Empowering Women and Girls

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Bridge International Academies empowers women and builds confident, successful girls.

If you are an 11-year-old girl living in the world’s most marginalised communities, you face the prospect of forced marriage, early pregnancy, increased maternal mortality, less access to education than your brother and a greater likelihood of economic and social marginalisation.

  • 62 million girls between ages 6-15 are out of school and 16 million girls between ages 6-11 never enter one (Source: UNESCO).
  • Only 34 percent of girls in the poorest households living in the poorest countries complete primary school (Source: World Bank).
  • Six of every 10 Kenyan women are likely to be single mothers by the time they reach 45.
  • In Kenya, 65 percent of all girls in the country have dropped out of school. That is unacceptable.

Educated girls and women are healthier, have the skills to make choices about their own future, and can lift themselves, their communities and their countries out of poverty. 

Bridge International Academies seeks to change the futures of girls in underserved communities across Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, India, Liberia and beyond. In doing so we change entire communities as women reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families, as opposed to 30 to 40 percent for men.

Here’s some of the ways we do that:

  • Bridge’s low fees mean that parents don’t have to choose which children to send to school and are less likely to prioritize a boy’s education over a girl’s.
  • Bridge’s teacher training and classroom management techniques focus on encouraging girls to be leaders in and out of the classroom. This includes lesson guides that are deliberately designed to ensure that girls are given equal air-time in the classroom.
  • We target female teachers to also provide a real-time role model within the classroom. Seventy percent of our teachers are women.
  • We have a fantastic ‘Super Mama’ programme which draws on women in our communities as strong education advocates.
  • Bridge also hosts an annual women’s conference to bring them together to share ideas and learn from each other. And we make sure that our girls are aware of and linked into these female role models.

We are proud that our investment in girls is beginning to pay off. Three of the four pupils awarded full scholarships to attend secondary school in the U.S. in 2015 were girls, and the top girl from each county in Kenya was awarded a full scholarship for secondary school from the United We Reach Foundation.

In recognition of its work to educate girls, Bridge was selected to be a part of the Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect Accelerator in 2015.

Bridge’s women and girls

Rather than tell you about how Bridge empowers young girls, we like to let our student stories highlight our work.

Naomi Mutuku Williams is a 10th-grader from Nairobi who graduated from Bridge. While many children her age were in second grade, Naomi spent her days walking the streets of her township. One day, Shannon May – Bridge co-founder – found her wandering the streets, and asked why she wasn’t in school. She told Shannon her parents could not afford it. Within weeks, Bridge was able to provide her with a full scholarship, books and uniforms so that her parents did not have to worry about paying for her education. Naomi is now in high school and is well on her way toward reaching her dream of becoming a doctor.

Read Naomi’s full story here.

Grace Nyanchoka grew up in Kenya, in the mid-sized Kiisi municipality. She remembers being pulled out of as many as six different elementary schools by her mother by the time she was in 5th grade, for reasons that still bring her close to tears: teachers who called her “stupid” in front of her mother; beatings with cane rods; being made to sit outside for getting an answer wrong. Grace attended Bridge academies from 5th through 8th grade, and said it was one of the first schools where she felt free to interact with her teacher and her friends. “There was no discrimination no matter your grade or how you perform, because they want you to go up.” Today, Grace is a freshman studying on full four-year scholarships at one of the top private schools in Florida  – Saint Andrews School in Boca Raton.

Josephine Nyakundi was born to a family of three children in greater Nairobi, and spent much of her childhood moving around the slums of Nairobi while her father looked for work. After spending years forced to live apart, Jo’s family reunited in 2013 in Kajiado County on the outskirts of Kenya. Jo was sent to the new school in the area, Bridge International Academies, and could not believe the difference – there were teachers in class everyday who wanted to help her learn. Jo thrived at Bridge, making huge strides in her learning and being elected as the Head Girl of Bridge’s Ongata Rongai academy. At the end of grade 8, she was selected as one of the leading pupils across the Bridge network and was accepted to join the prestigious Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School in Georgia in January 2016. Since joining Rabun Gap, Jo has flourished – but she has not forgotten where she is from. She returned to Ongata Rongai for the summer and tutored pupils at her old academy. She wants to finish high school in the U.S. and hopes to go on to University and become a neurosurgeon.

When Agnes was 10 years old, her mother told her she could no longer go to school. Her mother didn’t proceed past grade 4 and saw no need for Agnes to continue her education. Agnes was distraught. School was the one place she felt happy. She decided to go to her grandmother and ask her to sponsor her continued education. Her grandmother agreed but had one condition – if Agnes was going to learn to read, so was she! And so, Agnes went to school, and each night, she and her grandmother read a chapter of the bible. In 2015, Agnes graduated from primary school as one of the top students in her class. She was awarded a scholarship to secondary school and left home, knowing that now both she and her grandmother had a different and better future ahead of them.