33 million girls around the globe are out of school.
Let that sink in for a minute, that's three times the population of the island of Manhattan, six times the population of Ireland, and twice as many people as in The Netherlands.
That means that 33 million girls, instead of expanding their horizons, enjoying their youth, and becoming the next generation of leaders, are being sold off as sex slaves, being confined to domesticity at home, or married off to men four times their age.
John Wood, Founder of Room to Read, and the organization's CEO Dr. Geetha Murali think we can do better to address the oft overlooked ramifications the literacy of children and lack of education. "We're here today celebrating the importance of challenging illiteracy and gender inequality in education," said the CEO. "We know that together we can make sure the game is changed for millions of children all around the world."
Murali and Wood joined a group of 230 enthused philanthropists, mediaites, and business professionals for an evening of cocktails, conversation and fund-raising in New York, as well as a nostalgic performance from early oughts superstar, Ashanti.
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Ashanti performs onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at SECOND in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)
"Education is the foundation for all future learning, and if we don't ensure that children are educated young, their futures are at risk."
-Dr. Geetha Murali, CEO, Room to Read
Room to Read, a non-profit Wood founded in 2000, has, since conception reached over 12M children throughout the globe in its drive to end childhood illiteracy. Their agenda for the evening was to both honor some of their most emphatic supporters, and raise much needed money, as they aim to reach 15M children by 2020. On offer at the auction, everything from a swim with Olympic medalist Kim Vandenberg, to a trip to Cambodia, and a year-long WeWork membership, the grand sum of which raised a whopping $3M in a mere matter of hours.
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Honoree Editor-in-Chief of Glamour Samantha Barry speaks onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at SECOND in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)
"One of the things Glamour is really, really, passionate about is empowering women and girls, and the best way to do that is through education,"
-Samantha Barry, Editor-in-Chief, Glamour
Being honored were Glamour's newly-appointed Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry, and Citigroup's President, Jamie Forese. The significance of the award was not lost on Barry, who spoke with SWAAY about the importance of initiatives focused on educating girls, for the future of the global economy. "One of the things Glamour is really, really, passionate about is empowering women and girls, and the best way to do that is through education," she noted. "In some countries they see it as economical to have the girls at home or cooking or working , but the reality is if you put a girl into secondary [high] school and if you put her into further education, not only does it benefit her, but it benefits her family, [and] her community."
Echoing Barry's sentiments was Revenge and Greek star Dilshad Vadsaria, who was recently appointed an ambassador for the non-profit. Speaking with SWAAY, she told us how she came to know of their work and why she wanted to get involved. “I was talking to someone and they were telling me, 'Oh, I know room to read, they put books on top of mules and they carry them to these villages where children don’t have access to these books,'" she said with a smile. "The commitment it takes and the passion it takes to actually do that, where most people would go, 'well, that’s an area we can’t get to so we’ll have to concentrate on this area.' There’s no stopping them, they go above and beyond."
"These children are not going to stop needing an education, they’re not going to stop needing a place to escape too, so they can dream and hope and in turn have their dreams come true,"
-Dilshad Vadsaria, Room to Read ambassador
Olympian Kim Vandenberg also chimed in on the praise for the work Wood's organization has done over the last eighteen years. The swimmer, who is now working with young athletes to hone their skills and encourage ambition, was a natural fit for ambassador. “I work with a lot of younger swimmers and I help empower them and build their confidence so that they can achieve whatever goals they have, in and out of the pool," she commented. "So, I feel like that lines up really well with Room to Read and I’m really excited to help promote the brand to go international.”
Neema Mwita, of Tanzania took to the stage to talk about Room to Read's impact on her life. Her emotional speech ended with a raucous applause. Neema Mwita speaks onstage during the 2018 Room to Read New York Gala on May 17, 2018 at Kimpton Hotel Eventi in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Room to Read)
Barry also spoke about doing her part in going beyond the pages of to enact change and impart the importance of advocacy to Glamour's 2.3M subscribers. In her first print issue of Glamour released this month, chose to focus solely on money, and a new attitude for the magazine going forward. in her new position spends her days championing female empowerment through one of Condé Nast's oldest running publications,
"I'm only the seventh editor that Glamour has had since 1939 so it's a responsibility I take very, very seriously," says Barry, an Irish native, who worked at CNN and BBC before stepping into her new post. "Glamour's a place that not only can do light and more serious topics around women, but really speaks to a lot of women in the middle of the country in America. I think there's a lot of media brands that don't engage with those communities in a way that they should do. I have very lofty ambitions for the type of journalism we'll be telling in the coming months."
WRITTEN BYAmy Corcoran