Introducing the Higher Education and Health Care Opportunity Fund
In Nepal, significant gains have been made to achieve gender parity in primary school. However, the need for female education support has not disappeared. Rather, it has shifted.
Women are severely underrepresented as university-level students and in positions of power in Nepal. Nationally, only 15 percent of college-aged females were enrolled in university in 2015. The Nepalese Government offers scholarships, but they are very limited, very competitive, and often reserved for specific caste groups—severely restricting the number and types of girls who can apply. As a result, most Nepali girls never get the opportunity to attain a higher education. To build on the progress and address the next step in female empowerment, equality, and leadership, young women need more access to quality higher education.
LSF’s Higher Education and Heath Care Opportunity Fund (HEHCOF) addresses this need by offering over 100 underprivileged girls per year small loans to help cover the costs of university, nursing school or medical school. While graduation from high school is already a huge bonus for Little Sisters in Nepal, graduating with a higher education degree will set Little Sisters up for a previously unattainable future. By lowering the barriers of entry into university and the healthcare fields, we can provide these young women the ability to improve their career options and increase their lifetime earning potential.
By partnering with graduated Little Sisters and offering loans instead of scholarships, we discourage dependency on the Little Sisters Fund and encourage recipients to take ownership for their own higher education and future. For girls who have received full scholarships for primary and/or secondary school, the loan-based approach represents a gradual release of financial responsibility back to the student as she prepares for a fully independent adulthood. These young women will also develop money management skills through quarterly loan repayments. Thus, in addition to providing needed financial support to LSF program participants, the loan program is also a natural way for Little Sisters to move along the continuum from dependency to full independence.
LSF’s HEHCOF will give these young women even more say in their future. They will be empowered to make decisions for themselves, including their career path, who to marry, if they choose to do so, and when, if ever, to have children. In the United States, it has almost become commonplace for women to be empowered to make these decisions. Yet, in Nepal, it is almost unheard of. Increasing access to higher education, and subsequently allowing young women to become financially independent from their family and an empowered decision maker, is an important step in changing the current reality in Nepal.
With the HEHCOF, these determined, dedicated, and highly intelligent young women will stay in Nepal to attend university, medical or nursing school, reversing the brain drain that is currently impacting the country. Highly educated Little Sisters will become role models, leaders and respected professionals who will be in a position to make a positive impact in Nepal for their generation and those that follow.