Help us meet our goal of raising $50,000

Friday, December 12, 2008

Here is a grant I wrote

This is the latest version of the grant I wrote. It is modeled on the requirements outlined by the Ford Foundation. I still have some work to do on it. I am sending it off to Scott MacLennan at The Mountain Fund, who has generously offered to look at it.
GEI board member Elizabeth O'Neill gave me some very valuable feedback as well.

Girls Education International Liberia Scholarship Program Expansion Grant

"There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, improve nutrition and promote health – including helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.” - Kofi Annan

Proposal Summary

Lizzy Scully and Heidi Wirtz founded Girls Education International (GEI) to work closely with communities in mountainous regions of the world to expand and support educational opportunities for women and girls. Our agency is requesting $55,000 from the Ford Foundation in order to expand and continue support of its Liberia Scholarship Program, which is currently being implemented in conjunction with the Liberian NGO, Common Ground Society. The existing program supports 47 girls in five private schools in Margibi and Bong counties by paying school fees. Our goal is to expand the scope of the project to provide 50 girls with school fees, a daily meal to ensure optimal development, and access to reproductive health education, so they can take control of their own health and lives. GEI will manage and disburse funds in a timely manner to CGS, which will then implement and monitor the program on the ground.

Narrative of Organization (five pages max)

"If we want to change the world – and we all do – there is one way to do that: educate girls." –World Food Program

Introduction to and Background of the organization
Girls Education International was founded in Boulder County, Colorado, November 2006, in order to address the educational discrepancies between boys and girls that exist in mountainous regions of developing countries. Heidi Wirtz and Lizzy Scully initially founded this organization because they felt a strong desire to give back to the mountainous communities they regularly visited on rock climbing expeditions and other exploratory adventures. Both women have worked tirelessly since their mid-20s to raise awareness for women’s issues through other non-profit and for-profit endeavors. They finally decided to organize their efforts in order to be more efficient and effective with their time and resources.

The mission of GEI is to work closely with communities in mountainous regions of the world to expand and support educational opportunities for women and girls. GEI promotes local ownership to ensure that programs respect local culture and values and are sustained over the long-term.

GEI chose this mission because its founders had strong personal ties to the mountainous regions of the world they have visited and where they have seen that women and girls have limited access to education. They also believe—and research illustrates—that providing girls with access to primary education is one of the best ways to advance the health and prosperity of both the girls and the communities and countries in which they reside.

An integral part of GEI’s work is partnering closely with local NGOs and following their leadership with regard to respecting cultural norms and adhering to national education standards and local operating practices. Through these partnerships, GEI also hope to strengthen their partners’ capabilities by providing them improved access to resources, contacts, and information.

History and major accomplishments:

Lizzy Scully, a journalist and senior contributing editor for Rock & Ice magazine, and Heidi Wirtz, a professional rock climber represented by The North Face, have spent a collective three decades climbing mountains and exploring remote regions of the world on both female-only and mixed expeditions. While on a rock climbing expedition to the Northern Areas of Pakistan, where the two women planned to climb a 2,700-foot, vertical rock wall, on the 19,000-foot Ogre’s Thumb Mountain, Scully had an accident. That accident, plus bad weather and dangerous rock conditions forced their descent after two days of climbing and after only arriving half way up the wall.

The two women then decided to spend their remaining ten days in the country exploring other valleys in the area, and ended up at the village of Khane in the Hushe Valley, where their expedition cook resided. While there, they explored nearby valleys for future rock climbing expeditions, but also had the chance to spend time with villagers and visit the local schools. Upon discovering the deplorable condition of the girls’ school, as compared to the boys’ school, Scully and Wirtz decided to raise funds to renovate the school and hire a qualified teacher. When they returned from Pakistan, the two women attempted to partner with already-existing organizations in order to raise funds for and implement the project, but they could not find any interested parties. Thus, they founded Girls Education International.

Because of the political turmoil in Pakistan in recent years and because they could not find a local partner to work with in the Hushe Valley, Scully and Wirtz were unable to start that project (though they still desire to do so). However, in the meantime, Emily Sherman-Davis, the Program Director for Common Ground Society in Liberia had personally contacted Scully, requesting assistance with a scholarship program she desired to start in two of the mountainous regions of Liberia—Margibi and Bong counties. Impressed with her personal story—she earned a master’s degree and started an NGO to promote peace and education, despite being a refugee from war-torn Liberia—Scully engaged in a dialogue with Sherman-Davis.
Scully and GEI’s Board of Directors then evaluated Sherman-Davis’ request and found CGS had already successfully implemented numerous health and peace education programs with clear and positive results. They had already successfully graduated 1,500 students (primarily girls), age seven to 26, from after-school, weekend and summer programs they operated in Bassa County until 2007 and then in Monrovia in 2008. CGS’ obvious commitment to help youth improve their lives through education, leadership training, social protection, and community development programs was in line with GEI’s goals. Thus, the GEI Board of Directors decided to expand the scope of their organization’s goals to include a project in Africa. That project was titled, the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program.

