Room to Read is an international non-profit organisation whose mission is to end global illiteracy and gender inequality in education. This year, Room to Read celebrates its 20th anniversary. Over the past two decades, the organisation has been successfully implementing their wide-ranging and pioneering literacy programme alongside their Girls’ Education Programme (GEP). The literacy programme includes teacher training, establishing libraries, partnering with Governments to reform curricula, and an extensive publishing programme of children’s books in local languages. Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Programme aims to end gender inequality in education through a targeted approach fostering life skills, providing educational resources as well as mentors for the girls in the programme to encourage their retention in education.
Room to Read and Financial Education
As a core partner in Credit Suisse’s Financial Education Initiative, Room to Read is delivering financial education through the GEP in Tanzania and Sri Lanka. Aflatoun International, also a Credit Suisse partner in this same initiative, is providing technical expertise and curriculum support for the country programmes. The Financial Education for Girls programme aims to increase girls’ awareness of their social and economic rights, and increase their self-confidence and agency over their future choices.
A Room to Read staff member says: “Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Programme operates in low-income communities where school dropout rates for girls are significantly higher compared to boys. In these communities, early marriage and pressures to take up domestic or manual work prevent girls from completing their education. By supporting girls through secondary school, and by providing financial education and skills, we are empowering girls to be independent: they will be better equipped to achieve their goals in life and overcome gender discrimination.”
Girls who gain the skills to become independent business operators are able to make a better life for themselves and their family. They earn and control their own money. In this way they are able to manage their finances, to save and invest further.
The impact of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic on low-income communities has had major consequences. Mahesha is a 14-year old girl living in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka, and is enrolled in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Programme. Mahesha’s challenges during school closures have affected many girls like her around the world.
Her community lives in a predominately agricultural area where wages are low. Fortunately, Mahesha has been able to use the financial skills she had acquired from Credit Suisse’s Financial Education Initiative. She began by assessing the family’s budget and expenditure, helping make savings in non-essential goods as well as in electricity and water bills. To make use of her time during the lockdown, she also began to plant vegetables in the family garden to further cut food expenses.
“I learnt all this from the classes. Otherwise, I would not think about how to cut down on expenses, in order to save”, Mahesha told her Room to Read social mobiliser, who has been mentoring her throughout the lockdown and checking-up on her wellbeing during school closures.
Stories like this reassure us about the power of financial education for girls, especially during this challenging time. Learn more about Mahesha’s story here.
Find out more about the Financial Education for Girls programme here.