We love this address by First Lady Michelle Obama. Not only is she an advocate for giving girls around the world the quality education they deserve. She absolutely understand that such efforts must go hand-in-hand with creating safe environments in the classroom, school and community.
The First Lady of the US also talked about the shift in thinking that international partners need to adopt – to see families and communities less as barriers but instead as a source of solution. She points out the hypocrisy, or at least the disconnect, between a discourse on community mobilization and empowering local leadership, and what actually happens a lot of times. She acknowledges that involving community is often not the central part of organization’s programmatic work. And it’s risky, as we may not see eye-to-eye with local leaders, donor expectations (and cycles) as well as our instinct to preserve a good reputation, makes it hard to do really difficult work, which is also oftentimes inefficient.
And at the end, hard work is, well, hard, and also resource intensive. And it requires empathic staff who are willing to lead from the side and take cues from local folks. It also takes much patience to work through misunderstandings or simple miscommunications.
We know that having the community’s support behind the girls in every aspect of their lives, not just in science and education, is of utmost importance if these young women are to succeed.
We’ve been patient in building these relationships, in nurturing them, in repairing them as necessary, and we are grateful to begin to see the result of our labor. As the saying goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
For our girls’ sake. We will go slow. So they can go far.