Current Programs and Activities
GEI began raising funds for the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program spring of 2008 and had sufficient funds to begin implementation by August 2008. The program pays the fees for 47 girls in five private Catholic schools in Margibi and Bong counties (Note. GEI is not a religiously affiliated organization. The Catholic schools were chosen because they provide a better education than the underfunded public schools). The scholarships were awarded to disadvantaged girls whose educational pursuits were not guaranteed because their families live in poverty, typically on less than $1 per day.

The program is being paid for by funds raised through various fundraising events organized by Scully and Wirtz and held on the Front Range of Colorado. GEI recently received the Inspiring Soles Grant of $5,000, which was awarded to Wirtz for her athletic prowess and her work raising funds and awareness for various nonprofits, and from which the Liberia Scholarship Program will be supported through spring 2010.

Description of work with local groups

GEI has received guidance for grant writing, fundraising, and strategic planning, as well as technical and accounting assistance from The Mountain Fund a 501(c)3 organization based out of New Mexico. We also currently operate under the umbrella of that organization.

Paid and volunteer staff

Currently there are no regularly paid staffers, though GEI has contracted a few jobs, such as grant writing and other fundraising activities. GEI plans to pay a monthly stipend to the program director (Scully) for the duration of the Liberia Scholarship Program should enough funding be procured through grants, donations, and fundraising efforts for that purpose.

Volunteers include:

Lizzy Scully:
Director of the Liberia Scholarship Program, Lizzy Scully has a master’s in communications. She has developed strategic planning, managerial, PR/marketing, and editing/writing skills as the managing editor for two publications. She has organized dozens of fundraisers, and headed the marketing campaign for the 2007 HERA Climb4Life event in Boulder, Colorado.

Heidi Wirtz:
GEI’s Executive Director, Heidi Wirtz, spearheads fundraising efforts and is the project manager for the Pakistan Education Project. A North Face athlete, Heidi has organized and led worldwide expeditions as well as dozens of fundraising events throughout the United States.

Elizabeth O’Neill:
A sustainable development and conservation planner with expertise in strategic planning and organizational development, and 15 years of experience in the field, Elizabeth O’Neill helps to guide the development of GEI.

Justin Voorhees:
Justin Voorhees has a bachelor's degree in finance from Susquehanna University and is GEI’s treasurer and accountant.

Funding Request

“We know that girls' education is perhaps the single most important investment a developing country can make." -USAID

Primary purpose and description/demographic of GEI’s constituency

The purpose of this request is to secure funds to expand the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program to include 50 girls in Margibi and Bong counties, and to offer those girls a stipend to pay for all school fees and to implement an after school reproductive health education program.

Three-quarters of females in Liberia are illiterate (compared to only 38 percent of boys) . Only 58 percent of girls are enrolled in primary school (compared to 74 percent of boys). Just 12 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school (compared to 22 percent of boys) . And only 41 percent of females work . Currently 1.7 million Liberians live under the poverty line, with 1.3 million of those living in extreme poverty. Thus, one half of Liberians live in abject poverty. Poverty is even higher in rural areas as compared to urban areas – 67 percent versus 55 percent. These problems are exacerbated by extremely high unemployment rates. According to a CIA Factbook, Liberia’s unemployment rate is 85 percent .

The 47 girls who currently participate in the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program are from the most disadvantaged families in the country, including the poorest and the least educated. Some are even self-supported. They range in age from nine to 24, and are in elementary, middle, junior high and high schools in Kakata, the capital of Margibi County, and Gbarnga, the capital of Bong County.

Since the scholarship program was implemented, the program director at Common Ground Society has determined that the girls remain at serious risk for not receiving a quality education. Though paying school fees alleviates some financial burden, the cost of uniforms, schoolbooks, and ID cards is still a significant financial drain on the families. Some may be forced to drop out of the scholarship program despite successes they are experiencing because their families require they stay home to cook, wash, and help with the younger siblings. Plus, because their families are so poor, participants sometimes don’t get even one meal per day, which hinders their ability to concentrate in school and may affect their physical and cognitive development. In fact, 40 percent of children under five suffer from moderate to severe stunted growth due to lack of nutrition .

