It was really, really hot, muggy and the sun was beating down on us. I was uncomfortable wearing the nylon gown and my hair was frizzing beyond anything I could do to tame it. We sat shoulder to shoulder and tried to pay attention to the speakers. And then it was time. Time to walk across the stage, shake with our right hand while reaching out with our left hand to collect the high school diploma.
That was 1989. I really had no idea what that day meant at the time. It's just what everyone did and then continued on to college, some then went on to further studies and professional degrees and certifications. It was just what everyone did. There were no other 'appropriate' options that I knew of. You graduate high school, go to college and finish in four years and then commute into Manhattan to work in an office for a million hours. In heels. Be miserable as you 'put your time in' so that someday you can get to do more interesting things and some other newbie would do the grunt work.
Wow, that feels like a lifetime ago and so archaic. The world has changed a ton since 1989, in addition to the big hair, blue eye shadow, and Nike Air Jordans. But what hasn't changed is the importance of education. I get it NOW, of course. An education affects your ability to earn a decent living, take care of yourself, your family and live a life you want to live.
Go back. Close your eyes and go back in your mind now. To a time when you graduated high school, or college, or grad school. The feeling of pride and accomplishment. Your parents, siblings, grandparents beamed with happiness as you walked across the stage and got your diploma. The thought of all the promise it brought you and the hope of doing something meaningful and being prosperous.
Now think about how you got to that point in your life. Maybe you had great teachers or had tutors or extra help to improve your grades. Some of us took college board prep classes so we could get a few points higher on the SATs or ACTs (some of us took that course twice but that's another story for another time).
It's exciting and challenging and rewarding and exhausting. It's a great feeling and it makes a huge difference in the trajectory of your life. It's something I want ALL kids to be able to experience, to have the opportunity to achieve.
When I think about my boys and how we moved them to new schools in the US and South Africa and the challenges they faced growing up, I still understand that education was a priority and that they would graduate high school. In South Africa, I saw that education is a privilege and is the best way to change the cycle of poverty. If a family cannot afford the cost of school uniforms and shoes each year for each of their children, then the decision is made for them. No uniform, no school. It can be a very unfair situation. A choice between food or uniform.
"In South Africa, almost 40% of all first-grade students drop out of school before finishing high school." (Source: DW.com @DW). It's a struggle between survival and staying in school. It's not a choice. There are many homes headed by children who must find ways to feed themselves and their siblings. There are households headed by women who cannot find jobs that will pay them a decent wage. It is a systemic problem and without government and community intervention the problem continues.
Our mission at Bosisi Designs is to hire underserved women in South Africa so they can earn a decent wage and help lift themselves out of poverty. The more products sold the more women we hire. The goal is to maintain and grow their income so they can not only feed their families but also keep their kids in school. Education is a key to ending poverty.
If you feel strongly about jobs and financial security for women to support their families we hope you will see that we can make a difference with every quality, handmade Bosisi product. Consider buying a gorgeous bag for yourself or as a gift for someone who loves fashion and also supporting women and women-owned businesses.
If you have a business and would like to achieve a corporate social responsibility goal, please reach out and work with us on this mission.
If you own a business and would like to place an order for our reusable shopper bags, please reach out.
Together, we will help to change the cycle of poverty and keep children in school so they can earn their high school diplomas too!
If you want to shop, support, partner with Bosisi Designs, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Here's a quick article about two sisters in Cape Town, South Africa, and how their older sister provided the guidance and support to keep one sister from missing out on an education.