Back in distant 2001, Rita Levi Montalcini, thinking over the long and exceptional scientific career that brought her a Nobel Prize, realized that her personal success had been made possible by the chance to study and attend university. An opportunity that she had been granted, but which was not common for young women at the time.
Despite huge progress empowering women over the last century, women’s access and right to education is still a pressing issue. There are about 775 million people worldwide, both young people and adults, who cannot read or write, and women make up about two thirds of the global illiterate population (Unesco 2012). Statistics like this one brutally reflect the sorry condition many women still find themselves in.
Professor Rita Levi-Montalcini always considered education not only an essential condition for progress in women’s life, and therefore a gender issue, but also the condition for their full participation in national life, and therefore a critical factor for development. And until the end, Rita Levi-Montalcini was committed to supporting women’s education in African countries, establishing in 2001 the Fondazione Rita Levi-Montalcini Onlus:
“We want to enable these countries to be promoters of their own wellbeing, but to succeed we need to stimulate personal growth, women’s in particular, in order to make full human development real’.
Women’s education is first of all a challenge against discrimination. This is especially true in the least developed areas of the planet, where the doors to social, political and cultural opportunities are left literally half-closed. Several studies (UNICEF, World Bank, World Economic Forum, OECD) have shown that investing in women’s education is beneficial in terms of health, reduction of infant mortality, increased rights and economic growth.
This data is only confirmed by the experience and the results achieved in over twelve years of activity, during which the Fondazione has reached over 12,000 girls and women of all ages in 36 African countries, with over 150 projects in primary, secondary and higher education, as well as medical and vocational training.
We are honoured to continue the work started by our founder in order to improve the life prospects for many women in Africa, from an economic, but also primarily human point of view. Women’s empowerment starts from their education, an essential resource for lasting, sustainable development on the African Continent.