Finally, though they are receiving a quality education at privately run Catholic schools, without additional reproductive health education to empower them to understand and take control of their own health, girls are at risk for all of the problems outlined above, as well as early pregnancy, HIV, and STDs. According to a recent study, HIV rates in Liberia are between 10-20 percent . In addition, these dire circumstances have resulted in a Liberian females being continually trapped in a cycle of poverty and despair. The cost of educating 50 girls and providing them with these additional opportunities is difficult for small organizations such as GEI or CGS, but it is absolutely necessary. More funding is needed immediately.

Description of Community

Bong County profile: Bong County lies in the north-central part of Liberia. It has 12 districts, and a population of about 328,919, which makes it the third most populous county in Liberia. Its capital is Gbarnga, which is the location of Methodist Junior High and Saint Martin’s High School—the two schools participating in the GEI-CGS scholarship program. The main ethnic groups include the Kpelle, Mandingo, and Mano.

The county, once known as the food basket of Liberia, grows rice, cocoa, coffee, rubber and palms. Bong County also has a mining industry. It is home to Cuttington University College and the School of Nursing, run by Phebe Hospital. The county is also home to Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) and Rural Development Institute (RDI).

Margibi County profile: Marbigi County lies on the north to central coast. It has four districts, and a population of 199,689. Its capital is Kakata, which is where Saint Christopher’s Catholic School, the Dekegar Community School, and the E.J. Yancy United Methodist School are located. These are the three schools participating in the GEI-CGS scholarship program. The main ethnic groups are Bassa and Kpelle, and 90 percent of the population is Christian, five percent is Muslim, and five percent is animist.

Margibi County is an important center of the country for education, housing the Booker Washington Institute and the Konola Academy. It is also one of the more disadvantaged counties in Liberia. According to United Nations Mission in Liberia Human Rights officers, Margibi County has the highest rate of rape in the country.

As well, the county is home to Firestone, the biggest rubber plantation in the world, as well as the Salala and Weala plantations. The county and its people are adversely affected by the existence of these plantations. Money generated by these plantations goes directly to the central government, and the county sees none of it; and the plantations don’t contribute significantly to the local job market as employees come from across Liberia. Plus, according to a 2005 government report, exploitation of workers at the Firestone plantation is rampant—most make just $2 per day but have to tap 600 trees per day; living conditions are deplorable; 60 percent of workers’ children go without schooling; and the plantation dumps its heavily polluted waste into the Farmington River, adversely affecting its aquatic life. As well, the Weala Rubber Co. dumps its waste in the Wea River.

Proposed Initiative

With this grant we plan to expand the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program to provide 50 girls in five schools in Margibi and Bong counties with scholarships, stipends for uniforms, books, ID cards, a daily meal plan, and a three-day per week after-school Reproductive Health Education Program.

Problem Statement/Statement of Need

Unequal access to schooling—which is discriminatory against girls—is an outstanding problem of Liberian society and responsible for the high rate of illiteracy among girls and women. Literacy rates are predicted to be even lower in Margibi and Bong counties in both adult and youth populations . In fact, literacy rates are significantly lower in rural regions, where young girls have fewer opportunities for education.

However, unequal access to schooling has far more dire consequences than simply illiteracy, including ensnaring women in a terrible cycle of poverty. Lack of education leads to early marriages—half of Liberian girls are forced to marry before age 18, and girls from poor families, such as the girls in the program, are twice as likely to marry young than girls from families that are better off. Child brides are more likely to contract STDs and watch their children die because they have little or no access to reproductive health services.

As well, child brides are more likely to be violated physically, sexually, or emotionally. More than three-quarters of Liberian women have been raped and one-quarter of women suffer from permanent disfigurement . Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth or pregnancy than older girls , and overall, an average of one out of every hundred women dies in childbirth. Additionally, forced sex leads to pregnancy and birth before the children’s bodies are ready. This leads to a plethora of health issues, including the prevalent problem of fistula, a debilitating condition caused by a tear in the vaginal tissue that results in chronic incontinence, which in turn leads to social ostracism and abandonment (nine out of 10 Liberian rape victims outside of marriage also suffer from fistula) .

