Yesterday, I had the pleasure of welcoming several hundred people to Foxcroft School for the Middleburg Cherry Blossom Nanette’s Walk, Fun Run, and Pooch Prance for Breast Cancer. Since its inception nine years ago, the Cherry Blossom Breast Cancer Foundation (CBBCF) has helped local women gain access to breast health resources by raising funds and distributing grants to meet the goals of detection, treatment, education, and eradication of breast cancer.
Yesterday was also International Day of the Girl Child. In 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child in order to recognize girls’ rights and the special challenges that girls face around the world from access to education and economic inequalities to physical and sexual abuse and lack of health care.
As part of a week-long education initiative leading up to yesterday’s event, Foxcroft students have been learning about self-care, early breast cancer detection, and treatment. The week culminated with a special speaker, Caitlin Miles, a breast cancer survivor. At age 23, Ms. Miles detected a lump in her breast during a self-exam. Since her treatment and recovery, she has dedicated her professional career to supporting women with breast cancer by earning a doctorate in occupational therapy with a focus on breast cancer rehabilitation.
Caitlin is a great role model for the power of education to affect positive change and save lives. We are blessed here at Foxcroft to have a first-class education for girls.
Access to education, however, is one of the central issues affecting girls globally and preventing them from having better lives.
UNESCO reports that 66 million girls are out of school globally.
Only 30% of girls in the world are enrolled in secondary schools (Day of the Girl).
We know the power of even an elementary education to change girls’ lives around the world. Education improves health for young women and their children. If all mothers completed a primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, and if all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half, saving 3 million lives (EFA Global Monitoring Report; UNESCO Institute for Statistics). Education reduces childhood marriages and also death due to childbirth, which is the number one cause of death for girls, ages 15-19. Education can also improve women’s understanding of and detection of breast cancer, often in developing countries which might have socio/cultural attitudes that are barriers to health-care access and treatment. Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20–59 years worldwide (World Health Organization).
Education for girls is good for their families as well as their communities. Educated mothers are more than twice as likely to send their children to school (UNICEF) and a girl with an extra year of education can earn 20% more as an adult (The World Bank), improving her quality of life.
It seems fitting, therefore, that the CBBCF walk took place on October 11, 2015, the International Day of the Girl Child, at a girls’ school. How significant that so many young women are learning both through education and through direct action to be leaders for change? Girls learning to advocate locally to improve women’s lives will ultimately affect positive change around the world.
Cathy McGehee, Head of School, Foxcroft School