The opportunity to address a global audience is rare for young girls. One of PPSEAWA’s goals is to foster leadership skills by providing more non-formal educational and public speaking opportunities. One of the young girl guides who spoke at the International Conference in Fiji in August 2013 said: “I would like to say that speaking at the PPSEAWA conference was enlightening and a wonderful experience too. I still have the video of my speech from that day too!! My parents and I would also like for you to convey our heart full gratitude.”
Investment in the education of a girl helps lift the status of women in their countries. When we educate a girl, we educate a family and a village. Eleanor Schlesinger, PPSEAWA UN Representative, provided more than just an opportunity to raise awareness of the situation of girls in Fiji, but encouraged PPSEAWA members to invest in their education. In Fiji, the government provides free education, textbooks, and bus fares, but the girls have to pay for their own school expenses such as uniforms, supplies, and extra classes. These costs can be difficult, especially for rural and impoverished families. The girls who spoke during the PPSEAWA International Conference were awarded monetary prizes for their essays, thanks to the generosity of PPSEAWA Thailand.
The five girls also had a lasting impact on PPSEAWA members! We were so touched by the articulate and sincere stories by these girl guides that PPSEAWA USA started fundraising for Fiji Girls’ Education. There was a fundraising campaign over the next five months following the conference spearheaded by the New York Chapter and Eleanor. The New York Chapter alone gave a $1500 donation and several individual members also made contributions so a total of $5211 was presented to Dr. Jiko Luveni, Minister for Social Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation in Fiji, and Mrs. Ravesi Johnston, PPSEAWA International First Vice-President, at the welcome reception for PPSEAWA members in New York in March 2014.
Our five Fijian girls were able to purchase uniforms, bags, shoes, school supplies, and a laptop with their FJD$500 awards. The rest of the funds were distributed among needy families in the capital of Suva, in a settlement district that is one of PPSEAWA Fiji’s project areas. All in all, 18 girls received educational assistance from the donation! What a wonderful finish to a project that lifts girls beyond boundaries, born of a partnership between several PPSEAWA National Member Organizations and blossoming with the cooperation of organizations working on behalf of the girl-child like Fiji Girl Guides.