The extremely difficult state of affairs for women in Liberia is exacerbated by:

• Low enrolment rates due to entrenched cultural and religious practices and values opposed to girls’ education, such as early marriage, domestic labor, and biases against girls education;
• High level of teenage pregnancies, leading to higher drop-out rates;
• Limited number of female teachers in the school system to serve as role models for girls;
• Violence against girls and women, e.g. sexual harassment by male peers and teachers against girls;
• Increased movement of poor girls into the sex industry; and
• Inadequate institutional support for the development and empowerment of girls and women.

Because of a serious lack of education and a subsequent inability to escape the cycle of poverty, the majority of women live on the margins of Liberian society, unable to participate effectively in national decision-making processes and to serve in high profile positions in government and industry, let alone find resources to deal with or seek recourse for all the tortures they have suffered.

Cleary we can’t solve these serious problems in just two years. However, funds provided to Girls Education International for its Liberia Scholarship Program can make a significant impact by empowering 50 girls (and their children, and their children’s children) to escape this cycle of poverty and violence. Plus, not only are we giving these girls their only chance for a better life, we are also empowering them to create a significant positive change in Liberian society. Change is possible as evidenced by the fact that Liberia elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the country’s first female president in 2006. However, Johnson-Sirleaf is not representative of the typical Liberian female as she grew up in one of Liberia’s few wealthy families.

For additional statistics on women and also on poverty rates in Liberia, please see Attachment 1a.

Program Design and Plan of Action

Current Program
Through GEI’s Liberia Scholarship Program, the total amount of $4,500 is disbursed to Program Director Emily Sherman-Davis of Common Ground Society each year to provide school fees for 47 girls in five private Catholic schools in Bong and Margibi counties. Sherman-Davis spends $750 on travel to the five schools twice per year, during which she determines the scholars, keeps track of their grades and progress through discussions with school administrators and the girls’ families, and photographs and otherwise documents each of the girls. Sherman-Davis manages a total of $1,500 per semester specifically for the girls, which she personally brings to the schools to pay for the school fees of the scholarship recipients. All receipts for school fees and for travel and administrative expenses are copied and emailed to GEI.

The girls chosen for scholarships must: regularly attend school, arrive to class on time, maintain a 70 percent or better average or better, and, when implemented, they attend the after-school program.

Goals of expanded program to be funded by grant:
The program will be expanded to include three additional girls, for a total of 50. These children will be provided with all their school fees. It will also be expanded to include fees for uniforms, PE T-shirts, ID cards, daily meals, text and copy books, as well as a reproductive health education program. The expanded program will include girls from the same five schools where the program currently operates.

After-school program:
The “Girls’ Club” Reproductive Health Education Program will be an after-school initiative that brings together young girls/women from different communities. All participants will be part of the Liberia Scholarship Program, and there will be one programs in each county, for a total of two.

Targeted population:
The Reproductive Health Club is mainly targeted at young girls/women. The program promotes the well being of adolescents, enhancing gender equality, as well as responsible sexual behavior. Its purpose is to protect young girls from early and unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS and sexual abuse, incest, and violence. The program provides girls a safe space to build support networks with other girls and women and promotes functional literacy, life skills, livelihoods skills, and reproductive health education.

Successes of similar programs in Liberia:
A similar program implemented by CGS has been well received by the communities of Bassa and Monrovia, and more than 200 girls have participated over the past three years. They achieved a 100 percent enrolment retention rate among participants; ten girls have graduated from high school and are attending university in Monrovia; one girl presently works as an office assistant with CGS; and there has been X uptake of family planning methods.

The Curriculum will be based on two existing programs: Critical Issues—Sexual Reproductive Health developed and produced by Action for the Rights of Children ; and Sexual and reproductive health, rights and services by Women’s Commission for Refugee Women.

Students in the scholarship program will take leadership positions. As well, there will be one reproductive health educator for every 25 girls—normally a female health science teacher who already has a good reputation in the community—hired to teach the classes. Plus, successful women in business, health and government positions will be asked to do special presentations. For example, Gbarnga is home to a university as well as one of Liberia’s best teaching hospitals; both would be a source of qualified female speakers.

The after-school programs will be held in the capital cities of Gbarnga and Kakata three times per week. One scenario could be: classes held Monday and Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. In Gbarnga, the programs will be held on the Gbarnga Methodist high school campus; In Kakata, the program will be held at one of the schools where the scholarship program operates.

The children will be served a daily meal. Meals will be made by five mothers (to represent the five schools), hired, trained, and administered by Common Ground Society. Each “cook” mother will purchase, prepare, and serve meals five days per week to the children from one school.

