A founder and director of an international, non-profit charity that focuses on providing education and resources to young women in Tanzania addressed the benefits of serving abroad in a Distinguished Lecture Series spotlight series talk organized by the Wisconsin Union Directorate Thursday night.
Co-founder and Executive Director of the IMAGE project Deb Pangerl said the initiative tries to create sustainable, local programs and educational opportunities for young women.
One of the projects includes opening secondary schools in particularly rural communities where many women may have the chance to attend higher education. With education required up to the sixth grade level, Pangerl said many women who do not receive an education often move to cities to try to find work but instead fall into poverty, prostitution and contract AIDS.
Pangerl said the project has a budget of more than $50,000, with the total cost for a girl to go to school at $350 and less than 10 percent of their funds going to administrative costs.
She added the project helps fund private schools, which function similar to boarding schools, hosting girls two to a bed, with four beds to a dormitory-like room with short breaks throughout the year.
Pangerl added the IMAGE project partners with Tanzanian communities more closely than other organizations, helping the areas achieve their goals rather than imposing their own views.
“We think we’re different because we listen to people,” Pangerl said. “A lot of [non-government organizations] do great work, but lots of times it’s about what they think is important rather than what the people in the communities want.”
She added she thinks educating women is the way to provide them with a voice, with research showing educating one woman can affect 50 lives when they move back to their local communities.
Pangerl said she was inspired to create the project after travelling to the country twice — once to volunteer in an effort to renovate classrooms for preparation for students to use and once to study international issues.
“I thought, I have to do something,” Pangerl said. “You can’t just see this and continue on with your life.”
She said to ensure the programs they were putting in place were self-sustainable, rather than creating a dependency, they provided resources the women could foster and develop themselves, such as goats and chickens that the women could raise without interference from men.
When some women suggested opening a school, the project became an empowering one, Pangerl said.
“Those women took ownership of it,” Pangerl said. “It was empowering to them; it was their idea. They invested in it, and it changed the whole dynamic.”
She said this area has now proclaimed themselves independent, with a fully functioning school at a total estimated cost of $700.
University of Wisconsin senior Meghan Foley said she thought the project was inspirational, adding Pangerl’s work fits in will with other organizations students work with to serve abroad.
“I really like that she focuses on education and women because if you educate men they tend to go abroad. Women stay in their community and teach their young girls and change the next generation,” Foley said.
She added she is planning to participate in the IMAGE project, working to research and track what the women who receive the education do after their secondary education.