2018 Asherah Foundation Annual Report

Today, March 8, 2019, marks the three-year anniversary of the Asherah Foundation! This non-profit has come a long way since its origins in a handful of conversations among colleagues discussing increasing refugee crises around the world, and difficulties for so many in accessing higher education. These conversations turned into a coherent idea, from: “someone should do something about this” to: “what if we did something about this?” “Be the change you wish to see in the world” has been our informal mantra.

The Asherah Foundation was named after an ancient Mesopotamian goddess (Asherah), known as “she who treads on the sea.” This seemed fitting as many of the stories we were hearing involved treacherous sea voyages – many of which involved areas that were once part of Mesopotamia. Furthermore, many of the stories we were hearing involved women overcoming significant obstacles to obtain education, employment, and a better life for their families.

So, on March 8, 2016, we formed the Asherah Foundation. It has been global since its inception, with Executive Board members, scholarship applicants, Advisory Board members, and interns from countries all over the world. Many who have worked with us have overcome significant obstacles themselves. They are highlighted in the following pages.

In 2018, we had many reasons to celebrate. Amani Jebril, one of our first scholarship recipients completed her master’s degree in Water Science and Environment at Birzeit University and published a book based on her research: Bio-energy in Palestine between Reality and Potential. Ms. Jebril was also invited to consult on the evaluation and updating of two graduate programs at the university.

In 2018 we celebrated the progress of another amazing, and resilient woman. Maryline Jabar, eldest of four, grew up in the heart of a civil war. She has been pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health Sciences at the Stella Maris Polytechnic University in Monrovia, Liberia. First awarded a scholarship in 2017, she made such outstanding progress that we were able to renew her scholarship for 2018.

In 2018 we also awarded a scholarship to Nour Awerah, studying banking and finance at Yildrim Beyazit University after being forcibly-displaced due to the ongoing conflicts in Syria. Finally, we awarded a scholarship to Maklin Hussein Al-Ahmadi, a single mother who fled from the conflict in Yemen and is now finishing her doctoral thesis in Economics in Egypt.

The Asherah Foundation’s scholarships are supported entirely by donations. Our capacity to offer scholarships is limited only by the donations we receive. Support these inspiring and resilient women by making a donation today!

Our Annual Report

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we are pleased to share the Asherah Foundation 2018 Annual Report. In 2018, the Asherah Foundation awarded scholarships to three inspiring women. We also welcomed six new Executive Board members, incorporated six new Executive Board Committees, and began the process of creating a Junior Board led by former managing intern Arzo Kaderi. This work was supported by 16 incredible interns, and a Scholarship Review Committee composed of 12 experts from around the world. This is a truly global organization, as every continent (except for Antarctica!) and world region is represented by these committed individuals.

Our scholarship applicants represented 34 countries, and were studying everything from banking to urban development, with the majority seeking degrees in the much-needed fields of heathcare, STEM, and education. They ranged from ages 19-49, with two-thirds coming from fragile, or conflict-affected states.

We encourage you to learn more about the amazing individuals involved with the Asherah Foundation by looking through our Annual Report which can be found on the home page of our website, keep reading our blog “Voices” where we share the stories of these women, written by these women, and by following us on social media!
*Facebook @AsherahFoundation
*Instagram @AsherahFoundation
*Twitter @InfoAsherah

With gratitude for your ongoing support,

Heather MacCleoud

Executive Director

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My Story

Being born just a few months prior to the outbreak of the 1989 Liberian Civil War, I grew up under very challenging conditions. I am the oldest of four children and I became fatherless in April 1996 when my father was killed by gunmen of the civil war while trying to find food for the family. As my mother wanted me to go to school, she sent me to live with my late father’s friend. He was kind to me but could not continue helping me when I passed to the tenth grade at the age of 16. I was sent back to live with my mom at the village. Three months after being back, my mother suffered a stroke.

To worsen the situation, while I was tending to my sick mother with my younger siblings, I was forcedly taken to a secret place in a forest by the traditional women group of my village. I was mutilated, circumcised and kept in the bush for three months so the infected wound could heal.

