A Journey to the Asherah Foundation

I grew up in a middle-class family in a metropolitan city in northern China. Fortunately, I have been able to count on my parents who have always supported me by investing in and continually sacrificing for my future and have tirelessly supported my continuing education and career goals.NorthernChina I have wanted to become a diplomat ever since I started learning English; the elementary school and middle school I attended provided strong foreign language programs that prepared me well for studying abroad. When I was 15, my mother had the foresight to send me to study in an American high school and to live with a host family. From my Catholic high school in a small town of the New York State, I began to develop a passion for international relations. I would not have been able to stand on the podium and give a speech to the graduating class of my high school as the salutatorian and then go to George Washington University without the support of my parents.

GeorgewashingtonUAs I began to take courses related to International Affairs in college, I was introduced to a new way of examining global issues. Having grown up in a culturally homogeneous society, I used to look at social problems through the lenses of gender and class. After I came to the U.S., I learned that one’s life chances could also be limited by his or her nationality, ethnicity, race, and even sexual orientation. I learned that the intersectional forces that combine the elements aforementioned can severely restrict a woman’s access to education and employment.

In rural China, families that have multiple children tend to send their daughters to work at a young age to ensure that the sons can finish high school. This means that many girls from low-income families have difficulties receiving full basic education, let alone going to college. Even in big cities, many people still hold the traditional expectations of women being housewives who take care of their children and husbands. Friends of my parents have suggested that I should return to China after obtaining a bachelor’s degree so that I can settle down and get married. Fortunately, my parents dismissed such recommendations and encouraged me to apply for graduate schools.

The current society dominated by patriarchal norms has a stigma against successful women: it is unnecessary for women to pursue education higher than a bachelor’s or take leadership in the workplace. But I firmly believe that education gives women agency, mobility, and independence, some of the tools to more easily cope with structural barriers in life and to make an impact on one’s community.GW_Graduates

Studying abroad and majoring in International Affairs broadened my horizon and gave me precious opportunities that I would have never had if I had stayed in China. I want to contribute my time and knowledge to women’s empowerment through education because studying abroad has made a huge impact on my own life. I also know that not everyone is as fortunate as me in terms of having a robust support system. Nowadays, as the cost of quality education continues to rise, the lack of funds and resources can threaten a person’s access to schooling or the pursuit of his or her goals in life. I hope that my work with the Asherah Foundation can help women around the world gain access to education and succeed.

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Strong Women Everywhere: Learning to appreciate the many ways in which women triumph over adversity every day

Tucson, ArizonaI grew up in a supportive household, both my mother and father worked full time, and both encouraged me to pursue my dreams in doing whatever I wanted, as long as I was happy, just as my brother was encouraged to pursue his.  I was told that women were strong, and smart, and capable of anything any man was. It was an ideal I shortsightedly expected everyone else to have, and managed to carry with me through high school and undergrad by surrounding myself with people that thought similarly as I did. Then I studied abroad, and my stable notion of a woman’s equal position in the world became slightly skewed.

I moved to southern Spain, where I experienced an ever so slight variation of what I hadJaén, Spain experienced back home. Though there were women working everywhere and in high positions, there were also varying cultural cues that shifted my feeling of security. The catcalls were much more prevalent, personal space was differently understood than in the States, showing up at a bar or club with just another girlfriend drew attention. But all of this was still in my realm of understanding, I could adapt easily and adjust to people standing too close or strangers saying gross intimate things to me on public transportation. I looked at the women in Spain, and Portugal, and I saw women similar to me, educated, stable economic backgrounds, and I saw that they were strong, and smart, and capable of anything any man was, regardless of the differences in culture or country.

