Empowering Girls Across the Globe

World Food Program USA
Published October 15, 2018
Last Updated March 25, 2019

This World Food Day, we’re excited to announce the three recipients of the Fall 2018 Catherine Bertini Trust Fund Awards: Developments in Literacy in California, LIDÈ in Haiti and New Foundation School at the American University of Nigeria.

Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the World Food Programme, established the fund after winning the World Food Prize in 2003. She decided to use the prize money to support organizations aligned with her passion of empowering girls across the globe through education. This year’s recipients are engaged in inspiring work that advances Bertini’s vision of creating a brighter future for women and girls.

Developments in Literacy

Developments in Literacy (DIL) has spent the last 20 years working to expand access to quality education in Pakistan. Its mission is to educate and empower underprivileged students, especially girls, by operating student-centered model schools and providing high-quality professional development to teachers and principals.

Among girls living in rural poverty, literacy rates are only 14 percent. Reading is a huge predictor of future success, so DIL implements innovative programs that increase reading comprehension. Funds from the Bertini Award will go towards one of these programs, Read to Grow to Know, which provides school libraries with tablets stocked with e-books of varying reading levels.

“Books are logistically challenging to get into rural areas,” said Kendra Puryear, DIL executive director. “Before starting this program, kids in our schools only had access to about four books at their reading level. The tablets drastically increase access to literature, and what’s more, they get kids excited to learn.”

The program’s pilot had remarkable success. Students’ average performance on key reading skills skyrocketed. Additionally, overall school enrollment increased while absenteeism decreased. With the help of the Bertini Fund, DIL will be giving even more girls access to tablets in schools.

LIDÈ, Haiti

LIDÈ began as a short-term intervention for adolescent girls displaced by Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake. However, its founders quickly realized that a more sustainable solution was necessary to empower girls to achieve their dreams.

Girls in rural Haiti face are often denied access to equal education. Some have been forced out of school by poverty or limited professionally by gender roles, and many lack access to teachers with basic qualifications. And when a girl in Haiti is out of school, she is more vulnerable to child labor, domestic slavery or human trafficking, abuse, and early pregnancy.

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In 2013, LIDÈ was established permanently to help girls overcome these challenges by providing academic and art programs to empower them, strengthen their resiliency and help them reach their goals. The Bertini Fund will help LIDÈ with its Transitions program, which supports adolescent girls’ secondary and post-secondary educational and vocational success.

“We established the Transitions program when we noticed that girls were heading into adulthood unprepared, lacking in basic life skills and knowledge,” said Dr. Kathryn Adams, LIDÈ executive director. “This includes an understanding of reproductive health and their rights in civil society – two areas that can critically impact their futures.”

Specifically, the Bertini Award will help LIDÈ hire teachers, facilitators and counselors to guide girls in these areas – all from the local community to advance its opportunities.

“I’m passionate about LIDÈ because our goal is to help girls become healthy and strong enough to find their own way,” said Adams. “When one of our girls finds her voice and the courage and strength to pursue her goals beyond LIDÈ, that to us, is success.”

The American University of Nigeria New Foundation School

The New Foundation School (NFS) of the American University of Nigeria was established as a university preparatory program for the Chibok girls who escaped after being kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014. As of 2017, 120 girls – many now young women – have been released or escaped and are now studying at NFS with their “sisters” who began the program in 2014.

The curriculum at NFS is specially designed to fill the education and skills gap created by years of captivity. In addition to academic training, the program includes health, psychosocial and life skills components to help the women cope with the emotional trauma of their experience.

“The lives of the woman in NFS were forcefully interrupted by their kidnappings,” said Reginald Braggs, AUN assistant vice president who is in charge of the program. “They still have dreams they want to achieve – they want to be doctors, lawyers, engineers and contribute to their communities. So, we’ve designed this program to be intense – but also nurturing and fun, – so they can make up for their lost years and heal.”

Funds from the Bertini Award will help NFS provide the women it serves with two critical services: women’s reproductive health screenings and education, and therapy sessions with a female psychologist assistant fluent in their native language.

“None of these young ladies have ever had full physicals before by a female ob/gyn doctor or ready access to psychological support in their native tongue by a female psychological specialist,” said Braggs. “Both will provide them with the confidence, knowledge, and support they need to step into the future. We don’t want them to feel that, because of what happened to them, they are at a deficit. We want them to have the education, self-esteem, and skill set to be able to move forward and reach for what they want in life.”