5 Reasons Why Education Empowers Women and Girls


Quality education is the UN’s fourth sustainable development goal. Gender equity is its fifth. Though they are categorized separately, these goals are deeply intertwined. Indeed, women and girls worldwide have significantly less access to education than their male counterparts – so disproportionately that some 66% of the world’s 774 million illiterate are women. This staggering statistic acutely underlines the global necessity of education for women. So, in honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at five ways that education can improve the lives of all women and girls worldwide.

1. Education Decreases Women’s Poverty

Poverty is sexist. Lamentingly, like most socioeconomic burdens, poverty disproportionately affects women worldwide. Gender stereotypes, unintended pregnancies, lack of access to good jobs, and myriad other factors cause this inequality. According to Global Citizen, just one year of secondary school education can increase a woman’s lifetime earnings by up to 20 percent! Educating the world’s women and girls is clearly the key to transforming the cyclical nature of poverty into a cycle of prosperity.

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2. Education Gives Women More Employment Opportunities

Namita Datta of the World Bank once said that women not only need more jobs, but better jobs. Many factors push women into careers they did not choose, such as occupational segregation and illiteracy. Education for women and girls can fix this problem. First, it equips them with more skills and knowledge, thus qualifying them for better jobs. Second, it decreases societal gender stereotypes, which promotes the acceptance of women in higher-earning and decision-making positions. If all women and girls receive a quality education, their employment opportunities will be greatly improved.

3. Education Leads to Fewer Unintended Pregnancies and Delayed Marriage

Pregnancies and marriages are blessings when they are wanted and expected. Unfortunately, this is not the case for a large number of women and girls worldwide. According to a 2014 article by Gilda Sedgh et al., some 40% of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended. That’s roughly 84 million women who unintentionally forfeit their right to choose when to have a child every year. Likewise, according to the NGO Girls Not Brides, one in every five women worldwide is married before the age of 18. The overwhelming majority of these marriages and pregnancies take place in developing regions, where socioeconomic conditions are already strained for women. Educating women and girls poses a solution. A study in the journal Reproductive Health found that educational status is one of the largest determinants of unintended pregnancies, with less-educated women being far more prone to them than those who complete primary or secondary school. Girls Not Brides also found that uneducated women are 3 times more likely to marry before the age of 18 than those who attend secondary school. Education thus empowers women to decide when to become both pregnant and married, leading to an increase in their socioeconomic status.

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4. Education Improves Women’s Health

When women and girls are educated, they smarter decisions about their own health. Let’s take sexual health, for example. When public health advocates think of successful HIV cessation measures, they often think of Uganda in the 1990’s. The nation was successful in dramatically decreasing HIV contraction rates in school-age girls. According to an article by Marcella Alsan and David Cutler, the decrease was the direct result of higher secondary school enrollment rates for girls. This strategy should be applied at a global scale – educating women leads to better sexual health, which leads to lower rates of STI contraction. This could be especially useful in Sub-Saharan Africa, where young women are 2 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than young men.

5. Education Increases Women’s Political Participation

Educating women doesn’t just make for more female politicians. It also means that women care more about participating in elections and political activism. A study out of Gombe State University in Nigeria found that there is a direct relationship between women’s educational attainment and political participation. Women participating in politics means that policies and politicians are not focused solely on the needs and wants of men – female opinions are just as important and participating in the political system ensures that their voices will be heard.

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Throughout all five of these reasons, one factor that has not yet been mentioned permeates: rural women have less access to education than others. In Zambia, for example, 27% of rural women have no formal education, in comparison to 18% of men. The gravity of this issue is compounded by the fact that 60% of Zambia’s population lives in rural areas. Clearly, education for rural women and girls is of desperate need in the county.

One of several organizations working to address this inequality is Impact Network, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit working to address this inequality. We believe all students deserve access to quality education and currently serve to over 6,000 students in rural Zambia. Our schools not only cost less than government schools, but bring e-learning to technologically-deprived communities through tablets.

