These are the stories of girls who are the first in their family to graduate. They were collected by the GEM Report as part of a campaign, #Iamthe1stgirl, to accompany the launch of the 2020 Gender Report, aiming to demonstrate progress in gender equality in education since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago.
Lorena – Mexico
“We are a large family of nice siblings, most of who studied up to high school and the other two did not go to school. One had to learn to write and read on his own. I am the only one who finished a university degree. I suffered discrimination, contempt, and the difficulties of adapting to the city, and the weather. Thanks to the Tarahumara Foundation and the indigenous university program, I managed to finish my degree as an engineer in territorial development at the autonomous university of Chihuahua. My wish is that my son also manages to finish a degree. He has just started kindergarten and I will be his support so that he can achieve his dreams.”
Bello Yemisi Afusat – Nigeria
“It was a great experience to achieve this certificate. My father was eager to educate his children but my elder sisters were not serious with their studies and ended up becoming pregnant so he refused to sponsor their education. My father died when I completed primary school and there was nobody to assist my mother with my education. My mom asked me to stay with my grandmother. l continued secondary education with God’s grace.”
Andrae – Mexico
“I believe that education can change a society from its roots. Education has shown me that there are other worlds and that knowledge is not static. The best ideas I’ve had have come from crossing knowledge from one area to another to find the best possible solution. In addition, with knowledge I have managed to return a little to the society that helped my parents to get ahead and to share a little of what I now know with my family that continues to face financial problems.”
Monika Sharma – India
“I was one of three children born to a lower middle class family in India. My father graduated but was jobless. He tried to start a business many times but failed. My mother got married when she was in 10th standard so dropped out of school. The only source of income in my family was my grandfather, who had a job.”I have an M.A.(English), B.ed, and am pursuing a Masters of social welfare.
Linfang Zhong – China
“I am the first in my family to graduate but not the last one. My parents gave me full and unconditional support with my choice. Education can broaden one’s horizon.”
Gifty from Ghana
“Both my parents were peasant farmers who lived in a small village in the upper East of Ghana. I am one of two girls who survived out of fourteen children. The rest of my siblings died before age one. I am the oldest of the two surviving children. My father died when I was twelve years old. My mother never married again. Life without my father was never easy. My sister had to drop out of school.”
Lilian from Kenya
“I am from Eldoret, Kenya. I am the first born in a family of two girls and three boys. I was born and raised in a humble Christian home. I have a Post Graduate Diploma. My biggest challenge was raising fees and personal upkeep, but my parents, my late grandparents and the community supported me through fundraising. I realized my dreams and have changed my attitude towards life positively. I encourage young girls not to give up. My hope is to make sure they achieve their best and to achieve what I had aspired to. My dream was to pursue my education to the highest level of a Professor.”
Dr Nisha Sharma from India
“I am from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India. My father shifted from Himachal Pradesh in the North of India to a Mumbai suburb, for employment purposes. He was one of the few matriculates in his native region at that time and my mother didn’t finish schooling at all. They had a child marriage. All of us four siblings were born and educated in Thane and had exposure to a big city environment. We had a good education from an English medium school. I graduated in Commerce from Mumbai University.”
Elizabeth from Kenya
“I am from Eldoret, Kenya. My father was a tailor while my mum was a shop attendant. We are seven and I am the last born. My mum was the first of eight siblings while dad was the fourth born out of six. From both sides, I, the last born in a family of seven, was the first to graduate with a degree. I have a PHD.
There was not money for me to continue school. I got married before I had attained any certificate although I had already secured government sponsorship for a diploma in education.”
“Having access to an education has developed my skills and broadened my knowledge. It has created platforms and opened bigger opportunities for myself, including international exposure. Education has spread my wings and helped me use my network to my advantage.”