Goals and Objectives for Ford Foundation Grant

*Note: Girls Education International and Common Ground Society will jointly work on preparing the pre- and post-program surveys as well as evaluating the results. However, CGS will administer surveys, collect data, and monitor the girls in Liberia.

Goal 1: Enhance educational opportunities by expanding the scholarship program by three girls, and providing all participants with additional stipends for uniforms and school materials.

Outcome Objective 1a: Increased attendance and retention rates and subsequent better grades.

Impact Objective 1a: Participants will attain higher achievement levels and have changed attitudes toward the value and rewards of maintaining consistent attendance in school, as measured by follow-up tracking of grades and attendance and retention rates and pre- and post-program survey response comparisons.

Outcome Objective 1b: Increased pursuit of higher education or additional skills.

Impact Objective 1b: Participants will leave the program with a changed attitude about the values and rewards of the opportunities afforded by an education and more self confidence in their abilities to pursue higher education or additional skills, as demonstrated by follow-up tracking and interviews.

Outcome Objective 1c: Increased opportunities to find and secure gainful employment.

Impact Objective 1c: Participants will leave the program with changed attitudes toward the value and rewards of gainful employment and will find and secure employment as measured by pre- and post-program survey response comparisons and follow-up tracking.

Outcome Objective 1d: Increase in confidence levels and feelings of control over one’s life, and subsequent decrease in early marriage and pregnancy.

Impact Objective 1d: As demonstrated by pre- and post-program survey responses and follow-up tracking, participants will leave the program with: an increased ability to speak out against people who are violating their rights; a greater understanding of their options; an increased ability to take care of themselves; and a desire to pursue their hopes and dreams in lieu of early marriage and pregnancy.

Outcome Objective 1e: Decreased financial burden on families of participants.

Impact Objective 1e: Families of participants will be less likely to discriminate against girls’ education, will perceive their girl child as being a boon to the family, and will feel pride for their child’s accomplishments, as measured by pre- and post-survey response comparisons.

Outcome Objective 1f: Decreased financial burden of participating schools.

Impact Objective 1f: Teachers and administrators in participating schools will be able to provide all students with a better education and more continuity in the classroom (if children aren’t regularly dropping out), and they will feel less stress in their jobs, as measured by post-program staff surveys.

Goal 2: Enhance the health of scholarship recipients.

Outcome Objective 2: Provide daily nutritious meals to participants in the scholarship program in order to guarantee optimal cognitive and physical development.

Impact Objective 2a: Students will have an increased ability to concentrate in class because they will not feel hunger pains, they will get better grades, and they will see overall short- and long-term success, as measured by pre- and post-program survey response comparisons and follow-up tracking.

Goal 3: Enhance the ability of participants to make healthy choices by implementing a comprehensive after-school Reproductive Health Education Program for scholarship recipients.

Outcome Objective 3a: Increased attainment of life skills and an increased understanding of reproductive health.

Impact Objective 3a: Participants in this program will have a greater sense of ownership over their lives and their sexual health gleaned through a thorough education in the subject as well as an understanding of the resources available to them, such as counseling and health promotion services, as measured by pre- and post-program survey response comparisons.

Outcome Objective 3b: Healthier growth and development, and subsequent decreased vulnerability to sexually transmitted disease, HIV infection, early pregnancy, and entry into the sex trade.

Impact Objective 3b: Participants in this program will have lower rates of STD infection and early pregnancy, higher rates of better health and physical and cognitive development, and will be less likely to enter the sex trade, as measured by follow-up tracking.

Outcome Objective 3c: Elevated levels of self-esteem.

Impact Objective 3c: Participants will have positive, changed attitudes about their own abilities, and subsequently be a powerful force for positive change in Liberian society, as measured by pre- and post-program survey results and follow-up tracking.

Activities and Strategies

Objective 1a: Increased attendance and retention rates and subsequent better grades

Objective 1b-1c: Increased pursuit of higher education or additional skills; Increased opportunities to find and secure gainful employment.

Objective 1d: Increase in confidence levels and feelings of control over one’s life, and subsequent decrease in early marriage and pregnancy.

Objective 1e-1f: Decreased financial burden on families of participants; decreased financial burden of participating schools.

Objective 2a: Provide daily nutritious meals to participants in the scholarship program in order to guarantee optimal cognitive and physical development. The food will be purchased and prepared by mothers of the scholarship recipients in their homes.

