IBM and Peace Corps Respond to Ghanaian Girls’ Call for Remote Access to Education

March 7 – 13 is Global Partnership’s Week, and PYXERA Global has been proud to join the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships in celebrating the important role public, private, and social sector collaborations play in addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. We had the pleasure of hosting Gina Tesla, Director of IBM Corporate Citizenship Initiatives, and Tonia Wellons, Associate Director of the Peace Corps Office of Strategic Partnerships, for a live webcast in our office on Tuesday with Deirdre White, CEO of PYXERA Global.

In observance of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, March 8, the conversation also reflected on the many opportunities for cross-sector partnerships to benefit women, including the recently launched partnership to bring the talent of IBM’s Corporate Service Corps to Peace Corps projects, and their current collaboration in Ghana supporting the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative. Click here to watch the recording of the live conversation, and also read an overview of the partnership by Gina and Tonia below.

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IBM and Peace Corps Respond to Ghanaian Girls’ Call for Remote Access to Education

By: Gina Tesla, Director IBM Corporate Citizenship Initiatives & Tonia Wellons, Associate Director, Office of Strategic Partnerships

When we invest in the next generation of female leaders, we build a stronger global community. The constructive impact of empowering one woman with education and paid work makes a splash that ripples outward to positively benefit her children, community, country, and —eventually— the world.

This is especially true for women-owned businesses. In the next five years, 12 million women business owners around the world plan to grow their businesses by at least six employees, spurring socioeconomic growth in the wider community.

Before starting their own ventures, though, these female leaders were once just girls learning to read, write, and gain the necessary skills to craft their first business letter. The first step on their road to success: completing primary and secondary education.

Unfortunately, all too often a girl who can transform her world for the better lacks the opportunity to complete her education due to conditions outside of her control.

In some families, for example, the expensive cost of books, uniforms, and bus fares force parents to choose which child will go to school. When they consider how much a daughter can help them cook, clean, and babysit for other children versus the little opportunity to get a good paying job even after being educated, the sons are usually the ones learning how to read and write. The daughter never steps foot in a classroom and the cycle often repeats itself.

Conversely, for every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15 to 25 percent.

That’s why IBM teamed up with the Peace Corps on a first-of-its-kind partnership in support of President and First Lady Obama’s Let Girls Learn Initiative, aiming to eliminate the barriers 62 million girls worldwide come up against when trying to receive an education.

Through our Peace Corps and Corporate Service Corps partnership, we are catalyzing community-led change by improving the access to education for girls in Ghana. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is a problem solving and leadership development program where employees serve short-term, high social impact pro bono consulting assignments overseas.

Twelve IBMers currently on the ground in West Africa are working with a local social enterprise called TechAide on a more affordable, easy way for these girls to learn and stay in school. They are also working with the Ghanaian Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ghana Education Service to measure the efficacy of existing girls’ education programs, as well as how to maximize of the effects of its mentorship programs. Additionally, one IBMer has become a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, demonstrating our commitment to innovation to deliver greater value for communities.

Admittedly, our favorite part of this project is that it reflects the needs and requests of the Ghanaian girls themselves — needs that they indicated during a Peace Corps and Let Girls Learn hackathon a year ago. This type of direct input makes the project more user-friendly, culturally relevant, and sustainable.

Their voices will be heard once again next week when 25 girls along with their teachers will gather at Ashesi University to provide feedback on the team’s work and meet potential university and IBM mentors. We’ll be there and are excited to hear what they have to say.


Gina Tesla (@GinaTesla) and Gavin Cepelak (@GavinCepelak) will visit the project in Ghana next week, so follow them on Twitter for real time updates.

 

Feature photo credit to Nora Morgan @ flickr.com

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