Bautismo de Jesús Taquirri Gualsaqui FloresAfter I graduated college, I decided to join the Peace Corps. I was sent to Ecuador to live in a small Quechua community. I experienced a lifestyle for women I would have never expected and struggled to accustom to. I wasn’t allowed to wear skirts that showed my knees, to wear shirts with my shoulders uncovered, I was looked down upon for not having children and not being married. I worked with some women that needed to ask for permission to leave the house, that took care of husbands that were abusive or negligent. I also worked with women in that same community who owned their own businesses, drove cars, had education, traveled. What I think amazed me the most, which I admit again was shortsighted, was not only how strong the women with education, and jobs or businesses were, but how strong, smart, and capable the women who didn’t have those same liberties were as well, despite the adversity in their lives. Adapting to the cultural differences, the strength and beauty of my new community and its people, I learned to love the community, the lifestyle, and my host family, as my own.

I have had the luxury to live many different lives in many different places, and have been lucky enough to observe women all over the world, and regardless of the country, culture, challenges, limitations, amenities, education, money, that a woman possesses, I have seen she is strong, smart, and capable of anything anyone else can do, and I think it is important to keep in mind wherever life takes you.

These experiences have been paramount to myAsherah Foundation own personal growth,  but also to what led me to the Asherah Foundation. I’ve seen women being strong, and smart, and capable, regardless of the circumstances, but I want to part of the movement that makes some of these circumstances a little more equitable for the women that need it most.

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The Earth Charter and the Asherah Foundation’s commitment

http://earthcharter.org/The Earth Charter1 affirms the inherent dignity of all human beings and the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity. This dignity is essential to the respect of life on Earth in all its diversity and is also central to the mission of the Asherah Foundation. The Earth Charter is an international declaration of responsibility to certain fundamental values and principles designed for each and every country to maintain. It touches all aspects of life from community life; ecological integrity; social and economic justice; and democracy, nonviolence, and peace. ­

            The Charter, “an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century”, is becoming recognized as a soft law internationally, being used to hold State governments morally responsible for the actions they sanction. The Earth Charter has also been used as the basis of development of hard laws and is a valuable educational tool for not just governments but organizations and individuals globally.

Asherah Foundation

At the Asherah Foundation, we strive to support women working to achieve higher education. By supporting this cause, we fulfill essential responsibilities in the Earth Charter. To the Asherah Foundation, this means working to ensure equity of educational attainment for women globally.

The Earth Charter also demands care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love. This recognizes that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good. By giving women a chance at higher education, the Asherah Foundation recognizes the increased freedom higher education can provide.2 A woman’s studies provide knowledge, power, and responsibility to improve her life, and the life of those in her community.

Finally, the Earth Charter states that the eradication of poverty is an ethical, social, and environmental imperative. This need to empower every human being demands the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood. Additionally, this education provides social security and safety nets to empower those who are unable to support themselves. The Asherah Foundation recognizes that education is paramount to a sustainable livelihood, one in which a woman not only cares for herself but cares for many. Her education enables her to care for those who are unable to support themselves.

The Asherah Foundation honors the strength of women and their impact on communities around the world.

Support these women. Help provide access to education so they can support their community. Join the Asherah Foundation in honoring the inherent dignity of all human beings and the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity. Work with us to recognize this dignity which is inherent to life on Earth in all its diversity.

  1. http://earthcharter.org/
  2. Kabeer, N. (2005). Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Critical Analysis of the Third Millennium Development Goal. Gender and Development,13(1), 13-24. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/stable/20053132

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End Child Marriage Through Education

“By getting men to reject the practices that subordinate women and girls and subject them to violence, we can get to the root of child marriage.”
-Wanjala Wafula, The Coexist Initiative

 

On Wednesday, October 11, 2017 the world recognized International Day of Girl Child and the focus of this year was child marriage.  It is unfortunate but necessary for us to recognize the plight of young girls around the world being forced to marry before the age of 18.  

One of our applicants at the Asherah Foundation was a child bride herself, forced to marry a man 40 years older than her following a forced female circumcision ritual. She was expected to accept that she will not have a role in society other than besides housework and raising children. She was subject to sexual exploitation and felt like a slave in her own home for two years, until she found an opportunity to leave. She escaped from her village and is now in pursuit of her second degree, so that she can assist with community development and improve the lives of young women. Her story has encouraged us to share this problem young girls are facing.

