Wendy Lesko – School Girls Unite

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following my interview with Wendy Lesko of the organisation School Girls Unite. Our common objective is an education-based feminism. Girls all over the world have one and the same education right because as Wendy told me education is not a privilege, but a universal human right, and to affirm it we have to start from girls’ education. 
What are the main objectives of School Girls Unite? 
The mission of this youth-driven international program is to advocate for the rights of every girl in the world to have equal educational opportunities. About 200 U.S. girls are active and learn about the prejudice that girls still face, engage in philanthropy by organizing fundraising for our Mali Girls Scholarship Program, and also ask government decision makers to make education for girls a top U.S. foreign assistance priority. We communicate weekly with our sister organization in Mali who serve as role models and mentors to the girls in rural villages who receive help with school fees, books, supplies and tutors. 
Why is education of girl the key to a better world? 
As many who are more articulate state in essence: If all girls have access to education in a safe learning environment that encourages critical thinking, then half of the world’s population will have the opportunity to participate and play an equal role especially in shaping a safer, smarter, healthier and more just and peaceful world.
For ProMosaik education is the basis human rights from which all the others derive. What do you think about it? 
Exactly – education is not a privilege but a universal human right.
In the developing world women and girls are the real victims. Why? And in which sense? 
Many levels of discrimination perpetuate the second class status of girls and women. The epidemic of early or forced marriage is one example of cultural and economic conditions that vilify females.
Tell us about the Activist Gameplan.
This free toolkit was created by half a dozen School Girls Unite students designed to educate and inspire other students to learn and get engaged in advocating for equal educational opportunities for every girl in the world. Also, the bilingual action guide written by U.S. students and our Mali sister organization; “Girls Gone Activist! How to Change the World through Education” has been downloaded by people in over 40 countries. It is a free download from www.schoolgirlsunite.org 


What have you achieved until now and what is your dream for the future? 
This volunteer-run youth-led initiative has continued for 12 years and many of the original co-founders remain active. Our two-prong approach is student-driven philanthropy through our Mali Girls Scholarship Program and student-driven policy advocacy both with the U.S. Congress and Mali Ministry of Education to make education for girls a top priority. In the future, through the Youth Activism Project, which serves as the parent NGO, we are considering ways to adapt the unique School Girls Unite’s model. One concept is to develop a platform to encourage other youths around the world to pursue lasting community change through multi-faceted activism as well as multilateral collaboration.