Creative Inquiry

Project Spotlights

Poverty Ends With a Girl

An often-quoted African proverb says, "If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation." Women have the power to shape the intellectual, and therefore economic, futures of their children, families and greater communities, but in many nations, they are not given the opportunity for an education. Dr. Elizabeth Adams of the Women's Studies Program together with a group of passionate students have created a Creative Inquiry project devoted to raising awareness about the importance of girls' and women's education globally.

Melissa Moore, a sophomore economics major, recognized that the poverty issue faced by many nations can be greatly attributed to the degraded status of women worldwide. "Girls are completely untapped potential. If you want to improve everyone's lives, you have to reach them and help them contribute to their communities," says Moore, and her Creative Inquiry team, with the help of Adams, is committed to exactly this cause. Moore describes the work of Poverty Ends With a Girl as a "grass-roots effort," with members of the team partnering with other organizations and departments who already have a presence abroad. This year, the team has reached out to Clemson Engineers for Developing Countries, Engineers Without Borders, and the nursing department to promote their cause in countries such as Liberia, Nicaragua and Haiti.

The team is also partnering with the Jane Adney Memorial School, a girls school in Kenya, to further their knowledge of girls' education abroad. By asking the girls who attend the school to complete a survey detailing how their educational experience will impact their lives and goals for the future, the team can learn firsthand exactly how essential schooling is for girls and the potential they have to improve their own lives, and, in turn, their communities. The Poverty Ends With a Girl team also hosted a discussion awareness event as part of the International Day of the Girl in October, with topics ranging from maternal mortality to child marriage.

According to Adams, it can become very discouraging to hear tales of the gender-based violence that is prevalent in much of the world. However, the dedicated students in her class give her hope and make her believe change is possible. "I've been teaching Women's Studies for a long time and I have a hard time keeping myself positive, because progress is a little slow; the more I learn, the more discouraged I become. So this project has been fantastic for me, personally. Young people today are not only aware of the world situations in the world but also willing and creative enough to envision solutions to the problems we face and not just commiserate and complain. Seeing this happen is fantastic."

The statistics that Adams and her team are all too familiar with are indeed disheartening. Moore points out a statistic from the book Half the Sky, which states "It appears that more girls have been killed in the past fifty years (as of 2008), precisely because they are girls, than men were killed in all battles of the twentieth century." Further, the combined number of women who die from preventable maternal mortality each day is close to 800. It is issues like these that continue to inspire Moore to stay committed to this important project: "It's more than just alleviating poverty; it's a human rights issue."

Adams's students headed to the Justice Conference in Philadelphia in February, and were part of an audience focused on social issues. The Poverty Ends With a Girl team is passionate about improving the lives of girls across the globe, and they are determined to raise awareness about the important role educated women can play in alleviating poverty worldwide.