During that period, those women tried to coerce me into accepting that a woman has no role in society besides house work and childcare, that education is not a woman’s activity and that women going to school is a violation to the culture and norms of our society.

Upon my “graduation” from the society bush, I was forced into a traditional marriage by my uncle to marry an older man who was 60 years old at the time. I had just turned 17. I was in this forced marriage for 2 years, a period in which I faced sexual exploitation and slavery and did practically nothing to improve my life. Upon the death of my uncle who strictly believed in fostering traditional practices, I escaped from the village to find a second chance in life through education.

I thought that secondary education would allow me to acquire a college education with the help of a job but to the contrary, I could not achieve this dream because most employers in my country believe that female employees are less innovative as compared to their male counterparts. Thus, women are seldom vetted in competitive employment. I had to struggle and was barely able to pay my education expenses from tenth to twelfth grade.

A few years later, after my graduation, I found information on the Internet about the Asherah Foundation’s Second Chance scholarships for women around the world. I was anxious and happy to apply due to my great desire to earn a college degree. I finally won the scholarship and I am presently a sophomore student at Stella Maris Polytechnic in Monrovia studying Environmental Science. Moreover, I am the oldest and the only one amongst my siblings to have a secondary and college education.

This could not have been achieved without the help of community members and the Asherah Foundation’s scholarship. My dream is to gain knowledge which will give me capacities that can be used to aid in the development of my community, and especially women and children who are disadvantaged in life like I was before I was awarded this Second Chance scholarship.

My interest in community development through women and childrens’ empowerment is of paramount importance. In effect, coming from a village of about 35 huts with a population close to 250 people, majorities of whom are women and children, I have witnessed the lack of basic social services such as schools and clinics. Pregnant women and sick people must take long trips to receive medical attention. With the knowledge gained through my education, I hope to change these conditions through community-based initiatives and advocacy.

Maryline Jabar

Maryline is one of Asherah Foundation’s recipients of this year’s Second Chance Scholarship for women around the globe.

 

Donate to the Asherah Foundation and help give more women a second chance for education.

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As a Woman from Yemen

As a woman from Yemen, I feel that I have lived a constant war since I was born, just because I was born a woman. Women in my country are guilty for no reason and are deprived of many rights, the most important being a right to an education.

All the rights are guaranteed to men; the best education, the best occupation and the opportunity to choose any life they desire. Happiness for women in Yemen is defined as becoming a wife to a man, regardless if he is kind or not. In the eyes of society, what matters for women is getting married.

There are some women who have emerged from society showing progress but they represent less than one-tenth of Yemenite women.

Since I was born, I found myself fighting a power inherited under masculinity and one which has denied me the right to an education and independent decision-making. However, my parents were in love with science and knowledge and I owe them for my passion for science.

It is a custom of Yemenite society to prevent girls from traveling abroad to study, but my mother, a great woman, struggled to get me and my sister to complete our studies, despite all the difficulties. She strived to send us to the University of Aleppo in Syria, one of the most ancient universities.

Thank God I didn’t disappoint her; I ranked first in the accounting department.

But wars in Yemen will never stop. Every five or ten years we have a war that kills and destroys everything that can be destroyed. There was a war in 1994 and another war in 2011. These wars make it very difficult to get financial support to complete the last phase of my studies.

After a long time, I found my chance to get a Masters degree and complete my long-awaited dream.

So I left Yemen and traveled to Egypt to get my Masters degree, me and my little daughter. There were certainly difficulties that we encountered, but they were not as serious as the declaration of the last war in Yemen in 2014. Because of this war, the financial support I was receiving got cut off.

Despite this difficulty, I will never forget the support and encouragement that I received from Dr. Sami El Sayed, the supervisor of the Master’s thesis. During the final stage of my degree I completed it with distinction.

Dr. Sayed is a human, a father, a teacher, and a mentor. If I owe my parents my encouragement to complete my studies, I am also indebted to Dr. Sami El Sayed who gave me the opportunity to do so. Not only has he helped me complete my Master’s degree, but he opened my hopes to pursue a Doctorate degree.

Dr. Sami El Sayed; there are no words that can describe him, he is a rare professor.

