Many parts of the world regard access to education as a privilege more than a right. In the Philippines alone, a Department of Education report reveals that there are more than six million functionally illiterate individuals from poverty-stricken families and indigenous cultural communities. But this is what U-Go, an education and female empowerment NGO, seeks to change through scholarship grants.
While U-Go focuses on the welfare of women, its humble ambitions are powerful enough to send at least 10,000 scholars from 2022 to 2028. “U-Go helps ambitious and promising young women in lower-income countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Vietnam,” its founder, John Wood, tells Tatler. “U-Go offers ‘year one’ financial scholarships, with renewal contingent upon achieving promising academic performances, and family and community co-investment. The goal is to help women to pursue university education.”
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For Mariana Zobel de Ayala, its Filipino ambassador and board member, the “women first” advocacy of the organisation will help females when it comes to representation in various fields. “The role of women in the Philippine society has always been contradictory; we see strong examples of women leadership—as presidents, chairwomen of large private institutions, and even heads of household, yet we still lack representation in certain verticals such as mid-management and boards of private institutions,” she comments.
“When I connected with John about his vision to expand U-Go’s mission to the Philippines, I felt strongly about the impact, it would have on ensuring equality of opportunity for women in the Philippines.”
Zobel adds that academia plays a big role in changing the narratives of less-fortunate Filipinos. She posits that in the future, women will be given equal opportunities, such as earning fairer wages. This in turn will uplift their families as they tend to share a greater proportion of their salary according to studies. “Disproportional education rates between women and men contribute to wider issues such as the existing earning gaps in low-income countries. By providing financial assistance, U-Go will help to remove the systemic barriers that hold women back, and work towards de-randomising academic opportunities, which in turn, will have an impact on the future of that woman and the communities that surround and depend on her,” she says.