Impact Network is demonstrably devoted to keeping girls in school and gender equity in the classroom. One example of this is our Life Skills and Sexuality curriculum. According to Caroline Chibale, a facilitator for the program, Impact Network educates “children, especially the girl child. With the help of the Life Skills and Sexuality education as part of the curriculum in our schools, we want to help our girls to handle themselves in difficult situations and to get boys to support their peers in different stages of life.” Through programs like this, we hope to empower and educate each girl in the classroom to make life decisions that are best for her.


In short, education for women and girls is the most effective key to the UN’s sustainable development goals of quality education and gender equity. Through education, women are not only empowered to flourish socioeconomically and make better decisions about their health and future, but society in its entirety is bettered by an increased presence of female voices.

Sports Day at Joel Village!

While working in the office last Thursday, Mphumulo Banda (a previously featured teacher) popped in to give the staff handmade invitations to his Grade 3 Sports Day. It was really neat to get the invitations and we were all excited to go see what was in store.

Throughout the term, Grade 3 students practiced long jumps, 100 meter dashes, and playing football. Sports Day is a 2 hour lesson plan in the iSchool tablet and serves as an Expressive Arts revision to mark the end of the term. It was a day for students to put all they had learned to the test! Students competed in teams and they chose the team names Kafue, Zambezi, and Luangwe after three large rivers in Zambia. The day began with students preparing the field for the activities. Students were given a variety of tasks, such as setting up the high jump poles and marking a perimeter around the field. It was a very windy day so marking the perimeter was a bit challenging!

Students busily preparing the perimeter of the track  

Students busily preparing the perimeter of the track  

The highlights for me were the high jump and the egg race. The high jump got progressively harder and it was really fun to see the students participate. The final height was over 4 feet- some students tried and fell, others started sprinting and then stopped abruptly with huge grins on their faces. The Egg Race, a staple field day competition from my childhood, was the most exciting event of the day. It was a relay race and the last team with an unbroken egg won. The students started out very slowly but picked up the pace as they got more confident carrying the egg with a spoon. The looks of surprise when the egg fell was priceless!

The final challenge- an egg race!

The final challenge- an egg race!

Sports Day was fun to watch because the personalities of the students really showed. There were timid students who looked surprised when they jumped the very high jumps, and competitive students who had to sit out because they got a little too bossy. The age range of students at Impact Schools varies so there were 8-11 year olds participating. Owing to that, there was a range of heights and abilities but everyone did their best! As a prize, Mphumulo passed out a school book and pencil to the three winners, all of whom were girls!

Watching students run their fastest and jump their highest without a care in the world was really heartwarming. I was especially glad to see so many girls participating and having fun as the daily reality for a young girl in Eastern Province is full of a large amount of housework. It was an inspiring morning all around!

Winners of the girls’ relay race checking in with the judges

Winners of the girls’ relay race checking in with the judges

-- Kristen Fraley, Program Implementation Intern

Congratulations, Francis Sakala!

Last week, Impact Network was represented at the Chimtende Zone Science Fair. Roughly 90 students from grades 2-4 attended the fair, and 10 students of those students came from Mkale Community School. Francis Sakala, a grade 3 student at Mkale, came in 3rd place! He will compete at the Katete District fair later this month!

I traveled to Mkale to ask Francis some questions about his experience competing in the science fair. Joseph, our Operations Manager, drove me out on the motorbike. Mkale School is one of the furthest schools from the office and it takes over an hour to get there by motorbike. The journey there is beautiful, rock formations and huge baobab trees dot the way. I learned that Mkale gets its name from the Mkale stream just behind the school. Mkale hosts grades 1-7 and serves over 200 students. The nearest government school is several kilometers away. The distance between schools is always a reminder of how far some students would have to travel if there weren’t Impact schools near their homes.  

Francis comes from Msonde Village which is right next to Mkale School. He was very shy during our interview, probably because he had an audience of his curious peers watching as we asked him questions. Francis speaks some English but we needed a translator. Sylvester Banda, a Grade 5 teacher, helped us out. Sylvester took all of the students from Mkale to the science fair so he was able to answer some additional questions.

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Mangani Banda on the left, Francis in the middle, and Sylvester Banda on the right

Hi Francis, congratulations on winning the science fair!  What was your project?

I made an antibiotic paste to kill bacteria using local materials.

Did anyone help you with making the antibiotic paste?