Despite the great financial difficulties I have encountered and the great responsibility in raising a child, my ambitions and dreams did not stop at my Masters degree.

When I put my daughter to sleep, I hug her and draw things with my finger on her back, and she guesses what they are, like a flower or a sun.

Once I drew the map of the world and asked her to guess what it was. But she did not know, so I said to her, “This is the world.”

She asked, “Where are we?”

I pointed to a place next to her heart, and then she asked me, “Where is my country?”

I answered her, “It’s very, very far.”

She thought for a while and then asked me again, “Is there anyone in this big world that knows we exist?” At that moment I did not answer her.

After a short period of time, I found an announcement about a scholarship from the Asherah Foundation. I was very hesitant because I was full of despair, but the determination to complete the final stage of my degree prompted me to apply for this scholarship.

I do not know how to describe my feelings when I received an email informing me that I received the foundation’s scholarship for this year. I cried out loud, hugged my daughter, and then cried. Joy meant a lot to me and it was much like the joy of a person who was sinking, and then found a ship before drowning.

Now I have found an answer to my daughter’s question. Yes, there are those who feel and know that we are in this world. Thank you, Asherah Foundation. I do not think this essay is enough. Not all the words of thank you will suffice.

I am starting to feel like a human and I have the right to complete what I started and dreamed about…

Maklin Al-Ahmadi

Maklin is one of Asherah Foundation’s recipients of this year’s Second Chance Scholarship for women around the globe.

Maklin, a single mother, has had to endure many obstacles to continue studying towards her education. Now continuing her doctoral thesis in Economics, she is hoping to provide aid to her home country following the completion of her studies. 

 

Donate to The Asherah Foundation and support women’s empowerment and education.

Five Tips for Working Well Under Pressure

In today’s professional world, we all work under pressure. Good companies care for their employees’ well-being, but it’s also important that their employees know how to handle pressure well in order to cope with market pressure and stay healthy. It is also key to any professional woman’s future success!

In general, pressure is a sense of urgency that we all must endure at varying levels throughout our careers and day-to-day tasks. It mostly exists to push us to execute more with less time. In my own field of construction, one is expected to manage and coordinate different tasks from land and lease signatures, execute contracts with vendors, and handle requests for proposals to mobilization, execution, testing, and handover. In any role, and at any level, you may have looming schedules and deadlines for budget constraints, risks to quality, and customer satisfaction. So, no pressure at all!

[Related: Inspiration for Women in Tough Businesses]

I remember during the building of one of our high-profile, high-visibility projects, a senior leader asked me how confident I was with our timeline. The project had countless challenges, including the fact that the schedule included two major holidays. Despite this, my answer was, “100%!”

After sending that response, I asked myself, “Why did I do that to myself? Why didn’t I leave any room for chance or inconvenience while in the middle of so many scheduling risks and budgetary challenges?” While digging for an answer to those questions, I realized that there were some key techniques I had developed over the years to deal with pressure.

1) Remember that human beings work well under pressure.

How is that? Some of us naturally know how to work well under pressure. Even those who are not so naturally gifted learn to adapt. Because we are survivalists, we love challenge and we like to accomplish difficult tasks that keep us going. Hence, people mostly succeed rather than fail under pressure.

So, don’t view pressure as a negative, but rather embrace it and see it as an opportunity. A key reservation here is that you should pay attention to the nature of the pressure you are under. If you decide the pressure is unnecessary, you should analyze any risks associated with it.

2) Evaluate the challenges and risks you take.

Evaluation usually gives us the methods to handle pressure. Once our minds are clear, we can think of solutions rather than of the problem itself.

One of the main factors to consider in avoiding pressure is saying “no” as much as you say “yes.” If you know that a task can be done, then it will be done. If you think it can’t be done, this evaluation gives you the opportunity to turn it around and figure out a way that it can be done.

3) Plan ahead and ask yourself, “What if?”

Your initial plan might change from one stage to another, or even fail altogether, but the ability to change lanes quickly and accurately is key. Have a recovery plan or two in mind when you first start planning for a challenge ahead. Think of alternatives; even if you don’t need them, they will help you to handle pressure well, and you will be ready for the unforeseen.