Objective 3a and 3c: Increased attainment of life skills and an increased understanding of reproductive health; Elevated levels of self-esteem

Objective 3b: Healthier growth and development, and subsequent decreased vulnerability to sexually transmitted disease, HIV infection, early pregnancy, and entry into the sex trade.

Strategies to ensure success 1a-3b:
• GEI and CGS will ensure success of these objectives by proactive and consistent monitoring of the scholarship recipients and by providing consistent funding over the long term.
• GEI and CGS will ensure success of its program in the long term by fostering a sense of community ownership of the project and by building infrastructure through its scholarship program. (See section XX for more details.)
• GEI and CGS will ensure the success of CGS by providing a living wage stipend to CGS’ program director, Emily Sherman-Davis, to ensure she can afford to continue to administer the project and won’t suffer from burn out.
• GEI will ensure the success of GEI’s involvement by providing its program director with a monthly stipend to administer the program.


See Excel Spreadsheet “Attachment 2a-Timeline of Activities”

Impact on problem and systematic change

Increasing and securing access to both a standard education and a reproductive health education program will benefit participants of the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program, their families, and their communities in various ways. It will increase participants’ access to schooling, improve retention rates, and lead to better grades, thereby alleviating the high illiteracy rates for those girls, their children, and their children’s children, thus encouraging a positive cycle of literacy and education.

This program will help counteract the discrimination against girls by giving legitimacy to their education, by alleviating the financial stresses on the families involved, and by giving the parents a sense of pride about their child’s accomplishments.

The reproductive and health education component will help alleviate early marriages and high youth pregnancy rates, thereby ensuring girls have better opportunities to secure jobs and escape poverty. It will also lead to an increase in adult women who can serve as role models for younger girls, especially if the program’s participants are encouraged to take leadership roles while in the program and then to return to the program upon graduation.

The communities of these participants will also benefit from an increased participation of educated citizens. Research illustrates that girls are more likely to participate in community affairs and politics and to know their legal rights when educated (see section on “Global project significance” below for more details). Increased involvement by participants will subsequently lead to an increased female perspective within local, regional, and national governments and businesses, and will facilitate an increase in institutional support for the development and empowerment of girls and women.

Plus, communities will benefit because GEI and CGS are directly investing resources into the communities and in the families of the scholarship recipients. GEI and CGS will: utilize community resources to provide for the girls—i.e. purchasing food and other items from local vendors to feed and clothe the girls; by hiring local women to teach the after-school reproductive health program; by hiring mothers whose children are involved in the scholarship program to procure and provide daily meals for the children; and by hiring mothers whose children are in the scholarship program to tailor the uniforms.

Finally, educating women increases their ability to speak out for their rights and the rights of women in Liberia. In the long-term, this could lead to decreased physical and sexual violence against women.

Global project significance

The long-term significance of this project lies in its potential to bolster the economic stability of the communities in which the scholarship recipient lives in Margibi and Bong Counties. It also has the potential of bolstering stability of war-torn Liberia and the entire Western African region.

Liberia could be like its close neighbor, Ghana, which, according to the Economist magazine, “is one of the few undisputed successes” of Africa in the last decade. Ghana, it continues, “has fostered an enviable reputation for individual freedom and political stability since democracy was restored in 1991.” Because of its stability, Ghana is: attractive to financial and diplomatic investment; a role model for other African countries; less vulnerable to corruption; and less likely to interfere with neighboring countries or start power struggles in neighboring countries. With the current progressive, female-minded government in place in Liberia, there’s no reason why it can’t become a beacon for other African countries.

So, how can educating 50 disadvantaged girls be a first step toward transforming Liberia into a beacon for other African countries?

First, girls who are educated have smaller families. As women’s schooling increases, the use of contraceptives increases and fertility falls. Educating girls “helps to delay age at marriage and increase age at first child birth, thereby reducing the fertility rate.” And, women with education have fewer children because they are empowered to “have the number of children that make sense from the point of view of economic development and improved education and economic opportunity…”

Smaller Liberian families mean less stress on local and regional resources, and an educated child becomes a positive resource for her community and her country.

Second, educated women with smaller families take their and their children’s health concerns more seriously. Female education "significantly improves household health and nutrition” and “lowers child morbidity and mortality rates.”

"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.” Additionally, educated women have more awareness of problems such as HIV/AIDS.

Thus, healthier families mean less stress on Liberia’s already taxed health care system and fewer incidents of HIV/AIDS.