We have also heard from women whose mothers or sisters were married off as children, and they have fought for their right to pursue education. Others have dedicated their pursuit of education to finding solutions for treatment of women in their society. As stated by one of our applicants, Kimuli Doreen, “The education system in Uganda today is facing challenges including, early child marriages, increased child sacrifices, high school dropout, rape, [and] women discrimination,” and she is dedicated to positive change in her community. A common theme in these applicants stories is the change education made in their lives.

Her youth makes her unable to be an equal in her marriage.  Her voice is silenced in matters of finance, her reproductive rights, and her education.  While a girl is physically able to conceive at a young age, she is not physically ready to birth. According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), “Pregnancy is consistently among the leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide.”

As stated by the ICRW, “Educating adolescent girls has been a critical factor in increasing the age of marriage in a number of developing countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.” Aside from the stability and opportunities that stem from higher, women will also be more their own reproductive health.  


Child marriage typically results in girls being financially dependent upon their husbands.  By attending college, women are more likely to find employment in an industry that pays more which improves the living standard for them and their families. They will have the financial stability to make their own decisions and pursue their own dreams.

Women pursuing education has a spiraling effect, in which their children will be more inspired to follow through with higher education. It’s also shown that women who earn an income give back to their community and support social causes more than their male counterparts.  These women are more likely to protect their daughters and other girls within their community, which brings us one step closer to the end of child marriage.  

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Why is writing important?

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” – Toni Morrison.

 

At the Asherah Foundation, we simply believe that writing is an essential part of our world, and it changes the lives of many. We believe that women are capable of doing anything and everything that men can do, including leading successful writing careers and inspiring another generation of young girls.

If a young woman wants to change the world through her writing, she must first be given the chance to. However, on a global scale, these opportunities may not come as easily for women as they would for men. This is one of the reasons why we find that, today, there are far more male writers than female writers. We have found that the gender gap that exists economically, politically and socially throughout many career fields also exists in the field of literature. The Asherah Foundation wants to address the lack of female frontrunners in writing and the literary gender gap.

The Asherah Foundation would like to introduce you to Azza Bondok, a young writer who is determined to pursue her dream to study literature and the English language. When she was young girl, her father encouraged her to create her own ending to an already existing masterpiece by Naguib Mahfouz. Ever since then, she hasn’t stopped writing.

Today, Ms. Azza Bondok writes fiction in Arabic. She has also published two pieces of work: one was a novella called Almira’h, and the other was a short story collection called Dystopia. Ms. Bondok is able to empower others through her writing, and connect with them through her words. We are witnessing a dedicated, passionate and exceptional young woman change the world by living her dreams.

The Asherah foundation has found that there are many women who have contributed great pieces of work to the world, including, but definitely not limited to, Maya Angelou, J.K. Rowling and Emily Dickinson. For these women, the journey was not easy, but the success in pursuing their passion has brought about immeasurable changes in our world. Not only have they captured our hearts and our attention through their stories, but they have inspired a younger generation to pursue their own dream of writing.

The Asherah Foundation believes that women should not be held back in the pursuit of their dreams.  With the right resources and support, women can change the world, and we are here to assist them in doing so. After all, William Faulkner once said, “If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” So let your story out, and let it change the world.

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The Importance of Economic Development for Women

“Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility.” -Drew Faust, President Harvard University

Financial independence is a gateway to freedom. A large issue women face around the world is lack of financial freedom, which creates dependency upon spouses, family members or communities, leading to the inability to speak up against any injustices. At The Asherah Foundation, we believe that financial independence derives from education. Aside from the increase in job opportunities, an education can create liberation and confidence in individuals all around the world.

Uneducated women are typically left out of crucial decision-making processes that ultimately affect them and their rights, creating a cycle of women without education unable to change their rights to education. While the number of women entering primary, secondary and higher education globally is increasing, there are still significant barriers to the accessibility of education, created by poverty, ethnicity, geography, and culture.