[Related: Tried and True Tips for Brainstorming in Solitude]

4) Maintain control over yourself.

Your reactions to different challenges are part of the learning process, and it is sometimes necessary to take a step back when up against a challenge. Make sure to ask the right questions, which will enable you to understand your opportunities better, even in the middle of difficult situations. This way, you maintain control, solve problems, and set an example for your team.

[Related: Rewiring the Brain to Bounce Back from Setbacks Faster and Easier]

5) The way you do anything is the way you do everything.

This is something I learned in one of the best leadership courses I have ever taken. The way that you deal with pressure at work will enable you to handle the pressure in personal situations. If you can master handling pressure in one arena, you will learn to rise above challenges, grow, and move upwards and onward. Eventually, those tiring times will be a great source of pride.

Handling the pressures of yesterday is not necessarily a guarantee of handling the pressures of today or tomorrow, but it can add to your potential. Keep raising the bar – that’s how we maintain success as professionals.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below!

Randa Hakim is a dynamic and highly accomplished Programs Management expert with 17+ years proven experience in driving transformational and innovative organizational “A-Class” projects in the 6 GCC countries, Turkey, Pakistan, USA, Egypt, and Iraq.

This post has been re-posted with permission of the author. The original post may be found here.

 

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“Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

I have lived a privileged life since the day I was born. My parents have given me every opportunity to succeed and supported me in every decision I have ever made in life. I was fortunate enough to have parents that understood the importance of learning about other cultures, and so my passion for learning about the world started at a young age. IMG_1726 When I was in 7th grade, we went on our first family trip abroad, to Italy. When I was in high school, we went to France and the United Kingdom. I also had the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with a school in Germany, and to this day, I am still amazing friends with my exchange partner. I will be forever grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to travel at a young age because it kick-started my interest in the broader world. I am now a junior at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, pursuing a degree in International Studies with minors in Political Science, Women’s and Gender Studies, and French. Next year, I will study abroad. The Asherah Foundation has helped me realize that it is time for me to break out of my comfort zone and go somewhere where I am completely immersed in a new culture.

Women have played a central role in my life. I am the oldest child in my family, having three younger siblings, all biologically female. My mother is my role model. She has overcome every adversity in her life with strength and perseverance. I want to be a role model for my siblings and make a difference for them. Although I am young and have not decided on a career path, I know that I want my work and life to have a purpose and that I want to make change in the world.

Not everyone has the same privileged opportunities that I have enjoyed. Women around Half_the_Sky_(book)the world face challenges every day that make our issues in the U.S. seem microscopic. I just recently read Half the Sky: Turing Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. If you have not read it, I highly suggest that you take the time to read it. This book puts women’s issues around the world into a relatable perspective. The book touches on women in sex trafficking and the brutality that women face as minorities in underdeveloped countries. While it is disturbing to read, Half the Sky shares the real stories of women overcoming the brutalities, and changing reality for women in underdeveloped countries. Many societies value women only for their appearances and in some cultures, a woman’s role in society is determined by her biological sex, not by her actual abilities. This book does a good job at showing this problem in societies, but goes on to show how women can break free of these constraints through education.

We live in a world that can suppress a women’s determination and diminish opportunities for women to utilize their knowledge and abilities. My work with The Asherah Foundation has reassured me that women are very much capable of overcoming suppression and succeeding even in societies that tell them they can’t succeed. By giving women around the world the means they need to pursue their education, The Asherah Foundation is providing women with the tools they need to Asherah-2overcome that suppression. An education is more than just a degree. An education means higher incomes, better health outcomes, lower risk of mental illnesses, and more opportunities overall for women. I am grateful to have worked with a passionate group of people who are truly helping to make a difference for women around the world. I thank The Asherah Foundation for giving me the opportunity to contribute to its mission of providing women with access to the means of completing a postsecondary education.

“Women might just have something to contribute to civilization other than their vaginas.” – Christopher Buckley, Florence of Arabia

Written by: Caroline O’Reilly, International Development Intern (Summer 2018)

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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: Appreciating the ways in which women triumph over adversity

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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Follow us below to hear these women’s individual stories: