It is a marvelous new year, one that brings us to the end of another decade. I remember New Year’s Eve 2000 —the major media hysteria about all that could possibly go wrong as computers changed centuries, how some people hoarded water and food; I was in Las Vegas with my family, thinking about the stars and sky outside our hotel.
In this new decade, my commitment to balance the access to education, justice, and human rights for girls and women remains my focal point. I will travel to Kenya to visit the Daraja Academy, a secondary boarding school for girls whose mission is to “cultivate a community of individuals with a sense of cultural awareness, social conscience, and environmental responsibility, while instilling talents that will enable the [girls] to open doors to a global society.”
The Daraja website states that “in Kenya, hundreds of thousands of the country’s qualified, passionate students are excluded from education beyond the 8th grade because of financial reasons beyond their control. Those who are stuck in poverty cannot earn a secondary school degree and without a secondary school degree they will not be able to get out of poverty.” The Girl Effect, a non-profit that is working to bring educational opportunities to girls through funding education, providing microloans, and raising awareness (http://www.girleffect.org/) states that girls receive less than 2 cents of every dollar of aid. Daraja Academy welcomed its first 25 students last year and is providing a free education for girls in grades 9 — 12 who would otherwise not be able to attend secondary school. Statistics show that when a girl is educated, she is more likely to share her education with her family, her community and her country.
One 17-year-old Daraja student wrote, “I want to be a doctor when I’m older. If I could change one thing about the world [it would be] poverty.” Another girl, 16 years old, wrote, “I believe that when I become a president I could change corruption in our country.”
Daraja is a Swahili word that means bridge. A 14-year-old student wrote, “Daraja Academy will not serve [only] as a bridge as a student progresses from primary to secondary school, but it will also serve as a bridge between Kenyan students and American students in cyber classes.”
2010 — a new year, a commitment from my heart and life to continue to work for change. Education, giving of oneself, and connecting with new friends across the globe can build a bridge to happiness.