Increasing the accessibility of education and encouraging women to obtain higher level degrees will lead to their fulfilling of higher-level positions. Women in higher positions gain authority, respect and higher pay. Receiving higher pay will create a level of economic freedom for these women, so that they may use their authority and respect to bring changes in their community, without fear of those they were previously dependent on. As more women follow this path, they can begin to advocate for others all around the world. When creating rules and laws concerning the rights of women, The Asherah Foundation believes that we must educate those that will be affected, so that they may have a say in their rights.

Furthermore, as we educate our women and help them gain financial independence, we can begin to combat issues such as domestic violence and sexism. As women gain confidence in the workplace, we can expect to see an improvement in their familial affairs, political stances, and communities. Educated women can establish their own political leadership, create systematic changes, improve the lives of their children and educate the rest of their society on the importance of feminism. The Asherah Foundation strongly believes that educating women leads to necessary socio-economic and political changes that will allow women to gain the respect and equality they deserve.

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STEM Education: The Journey of Amani Jebril

“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” – Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States of America


STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education for women and girls is critical for the improvement and well-being of society.  We have seen evidence that young girls interested in the sciences and maths are discouraged from pursuing those passions because they are taught that those are male subjects.  The Asherah Foundation recognizes that when girls are supported and encouraged in following their endeavors, they perform as well as their male counterparts.  Women bring a different perspective to problem solving, and we are committed to a world in which women can flourish in STEM.  


This is one of the many reasons The Asherah Foundation is delighted to share the story of Amani Jebril. Ms. Jebril was the recipient of our Second Chance scholarship in 2016.  She started on her journey by becoming a science teacher in Palestine, where she inspired her students to take their science education beyond the classroom.  In addition to changing the way these students viewed the scientific world, Ms. Jebril helped develop school scientific initiatives, such as using alternative energy sources for addressing real issues in the community.  While her accomplishments as an educator are impressive, she saw the larger problems facing those living in Palestine, and sought to further her education in order to improve her community in areas such as environmental pollution and shortage of water. She is dedicated to giving back to her community.

Ms. Jebril recognized that women and children are the most affected by environmental pollution and the scarcity of water, and that there are very few women studying these issues.  She is using her Second Chance Scholarship in order to earn her Masters degree in Water and Environmental Engineering and Sciences from Birzeit University.  In addition to her time spent in school, this remarkable young woman has been selected to consult on a Birzeit University project that aims to improve and develop studies in her field. She continues to create opportunities for the spread of scientific knowledge, and her contributions to education display her commitment to giving back to those around her, to better her community.


Asherah is proud to support Amani Jebril in her pursuit of higher education. We hope that you will follow Ms. Jebril’s footsteps in the spirit of giving back, in order to provide these opportunities to women around the world.

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2017’s Diverse Applicant Pool: Learn About These Incredible Women!

The Asherah Foundation’s 2017 applicant pool had 96 applicants! In order to understand more about our applicants, we have performed a statistical analysis.

Our 2017 applicants are global citizens, representing 39 different countries all across the world, which is displayed in figure one below.

2017 applicant pool graph one.pngFigure one: Home country of each applicant

We had 40 applicants from different areas across Africa. There were 4 women from southern Africa, 8 from northern Africa, 9 from western Africa and 19 from eastern Africa (mostly Uganda)! Our second largest pool of women was from Asia, spread across countries in the Middle East and south and west Asia, with a total of 38 applicants. The Asherah Foundation heard the stories of wonderful women from many different countries, including India, Pakistan, Lebanon and Syria.

Though Africa had ahigher applicant pool than Asia, the individual country with the highest number of applicants was Palestine, with a total of 10 outstanding women. Additionally, we received applications from women in the USA, Jamaica, Belize, Belgium and Italy. Overall, the Asherah Foundation is extremely pleased with the diversity of our outreach to women all around the world.

Our next analysis (displayed in figure two) was of the types of degrees being pursued by these impressive women.

2017 applicant pool graph two.png

Figure two: degree type

The majority of these women are pursuing graduate degrees to further their education, with 11 moving on to doctorate degrees. The Asherah Foundation was incredibly inspired by the dedication and commitment these women have to their education.

