March 12, 2014 | By Catherine Bertini

Catherine Bertini Fund Grants Put Girls on the Road to Success

This post originally appeared on WFP USA Blog. 

After 10 years leading the UN World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini decided to tackle a major root cause for food insecurity—lack of education. She launched the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls Education from the funds of her 2003 World Food Prize. Believing that enhancing women’s education had the potential to transform societies, Bertini established the fund to improve girls’ access to education worldwide.

Education means acquiring the capacity to learn, create, and change. It sparks hope, ignites aspirations, and builds the power to overcome circumstances.

But education is only possible when students are present and engaged. Around the world, only 30% of girls go to secondary school. Often things as simple as uniforms, pencils, food, or the weather are the determining factor for whether they attend school or not. Yet evidence shows that providing something as simple as a daily meal at school significantly improves school enrollment and attendance rates, especially for girls.

Traditional thinking around education centers on the idea of ‘if you build it, they will come.’ However, when girls are bound by social, familial, and cultural responsibilities to the home, there are many reasons why their school seats remain empty.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls Education will be making two new grants to ensure that more girls and women can receive an education and reach their full potential. Our Spring 2014 grantees are Chicuchas Wasi School for Girls in Peru and Chance for Change in Burkina Faso.

“Educated girls and women contribute more to economic development than any other single program," Catherine Bertini said. "We are thrilled that the Bertini Fund grants will enable Chicuchas Wasi School for Girls and Chance for Change to reach more girls to support their schooling."

(Photo courtesy of Chicuchas Wasi School)

The Chicuchas Wasi School for Girls in Cusco, Peru provides free primary education for girls in the rural community. The school leads community-based activities around the value of educating girls and educates students’ mothers through classes and workshops. However, a lack of safe, reliable transportation has a severe impact on attendance and academic performance. Since the school began providing bus transportation, attendance has reached 98%. They are receiving a grant from the Bertini Fund to provide safe transportation to and from school for their 105 young students. 

Chance for Change enables girls from poor families in Burkina Faso to pursue higher education. The organization identifies qualified candidates, visits them to discuss roadblocks, and coordinates resources to facilitate their academic studies. In addition to paying school tuition, the organization organizes resources for the women to excel in their studies—computers, motorized scooters, and materials for school projects. Their Bertini Fund grant will provide scholarships for women, cover shipment costs for 12 donated computers, and enable one Master’s student to complete an Agro-Ecology project to help 17 local women grow sesame to sell at market.

(Photo courtesy of Chance for Change)

The Bertini Fund has supported projects in eight countries across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Projects have expanded education opportunities by removing barriers to schooling and helping organizations build their capacity to reach more female students. Grantees have used funds to on-board qualified teachers, build adequate school facilities, create girls’ clubs, or provide school uniforms. 

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The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

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Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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