Help us meet our goal of raising $50,000

Thursday, December 21, 2006

More Photos

This is Farzana Rili Abbas. She currently goes to the boys' school with her best girlfriend because the girls' school is in such bad shape and the teacher is incompetent.

The Importance of Educating Girls

I wrote this article, "The Importance of Educating Girls and Women" for the website. It was supposed to be up a few weeks ago, but unfortunately the designer had a family emergency, and now it's the holidays. I'm hoping the site will be up in early January. I am keeping my fingers crossed. In the meantime, i thought I'd put it up in case anyone was interested in reading more about the subject.

The Importance of Educating Girls and Women
By Lizzy Scully

Until I traveled to Pakistan, India, and Bolivia I took my education for granted. With free access to everything I needed all the way through high school and a free ride through my first four years of college, thanks to my father, I never took education seriously. I did fairly well, but I didn’t appreciate the accessibility of good teachers, libraries, schoolbooks, computers, and all the other technological accoutrements common to my privileged world. The only time I really tried hard was in graduate school, where I earned a master’s in communication, and that’s only because I paid for everything myself.

Getting an education, even a college degree, is easy in the United States for both girls and boys. However, in many places around the world, women have little or no access to education. For example, less than one-third of Pakistani women are literate. In Nepal, women who can read make up just one-quarter of the population; and in India, only about half the women are literate. Countless studies show that uneducated women are more likely to suffer from poverty, illness, and malnutrition, and that their communities have high infant-mortality rates and lower productivity. According to a 1995 World Bank study, “Low levels of educational attainment and poor nutrition exacerbate poor living conditions and diminish an individual’s ability to work productively,” (World Bank, 1995b).

Because of this and countless other studies, the Western world has taken an increasing interest in educating women abroad. Laudable nonprofit and government-run organizations such as the Central Asia Institute, the Office of Women and Development/US Agency for International Development, and several others have focused on promoting literacy and integrated education (reading, writing, arithmetic) for women around the world. What they have discovered is not surprising, but has far-reaching consequences.

On a grand scale, research has illustrated that educating women and girls leads to an increased overall development and wellbeing both in communities and countries where females are educated. In Nepal, women who participated in integrated literacy programs were “more aware of health and reproductive health issues, political affairs, and the importance of children’s education,” (Bruchfield, Hua, Baral, Rocha, 2002).

Educated women are more likely to be aware of the importance of population control and taking their and their children’s health concerns more seriously. According to the organization Gender and Food Security, female education “significantly improve[s] household health and nutrition, lower[s] child morbidity and mortality rates, and slow[s] population growth.” And a 2005 United Nations study found that, “Education also helps to delay age at marriage and increase age at first child birth, thereby reducing the fertility rate. Awareness of the cost of children, increased knowledge of contraceptives, improved communication between couples, and sense of control over one’s life are also influenced by education, which in turn leads to smaller and healthier families,” (United Nations, 2005).

“Education is also associated with improved and timely access to information on good nutrition, good child-rearing practices, and earlier and more effective diagnosis of illnesses. As a result children born to educated mothers tend to be better nourished, fall sick less frequently, are healthier, and have a better growth rate than their uneducated counterparts,” (United Nations, 2005). Additionally, educated women have more awareness of problems such as HIV/AIDS.

Educated women are also more likely to stand up for themselves, understand their rights, participate in household decision-making, and to contribute to community or national politics. In 1997, the US Agency for International Development, working in Nepal, asserted that women who can read, write, and earn money “create more social change through organized and collective actions,” (Moulton, J. 1997). Women who have more control over money, whether it be through generating income on their own or by better understanding the needs of the family, tend to invest more in their children’s education and health and take care of their own health needs.

Furthermore, “women who have learned to read and understand their legal rights are much more likely to initiate action for social change than those who are illiterate … In the Dhanusha district in the Terai, women who completed literacy courses and had received ‘tin trunk libraries’ in their communities were keen to read women’s law books to know more about their rights in society,” (Bruchfield, Hua, Baral, Rocha, 2002).

Educated women also spend more time educating their own children, and the more education a woman has, the more likely she will be to send both her female and male children to school. According to one study, “The relationship between formal basic education and long-term economic growth is well documented, with numerous studies reporting a strong correlation between the education of girls and a country’s level of economic development (Bruchfield, Hua, Baral, Rocha, 2002).

Educational attainment also correlates to increased agricultural productivity. A recent report for the International Labour Organization stated that each additional year in school raised women’s earning by about 15%, compared with 11% for a man (Gender Food and Security).

Additionally, Gender and Food Security reported, “Increased education for women is not only a matter of justice, but would yield exceptional returns in terms of world food security. A World Bank study concluded that if women received the same amount of education as men, farm yields would rise by between seven and 22%. Increasing women’s primary schooling alone could increase agricultural output by 24%.”

