Girls in the Forest: A Promising Path to Empowerment and Poverty Alleviation through Environmental Education and Skill Building on the Mbaracayu Forest Reserve.
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As past experience has proven time and again, the education of girls and women can play a critical role in the advancement and economic growth of developing nations. The current task at hand is ensuring that well-targeted educational systems are being put in place to manage this need for educating females in every developing nation around the world. Two NGO’s in Paraguay have recognized this and joined forces to build an innovative environmental and agricultural school for girls; this school is located directly on a protected conservation site, the Mbaracayú Forest and Nature Reserve. Adolescent girls from the surrounding areas that have completed primary school are able to attend and have the opportunity to gain a unique secondary education. Centro Educativo Mbaracayú (CEM) opened in 2009, and in December 2011 the first group of girls will graduate from the school. The research carried out in this study was done via four weeks of total immersion on site at CEM and focused on two different objectives; the first: understanding the social evolution of the girls in the 3rd year class in terms of their perception of themselves and their current views on their potential trajectory post-graduation. The second objective involved investigating their current environmental attitudes and how learning, living and working on the Forest Reserve has shaped their perspectives and goals for the future. The insights gained from this research reveal significant levels of capital asset building are taking place and these girls are on a promising path to empowerment, increased well-being, and a sustainable livelihood. Through the learning tools and curriculum provided by the innovative structure of CEM, the girls are discovering the breadth of choice and opportunities that are available to them that could fundamentally change their lives.