Room to Read

Girls for Climate Justice (GFCJ)

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

In a 2019 report, UN expert Philip Alston calls climate change “an unconscionable assault on the poor.” Those most susceptible to food shortages, water wars, heat waves, floods, and droughts are the undereducated poor in low-income nations—disproportionately girls and women. But schoolgirls from around the world—from Greta Thunburg in Sweden to Leah Namugerwa in Uganda—prove that young women are powerful agents of change. To harness that power, our consortium proposes the Girls for Climate Justice project. Through our Girls’ Education Program (GEP), we already have a strong presence in countries where the threat of displacement, starvation, and health issues due to climate change is severe. By adding a robust climate component to our model, we’ll provide the foundation for 500,000 girls and their families to have the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to combat our climate crisis and become a global network of influential climate activists.

Problem Statement

Climate change is a global crisis, with headlines about devastating heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and storms in the news almost every day. Low-income communities and countries, which contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, pay the greatest cost: they are more vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters and have weaker infrastructures. They immediately feel the impact of failed crops and distressed ecosystems; starvation, disease, and mass displacement are looming threats. In low-income regions where girls are typically denied secondary education, girls and women are especially vulnerable. Climate events disrupt progress toward gender equity in education, stripping girls and women of educational and economic opportunities and hampering progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goals. Research has demonstrated how women’s participation and leadership in household, community, and country-level decision making is key to achieving more environmentally sustainable outcomes. But gender equality proponents and the education community have not yet worked together to intervene earlier on climate mitigation and adaptation by reaching girls in school. We see this as a critical missed opportunity for teaching the life skills needed to navigate changes in weather patterns, natural resources, agriculture and landscape, and for getting girls involved in climate crisis conversations. The education and leadership development of girls as they progress from early grades into adolescence must be leveraged to ensure social progress, gender equality, and climate justice are achieved by 2030.

Solution Overview

Our consortium proposes Girls for Climate Justice, an intense, focused climate education and empowerment program that will bring girls and young women in India, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Laos to the forefront of climate crisis adaptation and mitigation. Our climate justice curriculum, created expressly for GFCJ and integrated into Room to Read’s already-robust Girls’ Education Program, will cover climate solutions, girls’ reproductive rights, life skills, the green economy, and leadership, giving participants the tools they need to imagine and effectuate global and local solutions. Social Mobilizers (locally-hired female mentors) and school teachers will be trained to provide individualized support for all participants. Through GFJC, girls from low-income communities will have a seat at decision-making tables, increasing the diversity of perspectives shaping climate crisis problem identification and policy solutions. GFCJ girls will go on to change their communities, making a sustainable impact on climate crisis awareness and resilience, economic growth, democratic development, and public health. GFCJ will also create engaging climate justice “storybooks” for primary school students to inspire future climate changemakers. One million books will be distributed through Room to Read’s network of primary schools and through government partnerships, extending our reach far beyond GFCJ’s initial beneficiaries. We’ll know we’re making progress when we see more girls completing secondary school, studying and working in green sector fields, increasing political and community engagement, participating in international climate forums, and using their voices and influence to make decisions that impact local climate-related issues and shape global climate solutions.

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