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Walking to Promote Global Development and Girls' Education From India to Indonesia

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A little over a year ago I highlighted the work of PAWA, the Pan Asian Women's Association, which focuses on global development and girls' and women's empowerment across multiple territories. By raising and carefully apportioning funds for credible, manageable-scale local charities, PAWA's work covers 30 countries from Iran to Japan, Indonesia to Kazakhstan.

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PAWA members, image (c) PAWA

At the end of September 2012 PAWA organised a 5km walk in Regents Park in London, followed by a family picnic. That first event was so successful that this year the charity has gained a sponsor: Battersea Power Station Project will be underwriting all costs of PAWA's 2013 5km walk. Every pound earned will go towards the national projects' beneficiaries rather than being partially soaked up by logistics. This year's walk will be happening on 13th October in Battersea Park, to coincide with the UN International Day of the Girl (which this year focuses on girls' education) on October 11th.

PAWA are currently supporting a range of fascinating projects:

The Banyan Tree in Kerala, India, supports girls from disadvantaged Dalit (very low caste) families. PAWA funds have enabled three girls to finish their training in nursing, teaching and medical transcription. PAWA funds also went towards building a community centre where 250 teenagers attend English tuition classes.

Chow Kit Kids in Malaysia is situated in the red light district of Kuala Lumpur. PAWA funds support a youth centre for 13-19 year olds who are vulnerable victims of child trafficking. PAWA also funds a trained counsellor to help teenage daughters of prostitutes to stay on in education instead of having to follow their mothers to a life on the streets.

Burma Assist are based in India and work with Burmese refugees in New Delhi. PAWA funds support a tailoring centre managed by three Burmese women. The centre runs six month tailoring training courses to help the most vulnerable girls in the refugee community learn a skill so they will be able to support themselves and help their families.

In Pakistan, Care Pakistan are funding a girls' secondary school which costs just £1 per child per month. School buildings and land have been given by the regional authorities in a Public-Private partnership.

In Indonesia, the Sahabat Anak project has initiated an entrepreneurship programme for teenage girls.

Meanwhile, Rebuilding Sri Lanka are building a library which will benefit 4,000 children.

"In the past year," PAWA trustee Betty Yao tells me, "we have received more worthy proposals than we are able to support. Modest amounts, targeted properly, change lives, and this is what we aim to do."

If PAWA raise enough funds from their 2013 Battersea Park Walk on 13 October they would like to add further projects to their list, says Yao. The Ponheary Foundation in Siem Reap, Cambodia , needs funds to start a media studies course for girls from deprived homes; the course will allow them to have a voice. The Bal Jeevan Trust in Mumbai, India, needs money to educate 19 girls for a very small, grassroots project; the money would include the cost of teachers and daily nutrition for the students. In Korea the House of Dawn and Yu Phra Home of Shia projects are looking for fund-matching to educate two girls of 14 and 20, who have risked their lives to escape from the North Korean regime. And in Maharashtra in India the Leaders Quest Foundation needs money to train promising local women to be community leaders who will go on to do their own projects with the backing and skills learnt from this programme.

PAWA have been around for a few years now and I have watched their activism, fundraising and social impact growing in leaps and bounds. Their focus on girls is based on widely acknowledged and inspiring research demonstrating that female education is the one crucial factor in lifting societies out of poverty and towards not only prosperity but also peace and equality. Some call it The Girl Effect. I call it a basic human right. We have to fight for it, agitate for it, work together for it, shout for it... and walk for it too.

Bidisha is a 2013 International Reporting Project Fellow, writing about global health and development.

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