Mr. John Lungu, head teacher at Mkale showed me which materials to use and how to prepare the paste.  

How did you feel about winning the science fair?

I was very excited to win!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a doctor when I grow up.

Were your parents excited when you won?

They were very excited when I told them. They encouraged me to continue on in the same spirit!

I spoke with Mangani Banda, Francis’s 3rd grade teacher. He, like Francis’s parents, was very proud when he learned that Francis won. He is excited to see where Francis goes from here! I’m sure Francis has a lot of supporters from the Impact Network community and we will be rooting for him when he attends the Katete District Science Fair.

-- Kristen Fraley, Program Implementation Intern

Reflections from Joel village...

After a two week hiatus, we are back!  I am rounding out my last day of a two-week trip here to our projects and return more humbled, more invigorated, and more excited about our future ahead.

Over my time here, I have had the immense privilege of seeing:

  • 100% of Teachers on the Exam Committee arriving on time and ready to work!  Our exam committee for term 1 met on Saturday to develop questions and exams for our upcoming end-of-term exams. It was my first time seeing the incredible dedication, time and energy in the room to ensure our students are being tested fairly and accurately.  Amazing work!
  • Teamwork – real, messy and productive team work.  From large group meetings to smaller discussions, our management team came to the table with great ideas and creative solutions to improve our programs and plan for our expansion.
  • Board Member, Anup Patel, experienced our students and schools for the first time.  From watching little people learn to read and write to seeing older scholars complete complex mathematical equations – seeing it from someone for the first time is always a powerful moment for the team.
  • Huge progress towards meeting our goals of educating students through the primary grades. Our biggest group of grade 7 students yet – 4 classes! – is working hard NOW to prepare for their examinations in November.  Our teachers are reinforcing that to be successful, they need to work a little bit each day towards a goal.

As always, our scholars were engaged in their own education, but what struck me this visit was the amazing dedication of our 60 teachers.  From our oldest teachers to ones hired just a few short months ago, I saw teachers working closely with students to learn how to write the letter S, to learn how to calculate the area of a triangle, to draw an insect, and to improve their public speaking.  Enjoy some pictures of the adventure!

Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, Visits our Schools!

Today we have a piece on the Handover Ceremony from our intern on the ground, Kristen!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017 was a big day at Joel Community School! We were joined by the Japanese Ambassador to Zambia H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima, his Royal Highness Chief M’ban’gombe, the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, and many other distinguished guests as they came to attend a handover ceremony for 3 schools funded by the Japanese Embassy in Lusaka.

Preparations for the day began early – ten cooks began preparing the meal at 7:00. The cooks were preparing enough nshima for a couple hundred people and while taking pictures, they suggested I try stirring the pot. I could barely even move the spoon through the nshima!

Guests began arriving at 8:00 as we were completing the last of the finishing touches. The turnout was large with around 500 people in attendance. There were headsmen and respected elders of the village, parents of Impact students, students themselves, and all of Impact School’s teachers. Students performed for the parents and staff as we waited for the Ambassador to arrive. They prepared a traditional dance routine and a series of songs.

Once the Ambassador and other distinguished guests arrived, the ceremony began when the Master of Ceremony, Mr. Fosters Mapata Mwanza, Head of Kalumbi School, led everyone in singing the national anthem. Afterwards, parents from Joel sang a welcoming song and three Nyau came for their first series of dances. As the Nyau were dancing, their assistants dug holes and set up two 20 foot tall tree trunks connected with wire, in preparation of the final dance. While they were dancing, the Master of Ceremony explained that the Nyau dancing in front of us were not human – they were animal spirits. The energy was very high as they drummed and danced and we were excited to see their following dances.

During the ceremony, all of the guests delivered speeches. Daniel Mwanza, the Regional Director of Impact Network, began by explaining what Impact Network does, and how we work to bridge the gap between urban and rural by using e-learning solutions. He explained that in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Impact Network is able to provide education to over 2,300 students at 9 community schools in the region. He then explained that due to an increase in students, there has not been enough space to accommodate all learners. The grant provided by the Japanese Embassy is an answer to that problem as there are now six more usable classrooms for students.

