When 14-year old Amina Yusuf realised that her uncle was trying to convince her father that it was time for her to marry, she did everything in her power to persuade her parents otherwise and begged them to rather let her continue with her education. Fortunately for Amina, they agreed. This, however, is not the reality for most of the young girls in Zaria, Northern Nigeria. In fact, this is not the reality for 130 million girls around the world who are not in school today. Early childhood marriages, poverty, war and mismanaged government funds play a huge role in depriving girls of an education. Instead of attending school, girls go out hawking to contribute to the household income, or help their mothers look after their younger siblings. If they get married, their 13 or 14-year old bodies aren’t mature enough to safely sustain pregnancies, resulting in a huge increase in maternal mortality and morbidity rates.
Yet, by educating girls, the benefits swing the pendulum far in the other direction. Educating a girl makes a significant contribution to the wellbeing of not just her family, but also her entire country. It is a basic human right for all children, including girls, to have an education. An education protects girls from child labour, child marriages and, by implication, death during childbirth. When Malala Yousafzai was violently attacked by extremists for speaking out against the ban on female education in her country, it served as an even greater motivation to continue her campaign. She co-founded Malala Fund alongside her father with the aim of helping girls stay in school. Malala Fund invests in education champions in communities and regions where the most girls miss out on secondary education. These include Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and countries housing Syrian refugees, and they are working hard at extending their reach even further.
Partnering with a bank like Citi that has a global reach, especially in the conflict-ridden areas in which Malala Fund works, allows them to expand their network significantly. It is crucial to their success that they forge solid partnerships. Citi enables this success and thereby increases the amount of education champions reached by Malala Fund. Habiba Mohamed in Nigeria is one such champion. Working with the Center for Girls Education, she provides girls with safe spaces. Trained mentors teach girls numeracy, literacy and life skills, and special focus is placed on building the girls’ confidence and self-esteem. This helps them understand that they have value and empowers them to negotiate the marriages suggested by their families in a culturally appropriate manner.
An educated girl will ensure that her children also receive an education. She becomes independent and doesn’t have to rely on others for her survival. Her talents, ideas and passions are cultivated. She could have the solution to climate change, or she could be the next Nobel Prize winner. If one girl with an education can change the world, imagine what 130 million can do.
Costa Rica in Central America has been hailed as one of the happiest countries on earth. With coastlines on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides, its name literally means ‘rich coast’. On its eastern shoreline lies the province and town of Limon – the first place where Christopher Columbus anchored when he sailed into Costa Rica. It has incredible natural resources and is populated with Limonians who love the place so much they get tears in their eyes when they speak about leaving. Yet, for all its natural and human capital, it has been hampered by a series of social and economic problems.
With no tertiary education facilities and opportunities for professional development at a low, young people were, albeit reluctantly, leaving Limon in droves. The capital, San Jose, offers education, job opportunities and a faster pace of life. Those who left Limon often did not return, which meant any potential talent – and hope for revival – left with it. That is, until news started spreading of a new container terminal being built at Limon port, and not just any terminal: the most efficient container terminal in Latin America.
In January 2015, APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Danish conglomerate, Maersk, started the construction of a 40 hectare artificial island in the ocean off Limon as a platform for the biggest cranes in the word, with the ability to services the biggest vessels in the world. When they become operational in January 2018 the plan is for it to not only be the doorway to the rest of Costa Rica, but also to Central America.
Costa Rica is the biggest exporter of fresh pineapple in the world, with the fruit being ranked as the best in terms of quality globally. Long queues of vessels forming at the old port resulted in many vessels leaving without collecting their cargo. Tonnes of fresh produce stayed behind, rotting in its containers – a huge financial blow to the producers. The aim is for the new port to run like a pitstop in a Formula 1 race: everyone in sync in the fastest, most efficient way, but still keeping with safety regulations.
Many Limonians are returning, even from overseas, and the port is already enabling opportunity at this first stage of building. Also, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, APM Terminals is offering free training programmes to interested Limonians in order to create a skilled workforce for the port. Even without being complete, the potential of the new port at Limon is fast returning Costa Rica to the ‘rich coast’ it actually is.
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