Why is it so important that we raise awareness for The Girl Project's mission?
CL: While changing the world feels enormous and undoable, allowing girls to get the education they want and deserve is a simpler goal—that does change the world in a powerful way. Right now, more than 50 million teenage girls are out of school and not getting the quality education they deserve. We think that's a missed opportunity. When girls have access to education, they are less likely to marry early, more likely to have healthy children, and, with each year of schooling will statistically go on to earn 20 percent more money. So when girls are educated, whole communities and economies improve. The world literally gets better! That's why The Girl Project's mission is to create brighter futures for girls by helping them graduate from secondary school. We believe that creating a world where every woman has at least a high school education is a cause people of all political and personal viewpoints can get behind.
What have been some of the most rewarding moments you've experienced since The Girl Project was born in 2013?
CL: In 2013 I gave Malala Yousafzai Glamour's Woman of the Year Award to honor her for her heroism in fighting for her own education, and all girls'. The response from our audience and our own staff was so passionate and powerful, it made us think: What can we do to help keep this cause in the spotlight? That's how the Girl Project was born.
Over the last two years, Glamour has teamed up with former First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House's Let Girls Learn initiative to host global conversations about the importance of girls' education. We've spoken with girls all over the world, and helped bring their stories to our audiences, raising significant amounts in donations. But our proudest achievement so far is that we are now active in over 100 countries around the world, making meaningful strides to keep girls in those communities in school.
In your opinion, what are the biggest issues that threaten girls receiving the education they deserve?
CL: There are so many factors that keep girls out of school—social issues like bullying, gangs and low self-esteem, societal issues like conflict and civil unrest, and girl-specific issues like gender-based violence, early pregnancy and child marriage. In some countries, girls face the kind of life-or-death barriers that Malala faced, staring down violent extremists who believe girls shouldn't be educated at all. In other countries, including our own, the obstacles are subtler but no less real: Girls may be prompted to drop out because of a lack of support or the need to support a family. Those obstacles matter too, and The Girl Project takes aim as well, investing in a whole range of formal and informal programs around the world that help girls graduate—through scholarships, mentoring, after-school programs, vocational training and even transportation to school.
This month we're celebrating what it means to be Pretty Mighty and the beauty in women's strength. What does being Pretty Mighty mean to you?
CL: The Girl Project students are nothing if not mighty! At first glance, they're cute 15-year-olds who love Beyoncé and glitter—but look closer, and you'll see incredibly resilient young women. One of our Girl Project students from India walks 12 miles to school every day! Another student in Florida lived in her car for most of her junior year and still made the honor roll. A young girl in Africa lost both parents to cancer and yet stayed in school, motivated by her goal of becoming a doctor. So yes, when I think of #PrettyMighty, I think of them, no doubt.
How can we get involved in The Girl Project?
CL: You can visit our site to donate—any amount can help a girl get the schooling she needs. In some countries it costs under $200 to keep a girl in school for a year! But you don't have to do it yourself: You can start a group fundraiser and gather your friends to do a bake sale, a car wash—whatever interests you!—to raise funds and awareness about girls' education. Also, check out The Girl Project channel on Glamour.com for regular updates on issues related to girls' education and stories about the students we help.
Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour Magazine