Young Girl Leads 1,400 in Environmental Stewardship

November 21, 2022

When you educate a girl, you educate her family, her community, and the world at large. For Miren, a seasoned educator, this idea is a guiding principle.

Miren teaches in a conservative area where women and girls often face gender barriers to equal education, employment, and civic participation. She develops creative opportunities for her students, especially young girls, to flex their leadership muscles through social projects. In doing so, she builds their confidence, self-efficacy, and problem-solving skills. Miren equips her students to actively shape their futures and their communities despite obstacles in their way.

One of Miren’s projects encouraged students to begin upcycling: transforming oft-discarded items into new and useful material. Students discovered that they could turn fruit peels and vegetable scraps into animal feed for local farms. This upcycling process both reduces waste and prevents decaying food from emitting greenhouse gases. It is also cost-effective for local farmers.

Miren’s emphasis on hands-on learning stems from her years of participation in EF’s teacher trainings. EF’s tailored online trainings help educators foster healthy learning environments and invest in their own career development. Miren most recently joined 29 other teachers in a course on encouraging youth-led initiatives. Educators teamed up with local organizations to encourage youth civic leadership through caring for the natural world, with projects like Miren’s upcycling initiative.

The upcycling project was wide-reaching. Students compiled videos, pictures, and slides from Miren’s course into a summary to share easily across social media. One teenage girl, Amaya, even launched a WhatsApp group to pass on her knowledge to 15 peers—and others quickly followed her lead. By the course’s end, more than 20 parents were upcycling as well.

“I’ve grown so used to the upcycling process now that I feel like something is missing if I do not upcycle my family’s food waste,” said one parent.

Over 250 people attended the course’s end-of-term celebration. Students exhibited their projects at a booth to answer the community’s questions and increase awareness about the importance of upcycling food waste. Numerous community leaders joined the celebration, including the deputy general, the head of the school district, and representatives from the education department.

When a nearby teachers’ network asked Miren to replicate her course for dozens of educators, she saw an opportunity to build her students’ confidence and skills yet again. Miren turned leadership of the new course over to Amaya, the teen girl who had launched her own environmental group on WhatsApp.

With ongoing coaching from EF and her teacher, Amaya led a series of virtual trainings for 70 educators. She created course content and wove lessons from her own experience as a budding environmentalist into each session. Through her insight, teachers learned how best to involve their pupils in environmental advocacy and proactive civic life. As these teachers kickstarted environmental projects in their own classrooms, Amaya’s lessons touched the lives of approximately 1,400 students.

“Just 20 years ago in this region, this level of students’ engagement in their education and local issues was nearly unheard of, particularly for girls,” said EF’s technical manager. “This new generation is taking their future prosperity into their own hands.”