Tuesday October 22nd 2019

International initiative supports orphaned daughters of nurses

Within 11 months, Sarah was an orphan. Her mother, a nurse in sub-Saharan Africa, succumbed to AIDS, while her father died from an unknown illness. With most of the family’s money having been spent on medical expenses, Sarah joined her four brothers in dropping out of school to seek work.

Two days after her father’s death, however, Sarah’s life changed: She found out she would be sponsored by the Girl Child Education Fund.

“The GCEF […] has made a significant difference in my life,” Sarah attests. “It has transformed me from being a housemaid to a student who will be a professional and contribute to the lives of many others, as nurses have contributed to my life.”

The GCEF, an initiative of the Florence Nightingale International Foundation, supports access to education for the orphaned daughters of nurses in developing countries. FNIF is the charitable arm of the International Council of Nurses, of which the American Nurses Association is the U.S. member.

In addition to covering the cost of education and school meals, the GCEF pairs each enrollee with a nurse-mentor, who provides guidance throughout the girl’s education and often for many years after. The program also gives enrollees the resources they need to succeed in school, such as gas- or solar-powered lights to complete schoolwork in the evenings.

The importance of educating girls and young women

Supporting universal access to primary education is one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development goals. The GCEF focuses specifically on daughters of nurses, because girls in developing nations are far more likely to be taken out of education when tragedy, like the death of a parent, strikes.

Studies show that society benefits when girls and young women are educated:

• The probability of infant mortality is reduced by 10 percent for each extra year a girl stays in school, as educated women have healthier, more educated, and fewer children.

• Educating girls and women reduces domestic and societal violence and HIV rates.

• Even one extra year of schooling leads to higher wages for girls and women.

• Increased income allows women and girls to lift up their families and contribute to the economic development of their communities.

Making a difference

Since the program’s inception, 385 girls have been enrolled in the GCEF. In 2015, the GCEF is supporting a total of 115 girls across Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda and Zambia. Ultimately, GCEF hopes to support 500 girls annually.

The GCEF has impressive outcomes. Girls enrolled in the program are significantly less likely to drop out of school or to experience teen pregnancy, and are much more likely to continue their education.

How you can help

For more information or to make a donation, visit: GCEFcampaign.org. Your contribution will help cover the costs of school fees, uniforms, shoes and books for a sponsored daughter of a nurse.

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