"Inclusion means creating spaces where everyone feels they truly belong. It is about celebrating our differences and creating a community where everyone's voice matters”

- Sreynak Hun, UWS Cambodia

Jeannette Rakotoniaina, UWS Madagascar: Inclusion is what allows an individual, or a group, to integrate, to participate and to feel valued with confidence so that they can achieve their full potential.

Natasha Kafle, UWS Nepal: Inclusion is about creating safe, secure and equitable places for everyone, particularly girls, women, people across different gender and sexuality spectrums, and individuals with disabilities, such that they get a fair chance to contribute and thrive.

Susie Ma, Tropic Skincare and UWS supporter: Inclusion, for me, means quite literally including everybody, regardless of their geographical location, their age, the colour of their skin, their background, their beliefs. Everyone is included in terms of what they deserve to have – from education to career progression and everything else that life has to offer.


"A teacher training programme that supports teachers in making each UWS school an inclusive space where every child, boy and girl, feels welcomed and valued.”

- Jeannette Rakotoniaina, UWS Madagascar

Sreynak Hun, UWS Cambodia: At UWS, I’m inspiring inclusion by amplifying voices of students and children with disabilities, and other children from diverse backgrounds in the remote communities in Cambodia. I discuss with key stakeholders how to make inclusion work and open dialogue, creating spaces where everyone feels heard, valued and understood.

Jeannette Rakotoniaina, UWS Madagascar: I inspire inclusion by supporting the education system in the development of teacher training programmes in Madagascar. A training programme that supports teachers in making each UWS school an inclusive space where every child, boy and girl (without distinction), feels welcomed and valued.

We work with parents and local leaders to help them participate so that every child can build a new future through education. So that they will have the chance to succeed together.

"Together with these women and girls, we are building brighter communities and schools for a better future”

- Natasha Kafle, UWS Nepal

Natasha Kafle, UWS Nepal: Inclusion at the core of all programmes at UWS Nepal. One powerful example of inclusion in action is the formation of support networks, like Mothers’ Groups and Girls’ Clubs in every UWS school.

Women and girls of these groups meet regularly. They discuss health, education, finances and safety. They empower each other and ensure their voices are heard and if any concerns arise, they even hold the school accountable for a fair and supportive learning environment. Together with these women and girls, we are building brighter communities and schools for a better future.

Susie Ma, Tropic Skincare and UWS supporter: We’re inspiring inclusion all over the world through our work with UWS. By teaching the unreached and reaching children in some of the most remote parts of the world and giving them access to education.

United World Schools is committed to challenging gender inequality in every facet of our work, and the passion and commitment of our female colleagues and community members is essential to achieving our mission. To find out more about how we champion gender equality in the communities we work in, and across our organisation, read our inclusion policy. 

Give back this International Women's Day - just £10 could educate a girl for an entire month.

It might sound cheesy, but it's true. From Madagascar to Nepal, to Cambodia to Myanmar - and back again.
Access to quality education changes lives dramatically, but differently. No two stories are ever the same. And yet - love is the common thread in every story we tell.

This week, we're sharing stories of the generous professionals who put so much passion and care into each UWS school you fund.

“I love my job as a teacher, it’s gorgeous. It’s wonderful to be with my students in lessons. I spend time with them in the library, encouraging them to read books or create art. UWS Pu Korng School is the children’s hope in the village.”

Mr Tich - UWS Teacher in Cambodia

Mr Tich
– UWS Student, now UWS teacher in Cambodia

Despite facing limited educational opportunities as a child in his remote Cambodian village, Mr. Tich’s determination to learn always burned bright. Thanks to your support of UWS, we constructed UWS Pu Korng School in his village, and once he’d finished there, Mr. Tich cycled 15km each day to finish his secondary school studies too. 

“I was a hard-working student. I tried hard in lessons and I did as much homework as I could. After I finished studying at UWS Pu Korng School, I went to Secondary School – it was far to go as  student on my bicycle every day. But I didn’t give up”. 

Now, fueled by that same passion, Mr. Tich has returned to his village, taking up his place as a community teacher at UWS Pu Korng School, and sharing his love of learning with the next generation.

“I am so happy to have joined the team 8 years ago. I get to travel, meet new people and learn many things. People around me are very proud of what we do. The communities we work with adore us and our work."

Shyam - UWS Construction Worker in Nepal

– UWS Construction Worker, Nepal

18 years ago, Shyam, a construction worker in Nepal, was in a serious accident that led to his hospitalisation and a critical operation. It was a life-changing moment for Shyam and his family.

Despite this hardship, Shyam persevered. He now works as a building officer with UWS Nepal – sharing that:

“Building schools isn’t merely a job, but it’s about crafting opportunities for a better future”.