Education for women could also be highly effective in the following areas: reducing the incidence of trafficking girls to brothels; increasing overall environmental awareness; and, reducing the likelihood of terrorism.

According to Greg Mortensen in his book, Three Cups of Tea, providing Pakistani and Afghani children with a well-rounded education typically makes them more moderate, and it provides them with an alternative to going to Madrassas—schools built and supported by Arab countries that promote a more radical, conservative form of Islam.

“The only way we can defeat terrorism is if people in this country where terrorists exist learn to respect and love Americans, and if we can respect and love these people here. What’s the difference between them becoming a productive local citizen or a terrorist? I think the key is education.” (Mortensen, Relin. 2006)

And as Mortensen stated in a March 2006 issue of the Roseville Review, “In Islam, when a young boy goes on jihad—it could be a good thing like getting a job or going to university, but it could be a bad thing like terrorism—he needs the permission and blessing from his mother.” If his mother was given a balanced education as a child, she is more likely to be moderate. Thus, while it takes time to bring change within the society, the costs are really low, and overall, “… it’s definitely worth the investment.”


Bruchfield, S. Hua, H. Baral, D. Rocha, V. 2002. “A Longitudinal Study of the Effect of Integrated Literacy and Basic Education Programs on Women’s Participation in Social and Economic Development in Nepal,” December, 2002. Girls’ and Women’s Education Policy Research Activity website.

Fairbanks, G. 2006. “The Power of the Pen,” Roseville Review. Lillie Suburban Newspapers, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Gender and Food Security: Education, Extension, and Communication. file:///Users/elizabeth/Desktop/Gender%20and%20Food%20Security.webarchive.

Moulton, Jeanne. 1997. Formal and Nonformal Education and Empowered Behavior: A Review of Research Literature. Support for Analysis and Research in Africa (SARA) Project, US Agency for International Development.

United Nations, 2005. Commission on the Status of Women, fiftieth session.

World Bank, 1995b. Toward Gender Equality: The Role of Public Policy. Washington, DC: World Bank.)

Another great site to get more information from

I discovered this site on It's a group sponsored by UNICEF that talks about girls' education abroad. I've just joined the group:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Slowly but Surely

Well, the debut of our website is going to be put off for a few more weeks. Unfortunately our designer had some family health issues and so won't be able to finish things up as planned. Inshallah everything is OK.

Although it doesn't seem like I'm doing much (in my own mind), I continue to network to find people to help out with this project. I had breakfast with Malcolm Daly, owner of Great Trango Holdings, a few days ago. He's psyched to donate products for the fund-raisers that we do; La Sportiva is also supporting Heidi's slide show tour next year with product; Rock & Ice magazine said they'd help out with promoting some slide show fund raisers that we are going to do; and the ladies over at She Sends magazine offered to donate the funds to a big party they are planning for late winter to GEI. I've also talked with some folks over at the American Alpine Club. Jim Donini was enthusiastic about our project because he currently feels that one of the most important things we can do to contribute positively to the world community is to educate the poverty-stricken girls and women in foreign countries.

Educating girls and women benefits communities for a number of reasons. Not only do more educated women have fewer babies (i.e. less overpopulation), but they contribute their knowledge to the entire wellbeing of the community they live in.

"Increased education for women is not only a matter of justice, but would yield exceptional returns in terms of world food security. A World Bank study concluded that if women received the same amount of education as men, farm yields would rise by between seven and 22 percent." ((

"Education can also play a major role in improving the status of women and would significantly improve household health and nutrition, lower child morbidity and mortality rates, and slow population growth. According to one UN study, child mortality would be reduced more effectively by providing women with ten years of education rather than by doubling their income, providing sanitation and piped water, and turning every agricultural worker into a white-collar worker." ((

I'll have more facts up and running later!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Women of the Karakoram

This article on the Women of the Karakoram was published in a 2003 Mountain Hardwear catalog.

Why we decided to start this non profit

Well, it's 10:00, and I can't go to sleep, and so I thought I'd write a bit about why Heidi and I decided to start our own nonprofit.

I actually didn't initially want to start a brand new nonprofit. Because I am in charge of putting together the business plan and organizational structure (Heidi does the bulk of the fundraising), I didn't really want to have to start from scratch. So, I approached a variety of organizations with a rough proposal. Heidi and I wanted to raise money specifically to renovate the girls' school in Khane.

I first contacted the Colorado Nonprofit Association because they help new nonprofits by dealing with all the financial and business needs for the first few years. However, they only work with Colorado-based organizations. I then contacted the folks at the dZi Foundation ( because they "develop sustainable programs that positively impact individuals and communities located primarily within the Himalayan region." Heidi and I have raised money for dZi before, working with their knowledgeable and dedicated executive director, Jim Nowak. Unfortunately, the board of dZi has decided not to work in Pakistan at this point. So, we tried connecting with the folks over at Central Asia Institute, which is doing excellent work promoting education primarily for girls in Pakistan (see for more information and see to read more about CAI founder/exec. director Greg Mortensen's new book.) I spoke with them a few times regarding our project, but because they were more or less overwhelmed with proposals just like mine & Heidi's, they couldn't help us out.