Ambassador H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima delivered a speech regarding the grant and the Japanese Embassy’s role in grassroots projects across Zambia. He explained that over the last 30 years, the Japanese Government’s Grassroots Projects for Human Assistance has funded over 160 projects! A project such as Impact Network was selected for funding because of their sustainable plan to expand educational opportunities in underserved areas of Katete District.

Chief M’ban’gombe stressed the importance of education as he could see future doctors and teachers in the students at Impact Network schools. He emphasized how important it is to achieve universal literacy across Zambia and congratulated Impact Network on their hard work towards the realization of this goal. Chief M’ban’gombe donated the land on which Impact Schools sit and said he was appreciative to see that the Japanese Embassy assisted in the expansion of three community schools.

Students from Kanyelele and Joel Community Schools performed two poetry pieces which covered topics such as Nelson Mandela and the liberating power of education, ending early marriages through education, and thanking the Japanese Embassy for donating the classrooms to Impact Schools. Mr. H.E. Hidenobu Sobashima clapped very loudly during the first performance when the students bowed and said “domō arigatō gozaimasu”!

We moved on to the ribbon cutting and a tour of the new school block. Daniel Mwanza led his guests around the new building, showing the new facilities as funded by the Japanese embassy. After the ribbon cutting, we all made our way back to the center of the campus for another dance with about 20 Nyau total. The Nyau are an impressive sight – they wear masks and large headpieces. Because they represent the spirits of animals, they make guttural calls and whoops so it is easy to tell when they are nearby. Several teachers from Impact Schools told me to be careful, the Nyau spirits can be tricksters!  The final Nyau dance was a on a high wire 20+ feet above the ground. It was incredible to see the Nyau limberly climb up the pole and move on the wire. The spirit was of a bird so the Nyau danced upon the wire for a few minutes. As he was getting off of the wire, the wire snapped and he fell to the ground. I was worried but everyone told me he was fine – his fall was part of the routine and signified the magic that held him up had disappeared.

We ended our day with a reception in Chipata hosted by the Japanese Embassy. The reception began with remarks from the Ambassador and the Permanent Secretary of Eastern Province, followed by presentations by the 3 beneficiaries of Japanese grant money. It was inspiring to see the other projects happening in Zambia relating to food security, sustainable paper production, and agriculture. One common thread between the organizations present were the provision of schools in rural areas of Eastern Province. As the Permanent Secretary for Eastern Province said, quality schools are a fundamental ingredient for the Government of Zambia’s goal to achieve universal basic education. Impact Network will continue to provide quality learning environments for the children of Zambia and is very appreciative towards the Government of Japan for their assistance in that mission!

Until next time,


At the intersection of tenacity and opportunity...

While I haven’t seen a movie in ages, the first one currently on my list is Hidden Figures. The film is based off on a group of African-American female mathematicians who worked in the shadows at NASA to put a man on the moon.  

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Meet Katherine Johnson

Johnson started working at NASA in 1953, working as a human “computer” as part of a team of women within NASA.  She would help read the data from the elusive black box in planes, and analyze things like “gust alleviation”. At the time, NASA was still segregated, both by race and by gender, but one day, Johnson was temporarily assigned to the male research team.  There, she impressed her colleagues and bosses and they (according to her) “forgot to return [her] to the pool.” Until she retired in 1986, Johnson worked at NASA on some of the most influential missions of our time. When the first American was heading into space, Johnson was behind the scenes calculating the trajectory for the mission. When officials needed someone to verify the computer’s calculations of John Glenn’s orbit path, they called Johnson (Glenn refused to fly unless she verified the calculations). And when Apollo 13’s mission was ended, she helped return the crew safely.

Meet Dorothy Vaughan

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Katherine Johnson’s story might not have been possible if it weren’t for Vaughan. Vaughan started working at NASA in 1943, initially completing complex calculations by hand, and then leading her colleagues in FORTRAN programming skills. She became the first black supervisor and one of the first female ones, overseeing a group of African-American female mathematicians – a group including, Katherine Johnson. Vaughan always remained on the cutting age of computer programming, understanding that electronic computers were the future, and ensuring her staff had the skills to succeed in this new era at NASA.

