By Kimberly Prosa More and more organizations and higher education institutions are beginning to understand the value of education for women, and acknowledge that a woman’s contribution to her community is just as valuable as her contribution to her home and family. In an effort to encourage the education of women in countries with deep-seeded cultural beliefs regarding education and gender roles, scholarship providers have encouraged women to pursue higher education opportunities by providing full-scholarships to attend both undergraduate and graduate colleges. Most of these are higher education scholarships that encourage grantees to study abroad. In more recent years, focused scholarships pertaining specifically to women from underserved populations have gradually become more recognizable and accessible through scholarship searches. As wide and varied as the requirements and guidelines for these specified scholarships are, nearly all of them share the common goal of creating individuals, who through education, will become thoughtful problem-solvers and leaders that will be able to positively influence social, economic and political change within their communities. While any scholarship designed to help a woman achieve an education is certainly a positive step in the right direction, many scholarships often have specific requirements and geographic restrictions that need to be examined and taken into consideration. For example, scholarships through the World Bank require that students reside in countries that
participate in the World Bank community. Other scholarships limit the level of education a student can achieve such as allowing them to receive a bachelor’s degree, but not continue on to a Master’s degree, in order to provide scholarships for more students. Many scholarships are awarded to students for working toward specific majors. The most popular majors to receive scholarships are those in medical, agricultural and economical fields of study, as scholarship providers believe leaders in these fields will have the most impact on their communities. The countries that that offer the most scholarship aid to foreign students are: The United States, England, The Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Finland. The United Nations University scholarship offered by Switzerland, is another ample provider. A higher education for anyone, let alone a woman in many parts of the world, is an ideal goal and a proven formula for real change. Unfortunately, many women from developing countries are unable to achieve even basic levels of literacy. For the girls who are marginalized into the wide gap of minimal or no education, receiving a life-changing scholarship for higher education can seem impossible. Fortunately, many in the non-profit sector realize the need to keep girls in school to receive their basic education, and numerous organizations have emerged to respond to the early educational needs of young women in order to get them to that next step, the step that gives them a future other than one pre-determined by circumstance. The following are a few scholarship options offered for women of developing countries: 1.) The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund www.mmmf-grants.org 2.) The AEI Scholarship Fund ( African Education Initiative) www.usaid.gov 3.) The P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship Fund www.peointernational.org Kimberly Prosa holds a BFA in Dance from the Purchase Conservatory and is in the process of completing her Masters in Human Services with a focus in nonprofit management, with research pertaining to international women‘s issues.