To unleash the economic potential of poor, rural girls, two issues must be addressed: 1) girls? access to education and 2) the quality and relevance of the education they receive. Moreover, since rural poverty also stems from environmental degradation, poor diet/hygiene, and the disruption of family life due to urban migration, poor, rural girls need education that transforms them into both economic powerhouses and into powerful agents of sustainable socio-economic development and environmental protection.
To address these needs, Fundaci?n Paraguaya, in partnership with the Nike Foundation and Moises Bertoni Foundation, is piloting a financially self-sustaining, agro-forestry school which transforms low-income girls from poor farming families and indigenous communities into 'rural entrepreneurs.' Located in the UNESCO-recognized Mbaracayu Forest Biosphere Reserve in Paraguay, the school uses small-scale, on-campus agro-forestry enterprises as platforms for girls to develop the skills required for future economic success and to generate income to cover school operating costs, thereby ensuring the school's financial sustainability.
Girls completing the high school program are equipped to return to their family farms with business plans and micro-loans; obtain immediate employment as agricultural extension agents, forest rangers, or elsewhere in modern agricultural sector; teach at another agricultural school; and/or enter university. Girls/women completing technical training or community training workshops gain skills to increase family income and well-being.
The challenge now is to replicate this model in 5 schools which, in turn, can inspire further replications, enabling ever-larger numbers of poor, rural girls-- especially in countries/situations where co-education is not an option-- to realize their enormous potential as economic powerhouses, drivers of sustainable community development and stewards of the environment.
During 2002-2007, Fundaci?n Paraguaya turned a bankrupt, low-quality boys' agricultural school into a 100% financially self-sufficient school, which transforms the sons and daughters (ages 15-19) of poor farmers into 'rural entrepreneurs.' In 2007, the school reached financial self-sufficiency, generating approximately ,000 in income from on-campus enterprises run by students and professors and from technical assistance provided to other institutions. Meanwhile, within 4 months of graduation, 100% of each graduating class is employed, having either established promising rural enterprises on their family farms, found responsible jobs in the modern agricultural sector, and/or entered university.
This model inspired FP's 2007 CGI commitment 'Education that Pays for Itself,' a 10-year commitment to replicate the financially sustainable school model in 50 schools in 50 developing countries by 2017, an initiative which is expected to reach 120,000 young people-both boys and girls. At present, four schools in Latin America and Africa are implementing the model. In addition, as of August 2008, 19 institutions in 12 Latin American countries were exploring its feasibility or preparing business plans to implement it.
At the same time, Fundaci?n Paraguaya has learned that certain situations require an approach that directly targets girls. In addition, many local contexts warrant efforts that emphasize reforestation and conservation. Hence, with the support of the Nike Foundation and in collaboration with the Moises Bertoni Foundation, which administers the UNESCO-recognized Mbaracayu Forest Biosphere Reserve in northeastern Paraguay, one of South America's most ecologically important forest reserves, FP has established a financially self-sufficient agro-forestry school for girls to train female 'rural entrepreneurs.' This initiative offers a financially sustainable, massively replicable way to empower girls economically, as well as a replicable model for other conservation institutions to use in training poor, rural girls to promote economic development and environmental protection in ecologically sensitive areas.
The Fundaci?n Paraguaya will work with the Moises Bertoni Foundation and its sister conservation organizations, as well as with 'Teach A Man To Fish' and its network of over 700 institutions in over 80 countries which are interested in the concept of 'education that pays for itself' to identify 5 institutions and locations well-suited to replicate the 'She's A Rural Entrepreneur' model of education for poor, rural girls.
Candidate schools for replicating FP's educational model will be selected based on the relative need of student groups targeted, strength of management experience, commitment to financial sustainability, and support from the community and local stakeholders. Technical assistance will be provided to help selected schools develop business plans for implementing the model.
Technical assistance will also be provided to the five replicating schools across a range of key areas, including: planning and development of profitable school enterprises, management, finance, administration, teacher training, financial literacy, entrepreneurial skills, and the integration of entrepreneurship and sustainable agricultural and forestry practices into academic curricula.
Meanwhile, the Fundaci?n Paraguaya and 'Teach A Man To Fish' will work together to disseminate the concept of the financially self-sufficient agro-forestry school for training girls as 'rural entrepreneurs' through open-source replication guides, which incorporate lessons from all-girls school financed by the Nike Foundation, and annual conferences attended by institutions interested in 'education that pays for itself' and to publicize the advances of the five additional schools which adopt this model.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
- 5 schools will be replicating the 'She's a Rural Entrepreneur' model by 2013.
- 1,500 adolescent girls (ages 15-19) enrolled in these 5 schools annually of which, 250 girls will be graduating from high school programs annually.
- 100% employment of high school graduates within 4 months of graduation.
- 7,500 additional family members will be benefitting from girls' empowerment anually.
Fundacion Paraguaya is looking for additional financial resources to support their existing partners to implement the model in their schools. They are also looking for NGOs, churches, private enterprises, and governments that are supporting schools and would like to adopt the model.