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Meet Mary Jackson

Jackson was recruited by NASA in 1951, to work under Vaughan. Two years later, she worked under engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki on the Supersonic Pressure Tunnel. It was there that she was encouraged to go back to school and become an engineer, and in 1958, she was NASA’s first black engineer ever. After working as an engineer in several NASA divisions, and receiving the highest level within the engineering department at NASA, she went on to work as an administrator aiming to bring equal opportunities to women in NASA.

I could go on.  But the thing that is striking about each of these stories is the lengths that each family went through to ensure their daughters had a good education, and the opportunities that these women took advantage of. Johnson was born to a lumberman and a teacher, who valued the importance of education and moved cities to give their daughter access to public schooling after grade 8. When Johnson started college at the age of 15, she took every math course that the college offered. She literally desegregated a graduate school in West Virginia in order to get her degree. Vaughan’s family moved from Missouri to Virginia, where she could graduate from high school, and go on to receive a full scholarship at Wilberforce University. Jackson had to petition the City of Hampton to allow her to attend classes through the University of Virginia’s program at a local high school.

And so it’s here, at the intersection of tenacity and opportunity that we find this incredible story. And it’s stories like this that feed the work that we do each day, to provide rural Zambians with a quality education. So that one day, you might read about one of our determined scholars who took advantage of an Impact Network school in her community, and soared.

A Day in the Life: Teselia Tembo

This week I would like to introduce readers to Teselia Tembo. Teselia has been working for Impact Network since 2012 and for the past two years has been the Teacher Supervisor for Zone A. Teselia is a very smart, hard-working woman that loves teaching.

Can you tell us about when you first joined Impact Network? 

I joined Impact Network in 2012 as a regular teacher at Chivuse Primary School. The teacher in charge at Chivuse actually spoke to the management team and told them how impressed he was with my teaching. After just one month my students in grade 1 were able to read and write! 

What were some of the challenges you faced when you became a Teacher Supervisor? 

We conduct monthly trainings for our teachers and as a Teacher Supervisor I usually give a presentation on the day of the training. At first I thought this was very hard, and I did not know how to come up with the topics for the presentation. I learned that when I observe the teachers, I can look for issues that they struggle with and try to make a presentation from this. I usually visit the Resource Centre in Katete to find more information on the topic, so my presentation will be better. For example, on the last training I did a presentation on “Classroom Behavior”. 

How many classes do you supervise per day? 

I try to visit all the schools every week, and at every school I have to observe all the teachers. I usually visit one school per day and observe five or six different teachers. 

How do you get around to visit all the schools? 

When I first started the job someone would drop me off at the school in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon, but it affected my work and sometimes I would arrive late. So the team decided to purchase a scooter for me. I learned to drive it in only two days! With the scooter I feel more independent because I can get around easily. For example, during the weekends I can visit my family that live in a different village.


Was it hard to learn how to use tablets and laptops? 

No, the tablet was easy to learn because I received iSchool training. However, I found the laptop more challenging. Laptops are very expensive in Zambia and I did not have much practice typing. When I first started to type I was very slow - one sentence could take several minutes. Even so, the management team encouraged me to practice and I also received much help from the interns. Now I feel confident using a laptop - I can even type while I observe teachers! 

What are you looking for when you observe teachers? 

When I observe the teachers I look for several things. I look at the lesson plan, the methodology and objectives of the lesson. After the lesson I give feedback to the teachers so that they can improve their teaching. I always try to show the teachers respect and start with the positive feedback and I give them a chance to find solutions. 

What do you like to do during your free time? 

I live in Joel village, but I have very busy days at work so I do not have much free time. I enjoy spending time with my baby girl, Hannah, who is 4 months old, and my daughter, Esther, who attends grade 4 at Joel.

- Camilla

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I recently read an article about Musimbi Kanyoro, the President and CEO of Global Fund for Women, a non-profit that advances women’s rights around the globe.  Ms. Kanyoro grew up in rural Kenya, raised by strong female role models – her mother, and older sisters. Her parents sent her and her sisters to an all-girls boarding school, determined to give their child a good education, and organizing the community to protect girls from harm.  She eventually went on to earn an undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi and a PhD from the University of Texas, and become a global advocate for women’s rights.