Thailand's Most Marginalized Girls Seize Scholarship Opportunities
"It was like having a new life after I received a scholarship from Plan," says 19-year-old Arba. Arba is from the ethnic Akha hill tribe in the Northern Thailand province of Chiang Rai.
Arba is one of Thailand's 44,000 'stateless' children whose births have not been registered, limiting their access to social services such as healthcare and education. Most stateless children, especially girls, are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.
Arba lives with her parents and two younger brothers. Her elder brother left school to work when he was in the sixth grade. This left Arba with a great burden of responsibility to care for her family.
“Everyone dreams of having a good life, but it is hard for stateless people like us," Arba says. "My parents work in the field and earn eight to ten dollars per month. It isn't enough for a family of five, so I help them by working on the weekends.”
In the last semester of 12th grade, Arba would overhear her friends talk about college. “While my friends talked about which school to choose, I was thinking about getting a job. I have seen some wealthy people who don’t think that an education is important–they don't go to school. I'm the opposite. I really want to go to college, but my family doesn’t have enough money to send me. If I had a chance to go to school, I would study hard,” Arba adds.
All Girls Have a Right to an Education
Fortunately for Arba, Plan Thailand has since awarded her hard work with a scholarship that will enable her to work towards earning her Bachelor’s degree in Chinese.
Plan Thailand’s “Girls Scholarship Program” aims to help the most vulnerable and marginalized girls in Northern and Southern Thailand fulfill their right to an education and become productive members of their communities. In addition to covering tuition costs, Plan also will cover the cost of transportation, uniforms, food, books, and school supplies.
Girls' Education Key to Healthier Communities
The case for investing in girls’ education is now well-established. The World Bank and other institutions have found that the return on investment from girls’ education is much greater than the same investment for boys. Men reinvest 30-40 percent of their income in their family while up to 90 percent is reinvested by working women. When girls have a good education behind them, they are better equipped to earn a decent living that will benefit their family, community, and country.
“From now, there are many more opportunities for my future career," says Arba. "Studying means so much to me because it means that others cannot look down on me. I just completed my first year of college and I am confident the next phase of my life will be better than ever. My parents are surely proud and I will certainly get a good job that matches my skills. I won’t have to work in the fields,” said Arba, echoing the aspirations of thousands of other stateless girls like her who are now focused on having a better futures.