I have two daughters, born two years apart. Depending on the mood, the moment, or the day – they can either be the best of friends, or duelling adversaries.
The youngest worships her big sister, but she doesn’t always like being “the little sister”. Her older sister is bigger than her. Stronger than her. Seems smarter than her. She runs faster and climbs higher.
But at some point, this difference evens out. Younger siblings eventually get their revenge. They grow. They learn. They find their own things that they’re better at.
And when you’re a little sister, there’s nothing sweeter than beating the big one.
This week my youngest daughter starts school. It’s the first big step into levelling the playing field. Suddenly, she’ll be at school too. She won’t just be admiring her big sister’s school dress – now she’ll have a uniform too. She’ll know the names of the teachers, the games in the playground, and she’ll be in the school play.
School won’t just be the place she goes to pick her big sister up. Now it’s HER school too.
In Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world, most parents can’t afford to send all of their children to school. They’re often forced to choose between children, deciding which one will receive an education, and which ones will miss out. Being the little sister often means missing out; particularly if your older sibling is a boy.
But parents don’t love their daughters less. It’s just that an educated boy has a better chance of finding a job and being able to contribute to the family’s income. Girls and young women are expected to contribute to the family’s household income by doing agricultural or domestic work, or by being sold into marriage. It’s not what parents want for their daughters, but their limited options force them to make impossible decisions. Decisions we can’t even begin comprehend.
In the long-term, we know that if the little sister gets the chance to go to school, her entire family will benefit. For every year she can stay in school, her income will increase between 10 and 25%. For every dollar she earns, she’ll reinvest 90% of it back into her family. By going to school she can marry later, instead of being forced into marriage as a child. Marrying later means she can delay having children until she’s ready, have fewer children, and those children will be healthier. And as they grow, she can educate them too.
So when a little sister watches her big brother head off to school, she’s upset for lots of reasons. Not just because he’ll learn things she’ll never have the opportunity to learn. Not just because he gets to have a uniform and be part of school life. But because she knows what her future looks like without an education. It’s a future without opportunity. A struggle to survive. And it’s not the future she wants.
I am fortunate that I’ll never have to choose which of my daughters will go to school, and which one will be left behind. They’ll both get the opportunity, and their education will give them the chance to forge their own future. They can go in different directions, and follow passions and dreams as unique as they are. They’ll have choice. And options.
Every little sister – indeed every single girl – deserves that, no matter where she’s born.
You can give that opportunity to a little sister by becoming a Member of Graduation, One Girl’s monthly giving program. Graduation gives girls from rural and disadvantaged areas in Sierra Leone the chance to go to school. We pay her school fees and provide her uniform and school materials so her family doesn’t need to keep her home to do manual work, or sell her into marriage. We support her education from the day she becomes a scholar, right through until the day she graduates from high school.
$25 a month is all it takes to give a little sister an education so she can become a strong and independent woman, a leader in her community, and the one that other little sisters look up to.BECOME A MEMBER OF GRADUATION TODAY
Please join us today – and help change the life of a little sister on the other side of the world.