Third, numerous international studies have illustrated that literacy programs promote awareness of “the importance of children’s education.” In Nepal, for example, women who participated in integrated literacy programs were more aware of “political affairs, and the importance of children’s education.” Learned women 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.

More educated Liberian women translates to more Liberians educated in general.

Fourth, more education translates to more economic growth and agricultural productivity. "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.” A recent report for the International Labour Organization stated that each additional year in school raised women’s earning by about 15 percent, compared with 11 percent for a man.

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 percent. Increasing women’s primary schooling alone could increase agricultural output by 24 percent."

In a place like Margibi County, which has excellent soil and where every second household has access to agricultural land, an increase of seven to 22 percent would significantly impact the region. According to a Margibi County government report, “strong and sustained growth in agriculture is particularly important since it can create employment for many low-skilled people, is a major engine of rural and overall economy through its multiplier effects, and because productivity gains in agriculture provide the foundation for successfully shifting workers to manufacturing and services.” Furthermore, the study states, “experience in other post-conflict countries indicates that agricultural growth is a major factor in early economic recovery, reaching four percent two years after the end of the conflict and accelerating to an average of nearly eight percent in years 3-5 after the crisis, before settling down to about four percent in years 6-10, which is a more typical long-run growth rate for agriculture in most developing countries.

Additionally, increasing the agricultural output of Margibi and Bong counties could increase the overall food production in the country, meaning Liberia could spend less on imports. Currently, one-third of Liberians living in extreme poverty and the problem is only worsening with the global recession. Cities such as Monrovia (Liberia’s capital) import more than 90 percent of the rice they consume; and the average Liberian family consumes about one and a half bags of rice per month.

Thus, increased education for women in the agriculturally rich regions of Margibi and Bong counties could lead to significant, increased economic growth for the entire region and more food for the whole country.

Fifth and finally, well-informed and skilled women are 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.”

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, Nepal, 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.”

Increased numbers of educated women in Liberia would likely translate to a reduction in the incidence of trafficking girls to brothels or the likelihood that they will join the sex trade, a decrease in violence against women, an increase in awareness of domestic violence issues, and increased rights for women in general.

As illustrated by the success of women such as Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was afforded an education and subsequently served at various levels in the government before becoming president and women like Common Ground Society’s program director, Emily Sherman-Davis, when given the opportunity and an education, Liberian women can make a huge impact regionally, nationally, and for all of Western Africa.

Key Personnel/staffing

Emily Sherman-Davis—Liberia Scholarship Program Director: $500 per month to implement, monitor, and evaluate the program, and to work regularly and directly with GEI. This monthly stipend will come directly from the Liberia Scholarship Program budget. The approximate time being spend managing the program will be 10 hours per week.

Lizzy Scully—Liberia Scholarship Program Project Manager: A to-be-determined monthly stipend to raise funds and find donors for the LSP in both the United States and Liberia, act as a liaison between GEI’s board and CGS, develop, expand, and evaluate the LSP program, and raise awareness of the program through marketing and public relations. The approximate time spent on the project will be an average of five-10 hours per week.

Two teachers for after-school scholarship program—to be hired upon implementation of the program and to be paid $100 per month, for a total of $2,400 per year.

Honorarium—Guest speakers to be hired upon implementation of program and to be paid a small stipend. Total of $400 per year.

Management plan/organizational structure/administration

Board of Directors of GEI— Heidi Wirtz (Chair), Lizzy Scully (Vice Chair), Elizabeth O’Neill (floating board member), and Justin Voorhees (treasurer and accountant)
Co-founder, Director of Fund Raising—Heidi Wirtz
Co-founder, Director of Marketing/Communications—Lizzy Scully
Assistant Director of Marketing/Communications—Jancy Quinn
LSP Program Director in Liberia—Emily Sherman-Davis
Floating volunteers

Sherman-Davis reports to Scully; Quinn and other volunteers report to Scully and Wirtz; Wirtz and Scully report to BOD; the budget and all money exchanged will be administered and monitored by Justin Voorhees, GEI’s treasurer and accountant.

Adequacy of resources
GEI was awarded the Croc’s/Outside Magazine Inspiring Soles Award grant totaling $5,000 December 2008, $4,500 of which is designated to fund the basic scholarship program through Spring 2010. GEI has an additional $3,500 raised from fundraising efforts.

See the current budget for existing scholarship program: Attachment 3a-Scholarship Student costs 2008-09.

See the complete proposed budget for the expanded LSP program: Attachment 4a-Expanded Program Budget, which includes extra sheets detailing: total cost of uniforms, books, and ID cards; total cost of after school program; total scholarship fees for 100 girls; projected overhead for GEI; and travel cost for project director in Liberia.

