It's been an incredible year at S H E. (Well, it's been more like 7 months, but who's counting?) As you may well know, we opened our doors in Togo in July, 2017, and we've been gaining momentum ever since! Now, we're taking the time to celebrate our successes, reflecting on what we've learned from the people who made this year possible, and carrying every lesson into what we're dreaming up for the future!
Before we get started, here's a look back through some of our favorite memories this year.
Our Top 3 Lessons Learned
1. It doesn't stop at simply getting girls in school
Girls' education and empowerment are tremendously complex issues. The more we learn about girls' education around the world, the more need we uncover. So, we find ourselves in a constant balancing act of maintaining focus on our goals and addressing the many challenges girls face.
We can't simply pay tuition, give new school uniforms, and sign off. If it were that easy, this would no longer be an issue. Girls around the world face tremendous challenges even after they've crossed the threshold of the classroom door. Overcrowding, teacher truancy, lack of relevant curriculum, malnutrition, lack of feminine hygiene products and sexual health education, sexual violence, harassment and exploitation are just a few of the daily battles girls fight. Because teachers may often be truant, and girls might miss a week of school during menstruation each month, a girls' education is inconsistent at best.
2. Togo has shown commitment to GIRLS' education
We chose Togo for the tremendous potential we see. The government in Togo has shown commitment to girls' education and achieved great progress. After eliminating school fees for girls nationwide, enrollment rates among boys and girls in elementary school are almost equivalent, a tremendous accomplishment in the developing world. The community partners we work with are also committed to the long-term, sustainable development of Togo. Skills training, business classes, and empowerment workshops are just a few of the things we were able to accomplish this year with the help of our incredible partners. Still, we know there is a great amount of work to be done, but we remain 'irrationally committed' to the development of Togo through education.
3. The shared story is immensely powerful
S H E started by sharing the harrowing story of Elolo, the first girl we met in Togo, and we have continued on the principle that we are more empowered together. We are using our platform to share the stories of people walking the path to empowerment and empowering others in their own lives. You've met some of our biggest S H E R O E S, and we'll continue to introduce you to the many people who have inspired our movement.
We're dreaming big for 2018!
Here's what to expect
First and foremost, we're committed to eliminating the financial barriers that keep girls out of school. And secondly, we're developing after-school programs that supplement school learning with high-quality, forward thinking curriculum and empowering skills training. We're partnering with the Open Learning Exchange (OLE) out of MIT to implement our equitable, affordable, and scalable education goals.
Using mobile devices, our students will now be able to access high-quality, relevant education materials anywhere, off-line, at any time. This greatly increases the accessibility of information, and the curriculum will all be in their native language, French, and developed specifically for the Togolese culture. Interested in learning about the connected learning initiatives at OLE? Read more here.
How does this affect your sponsorship?
It doesn't. For $50, you still provide a girl with a new school uniform, full tuition scholarship, and exam fees, preparation materials, and school supplies for one year! To support our growing after-school program and OLE partnership, we will now be seeking additional donations from individuals and partners to help us reach our goals of empowering girls with deeply meaningful interactions and engagement.
You've spoken, we've listened!
We've heard your voices, and we've seen that inspiring others and being inspired has a snowball effect. So that's why we're creating Sip for S H E: the BEST reason to gather with uplifting people over a glass (or cup, or mug, or pint) of your favorite beverage, all while supporting your favorite cause! We'll be sharing inspiring stories from women around the world, introducing you to empowering individuals and organizations, and keeping you up to date on all things S H E. Most importantly, we've seen the incredible effects of getting empowered people in a room, and we're excited to come together with you.
This is also a chance to see a small contribution create large-scale, collective impact.
Here's how it will work: We'll be following a collective giving model and encouraging groups of people to get together in their homes once a month. Instead of spending money on going out, we encourage you to save the money you would have spent at a restaurant and put it towards a small, monthly donation to S H E. Together, for the cost of a glass of wine a month, we can create long-term, sustainable impact in women's lives. So cheers to you!
Want to make a difference? We're looking for chapter leaders, so email us at StyleHerEmpowered@gmail.com and we'll talk about more of the fun! We can't wait to hear from you!
All in all, it's been an amazing year.
And we couldn't have done it without you. We're looking forward to what 2018 has in store as we aim to increase our impact on girls' lives in Togo. We've walked alongside incredible young women, seen progress happen in a matter of months, and experienced the setbacks that come with development work, but overall, we are more inspired than ever.
You've empowered us to continue pushing for girls' education in Togo and use our platform to empower women around the world, and now, we hope you'll continue walking alongside us on our journey to Style. Her. Empowered.