Third, after looking at their home countries and types of degrees, The Asherah Foundation was curious to see what countries these women will be pursuing their education in, shown in figure three.

Screen Shot 2017-09-07 at 7.03.36 PM.png

Figure three: the countries our applicants will study in

Many of our 2017 applicants intend to study in USA, the United Kingdom, and Palestine, and the rest are spread out across 27 other countries in Europe, Africa and Asia.

The Asherah foundation also wanted to explore the different subject areas that are being studied (figure four).

2017 applicant pool graph 3.png

Figure four: majors of study

There are 29 different subject areas, with the five highest percentages in science, business and finance, education, management, and medicine. The sciences are the highest at 12%. The sciences encompasses various fields, including physics, biomedical sciences, computer science, and chemistry. The Asherah Foundation is proud to share the stories and promote the successof our sisters around the world.

Finally, The Asherah Foundation would like to recognize the different age groups that are present in our 2017 applicant pool (figure 5).2017 applicant pool graph four.png

Figure five: range of ages

The ages of our applicants range from the youngest being 18 years old to the oldest being 52 years old. The most common age of our applicants is 26. We are excited to see such a broad range of ages that are continuing their education, following their dreams and creating a greater world for all of us.

Overall, The Asherah Foundation is overwhelmingly excited to see our outreach and mission growing to cover an abundance of countries, fields of study and ages. We are ecstatic to find a growth in recognition of the importance of supporting women globally, in the pursuit of education. With every application that our team receives, we are one step closer to a world that encourages our sisters to live out their passions. We are eager to find out what marvelous women our 2018 applicant pool will hold!

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2017 Second Chance Scholarship Recipient: Maryline Jarbar

“When women thrive, all of society benefits.” – Kofi Anna

In its second year of offering the Second Chance Scholarship, The Asherah Foundation is pleased to find that our application pool has increased and our outreach is growing. We received almost 100 applications from 30 different countries. Women from countries including Yemen, India and South Sudan shared their phenomenal stories with The Asherah Foundation.  Our 2017 recipient selection process was difficult, as many of the applicants were deserving of this scholarship! We will continue to share stories of their incredible accomplishments on this blog.

The Asherah Foundation is delighted to introduce the exceptional Maryline Jarbar as our award recipient for the year of 2017. Ms. Jarbar overcame significant adversities in her life and continues to pursue her dreams courageously. She is the only member of her family thus far to have a secondary education and is furthering her studies in order to stay competitive in Liberia’s job market.

Ms. Jarbar is working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health Sciences at the Stella Maris Polytechnic University in Monrovia, Liberia. She is dedicated to the development of her country and the increase of opportunities for disadvantaged children and women in Liberia, and plans to use her degree to empower these communities. Through her advocacy, she hopes to contribute to the progress of literacy for all, better health conditions, and clean drinking water. The small village she comes from lacks basic social services and her dream is to fight for an improved society. One of Maryline’s many recommendations came from Pastor Waplo Dolh of the United Church of God in Christ. He highlighted her substantial contribution to her church community as Head of the Women’s Department.

The Asherah Foundation’s Board of Directors is honored to support Ms. Jarbar in her educational journey, commitment to development, and passions. We look forward to her success and congratulate her on receiving the Second Chance Scholarship!

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2017 Second Chance Scholarship Application -Now Open!

The Asherah Foundation’s 2017 Second Chance Scholarship applications are now open! Our scholarship is open to women all over the world who  have a high school diploma or equivalent and who desire to begin or continue to pursue a post-secondary education or technical training program with the intent of acquiring skills necessary to advance in the workplace.

The maximum award amount is $2500 US and can be renewed for the subsequent semester. The award can be applied to expenses pertaining to a four-year college degree, associate degree, an accredited vocation/training program, or other post-secondary credential for the payment of costs relating to the recipient’s registration costs, tuition and related expenses for books, lab fees, and other classroom supplies and fees required under the recipient’s school curriculum. The deadline to apply is July 15, 2017.

If you or anyone you know is eligible to apply for the scholarship and would like more information, please visit our website here.