Equitable access/statement of diversity/nondiscriminatory policies for hiring new personnel

GEI provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, but not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.

GEI expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status. Improper interference with the ability of GEI’s employees to perform their expected job duties is absolutely not tolerated

Performance Evaluation Plan

Criteria for success of project:

Our criteria for short-term success for the Liberia Scholarship Program is:
1. If participants maintain reasonable grades, attend class regularly, and graduate from high school.
2. If participants have elevated levels of self esteem upon completion of the program.
3. If participants maintain good health.
4. If schools are more stable due to regular payment of dues

Our criteria for long-term success for the LSP:
5. If participants seek gainful employment or higher education upon completion of high school.
6. If participants avoid early marriage and pregnancy
7. If participants maintain good reproductive health, including avoiding early pregnancy and STDs and utilizing birth control methods.
8. If participating children have elevated levels of self esteem upon completion of the program.
9. If participants begin to utilize their education to give back to the community by entering the public realm as politicians, leaders of groups to empower women.

How we will monitor the program:

CGS has and will continue to do rigorous screening of the girls to ensure the likelihood that they will follow the tenets of the scholarship program. Screening includes: assessing the needs of the girls by talking with them and their families; evaluating one-page essays that they write describing their desire to participate in the program; assessing the motivation of the girls by talking with their teachers and school principals; assessing their grades; and regularly monitoring their progress.

CGS will do follow-up tracking of the high school graduates of the program to measure their attainment of higher education or jobs and compare those numbers to non-participants. CGS will also administer pre- and post-program survey response comparisons to measure the change in their attitudes about higher education and securing gainful employment.

CGS will do follow-up tracking of the high school graduates of the program to measure the numbers of participants who married or got pregnant and compare that to non-participants. CGS will also administer pre- and post-program survey response comparisons to measure the change in their levels of confidence and feelings of control over their lives.

CGS will administer pre- and post-program survey response comparisons to the family members of participants as well as teachers and principals in participating schools to gauge improvements.

CGS will administer pre- and post-program survey response comparisons to the girls and to the mothers cooking the meals to find out how many children are eating the meals and finishing their plates, as well as to determine the high quality of the food, the timely serving of the food, whether the children like the food or not, and whether or not the restaurants are sanitary.

CGS will administer pre- and post-program survey response comparisons to gauge the level of skills received by the participants as well as their feelings of self-esteem.

CGS will do follow-up tracking of girls after they graduate from high school.

Measuring the success of the program:

The GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program is evaluated quantitatively by using baseline data. CGS and participating teachers and principals are responsible for collecting and comparing grades and attendance records at the end of each semester. Behavioral surveys are also conducted each semester by the same team. Summative reports for each scholarship student are prepared for funders and GEI board members.

Students, parents/caregivers, teachers, and principals are evaluated qualitatively by using pre- and post-program surveys by CGS. A summative report is prepared for review by all stakeholders.

The quality of the GEI-CGS Liberia Scholarship Program is examined quarterly by the project manager in the United States (Scully) using data reported and prepared by the program director in Liberia (Sherman-Davis).

A report on the program is prepared by the project manager in the United States (Scully) and presented to the GEI Board of Directors for review on a quarterly basis.

Strategy for success:

At the beginning of the first school year, a committee of stakeholders will be created to evaluate the scholarship program in Liberia. The committee will include: the program director for the scholarship program, the U.S. project manager for the scholarship program, one to two teachers or administrators from each school where the scholarships are being implemented, student leaders of the reproductive health education program, and four parents of students enrolled in the program. At the close of the school year, the committee of stakeholders will evaluate all information, and recommendations for improvement will be made.

At the point at which funds have been secured, a committee of evaluators will be created in the United States. The committee will include: GEI’s board of directors, the program director for the scholarship program, the U.S. project manager for the scholarship program, and four to five additional people, who are involved with or staff nonprofit organizations that focus on education. The project director in the United States (Scully) will compile all the above-mentioned data and present it to the committee of evaluators at the close of the first school year. At the close of the school year, the committee of evaluators will evaluate all information, and recommendations for improvement will be made.

Dissemination of information
The project director in the United States (Scully) will compile all information for dissemination. All board members, Common Ground Society employees, and grantors will receive a copy of the evaluation findings. They will also be posted for the public on the GEI blog, and highlights of the program will be sent to GEI members via the enews letter.

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