivation not gender.” She also mentioned that health is a factor because without proper health care women are overlooked or thought to be a poor investment.
Why are you doing the Komera Global Run? What are your plans for it?
Beth explained that she is doing the Komera Global Run because “it’s a great way to raise awareness and funds, and it’s a great thing to do to make a difference.” She and Sara will be going to Rwanda to run with the Komera Scholars on June 19.
Sara wants to do the Komera Global Run for the empowerment, as she believes that empowering Rwandan women is important. She wants “to tell them to be strong, to go out and live, and not to be afraid because of their gender or ethnicity. I don’t want them to be held back, and I want them to have equality. I’m participating to show them I care and that they shouldn’t be afraid to take opportunities.”
Why are you going to Rwanda? What are you most excited about doing/seeing while there?
Beth felt motivated to go to Rwanda because she believes that “meeting the girls and seeing their world will help make us appreciate our opportunities and inspire us to help.” Furthermore, it’s a great way to raise funds!
Sara mentioned that, before she agreed to go, she had a debate with her mom about whether it was worth it to go rather than just donating that travel money to the cause. However, the outcome of the debate was that money is only half the battle, and empowerment, inspiration and communication were the other half. Sara wants to go to help empower them, to provide communication and to start connecting women all over the world in solidarity. She’s also very excited to see the beauty of Rwanda and to experience the culture. And, of course, she can’t wait to meet the people and “provide some inspiration for them—because they’ll definitely provide some inspiration for me.”
Are there any particular thoughts or experiences you’d like to share?
Beth mentioned the importance of learning about Rwandan history and the genocide through the eyes of the people who actually experienced it. She explained that when you compare typical North American worries to theirs, it’s such a different perspective. The things that we agonize over seem ridiculous when so many people don’t even have basic rights to do what they want to do.
Categories: Blog, Events, Komera Global Run 2013
Robin and Hilary Butler of Bowen Island, British Columbia, initially discovered and became involved with The Komera Project for one simple reason: their daughter founded the organization. They visited Margaret in Rwanda several years ago while she was working for Partners in Health and The Clinton Foundation in Rwinkwavu. Starting in South Africa, they traveled north to see what Margaret, Paul Farmer and the rest of the team was up to. As such, the Butlers’ involvement with Komera began when the organization was simply an annual Girls’ Fun Run in Rwanda, and they “naturally grew into it as it grew.”
For the past two years Robin and Hilary have organized a run to coincide with their island’s end-of-summer festival. This year, however, Bowen Island will host two runs: an informal one on June 19 with friends and neighbors to coincide with their daughter’s trip to Rwanda for the Komera Global Run, plus their larger annual Rotary Run for Rwanda on August 24. Although their June 19 run will mainly serve as an introduction to the larger Bowen Island event, the Butlers believe that the Komera Global Run is a great idea that unites Komera supporters around the world. As Robin eloquently stated, “The sun never sets on Komera.”
They believe that girls’ education, health and empowerment are important issues for three reasons. First, because “the evidence is in.” Educating girls reduces early pregnancy and the difficulties that accompany it. Secondly, the education girls receive is given back to the rest of the family, therefore lifting their entire family. And thirdly, on a humanitarian ground, girls are the most oppressed, under-utilized segment of the population. Particularly in countries like Rwanda with a high rate of poverty, but indeed everywhere, giving girls the opportunity to attend school lifts the entire community around them.
And this is what The Komera Project aims to accomplish: giving girls the opportunity of education to lift themselves and their families from poverty while creating a global network of young leaders. This “constructive good” is what makes the Butlers so proud of Komera and hopeful for its work in the future.
If you would like to sponsor the Komera Global Run on June 19th you can make a donation here!Categories: Blog, Events, Komera Global Run 2013, News
By David Boehmer, May 12th 2013
When I look at a girl, no matter if she is in New York City or Rwinkwavu, I see potential. I see someone with curiosity, with love, with energy and with passion. I see someone who has the opportunity to change the community, country and world around her. I see someone who if only given the right support – through education, training, love and encouragement – can make our world a better one – for girls and boys.
Growing up, my mother always stressed education. She was a parent, a friend and a tutor. I remember my first failed science project and my mother sitting me down at her drafting desk and us building new charts and diagrams of various types of leaves and their scientific names. In later years as my sister and I thought about our future, it was always about following our dreams and realizing every potential we had. My mother did not have an easy path – she went back to school in her late 30s while supporting two children who saw nothing but love and happiness; she broke ceilings in a profession where ceilings were not made of glass but of concrete.
My mother raised me to not only respect women, but have my passion in life be to ensure all girls have the opportunity to break through their own ceilings and beyond. I am adamant about the absolutely necessary movement to finally and fully create opportunity and potential for every girl in this world. Every girl, teenager and woman has the potential to accomplish amazing things and transform others towards their own goals. Whether they be mothers who raise sons and daughters to love as they were loved, or leaders in their community who drive moments for change, women are the key to our future. This is why I am passionate about the work that I do with the Komera Project.
On this wonderful day to give thanks to our mothers, thank you mom. And thank you all for your continued support to Komera, to your own sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and to all of those who need our support to ensure they too can exceed their wildest dreams.Blog, Events, News