I became slightly discouraged after being denied over and over again for the first few months after I returned from Pakistan. But then I met a young man who had just started a nonprofit himself. He's raising money for Sudanese refugees. After talking to him for a few hours I began to feel like it wasn't such a huge task after all, at least if I just took things one day at a time. So, I registered the nonprofit with the state of Colorado, started this blog, and am now working on two primary projects: getting the website up and running (I still have to finish the text), and finding $500 to apply with the IRS for 501(c)(3) status, so that people who donate to our organization can get tax deductions and so that we can get other nonprofit benefits (I have three slide show fund-raisers planned where I will talk about our attempted climb of the Ogre's Thumb and also the village Khane and children there).

Another reason I decided to just go for it and register our own nonprofit was because if CAI was overwhelmed with proposals such as ours, then obviously there was more room in Pakistan for another organization that empowers girls through education.

Heidi and I have been talking about giving back to the world community for years now. We've been friends for more than a decade, and five or six years ago, both of us began to feel that we could use our selfish pursuits (climbing walls in foreign countries) to raise awareness for certain things. First, we raised money for a variety of organizations through "She Sends", the women's climbing magazine that seeks to build community and create a forum for women and men to express alternative perspectives of the climbing world ( is going online December 1 with all new content). We've both volunteered at events such as HERA Climb For Life, which raises funds for research of ovarian cancer, and we've both done miscellaneous things here and there to "give back." However, our efforts were inconsistent and somewhat disjointed--a fundraiser here, paying for the education of a couple Nepali children there. Now we'd really like to put our heads together and do something beneficial for the long term--something that will make a big difference for a large group of people, specifically the girls and women of Khane and possibly other villages in the Shigar Valley. Who knows what will happen with this project. I certainly don't. But we're going to have a good time trying, and I'm sure we'll both learn a lot along the way.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's been a while since I've written. The latest development for GEI is that our website should be up and running in a few weeks. Calvin Madison and Craig Wilson have generously offered to design and maintain the Girls Education International website. I still have some work to do on the text of the website, and I need to get all the photos together for the photo gallery, but we are on our way.

An update on slide shows. Heidi will be doing another slide show tour next fall, 2007. She's already done one slide show tour that raised $3,000 for the dZi Foundation. This time she will be raising money exclusively for GEI.

I will be doing a slide show at the Montbell store in Boulder later this year and then another one at the Estes Park Mountain Shop in January. I will keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Welcome to the Girls Education International Blog and Website

Welcome to the Girls Educationa International Blog and Website. Heidi Wirtz and I (Lizzy Scully) spent six weeks in the Northern Areas of Pakistan summer of 2006 attempting to climb the Ogre's Thumb. Because of accidents, bad weather, and sickness we didn't succeed in climbing the wall. However, we did spend a few weeks with the people of the village Khane, Hushe Valley, Baltistan, Pakistan. We met and hung out with the family of Ghulam Abbas, our trekking guide, and we got to know the people fairly well in a short period of time. We discovered that they were genuine, friendly, fun-loving, and completely open and generous. Because we had such an amazing experience we decided that we wanted to help the people of the village. The first project of Girls Education International will be to renovate and hire a teacher for the girls' school in Khane.

We found while we were there that the Khane girls' school was in poor condition, especially compared to the boys' school. We found piles of poop in the schoolyard, furniture of poor quality, school supplies that were old and torn, and a teacher with barely any education herself. Because Pakistan is a Muslim country, boys have traditionally been valued more highly. However, the people of Pakistan are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that when girls are also educated, communities thrive. Thus, the villagers welcome the chance for change, and they are very excited to be able to educate all their children.

Our plan is to provide the school with a more well-educated teacher, to renovate and clean up the school and school yard, to plant a new and better garden, to buy new school supplies, to hire someone to clean the school weekly, and to create a scholarship program for one girl to eventually go to college to become a teacher herself and return to the village to teach.

First things first though; we need to come up with $500 just to apply for 501(c)3 status with the IRS. So far, we have registered the non-profit with the state of Colorado, and we have an EIN number. I'm currently working on a budget plan and trying to find a board of directors. Please help us get started and make a donation to Girls Education International Organization, PO Box 2383, Estes Park, CO 80517. You can email for more information.

From this point on I will be posting each significant thing that we do with Girls Ed International to this blog. I hope to help and inspire other people to start non-profits. I'm sure this will be a challenging endeavor, but I'm looking forward to the project!