“Before, we were teaching in poor conditions, under trees or in a wooden hut that couldn’t shelter the children in the heat or when the rain came. But today, this is no more, with UWS we have a school building and frequent training courses for all teachers".

Goda - UWS Teacher in Madagascar

– UWS Teacher, Madagascar

For many years, when he could, Gola taught lessons to the children in his village under a tree (pictured below).

But, without a salary, this wasn’t something he could do everyday, having to fish or farm to support his livelihood.

UWS opened UWS Beangolo School in September 2022, providing Gola and his colleagues with secure employment, as well as the training opportunities to pursue their careers.

“I have been able to master my work as a teacher, improving the quality of my teaching”.

“Of course there are times when teaching is challenging, or when my lesson plans don't always work out as I'd hoped. But when I see the students doing well, I feel motivated to give more than what I have".

Nar Mee Shel - UWS Teacher in Myanmar

Nar Mee Shel
– UWS Teacher, Myanmar

Nar Mee Shel is responsible for the Grade 3 and 4 class at her UWS primary school in Myanmar. Teaching Maths, Burmese and Science, Nar Mee Shel teaches children whose first language is not the national language, Burmese.

A passionate educator, Nar Mee Shel loves her job – through the challenges and rewards of teaching she perseveres. She’s determined to do her very best for each of the students in her care.

“It’s obvious that the students are improving, especially in their language proficiency because when the UWS team visit the school, the students chat to them in Burmese, not their mother tongue”.

You see? Love links our supporters, teams and rural communities, guiding our vision and driving our work.
It allows our teams to be relentlessly dedicated to reaching the most challenging-to-access communities.
It inspires children in London, Berlin, and beyond to raise money for quality education each year.
It empowers mother's like Falina to push for their children's more prosperous futures.

Love is as formidable, essential and life-transforming as, well, education is.
Thank you for being part of our mission to love the world by providing sustainable access to quality education. We're deeply grateful for you.

From UWS, With Love

Education is key to helping children live Happily Ever Smarter

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an economy largely dependent on tourism. As a result, government investment in education has been limited, tending only to reach communities based along main roads.  However, many remote villages can’t be reached by road. This means that thousands of children from remote and marginalised communities are excluded from education. Literacy rates remain among the lowest in the world – just 10% of people in rural populations can read and write.

However, through improved access to quality education and better infrastructure provided by this project, we’re changing this story. Funded by the UK public and match funded by the UK government, our Happily Ever Smarter project is an example of what can be achieved through hard work and collaboration.

We’re thrilled to share that 18 months in, this project has significantly impacted the lives of 2,404 children so far. By the end of the project, we aim to bring that number to over 8,500 children.

Meet some of the people making this work possible...

Every school we run is supported by an incredible team of talented and inspiring people.

“It's a contribution to rural Nepalese communities and the dreams of the children who will walk through the doors I’m helping to build."

Mina, Construction Worker

Meet Mina
– Construction Worker, Gulmi District, Nepal

Mina, a single mother raising two children, has worked tirelessly for the past six years in the UWS Nepal building team and most recently as part of our Happily Ever Smarter project. Her dedication and craftsmanship earn her commendations from everyone around. 

“I receive so much praise for my work from the community and this motivates me to do better every day,” shares Mina with pride.

Mina’s aspirations extend beyond the construction site; they reach into the future she envisions for her children. 

“As a single mother, life has been very difficult for me. I am thankful for my job and UWS Nepal for providing me with a means to support my family and their education.”

"School is like their second home, a place where all children, from different places and families, come to learn. Teachers need to make sure every child feels nurtured.”

Mausami Rai, UWS Teacher

Meet Mausami Rai
– Teacher, UWS Railey School, Nepal

High up in the Himalayas of eastern Nepal lies Railey village, a village which for generations did not have access to quality education. The nearest government school is a 3 hour, round-trip, walk away, up and down steep slopes, which became even more treacherous during the monsoon season. As a result, the majority of children had never been to school.

As part of our Happily Ever Smarter project, UWS aims to build or support schools in 60+ communities across Nepal over a three year period, including Railey village. UWS Railey School was built and opened in the heart of Railey village earlier this year. 

Mausami Rai is a teacher here. She shared:

“To be a great teacher, it’s important to understand each child’s background and requirements to teach them accordingly. School is a place where children can express and explore themselves without any worries.” 

From skilled builders like Mina, to talented teachers like Mausami, to generous supporters like you, this work takes all of us.

We all have a role in ending education poverty.

Thank you.

At least 500 million people globally lack access to the facilities they need to manage their periods. Where menstrual products aren’t readily available, many resort to using makeshift items, such as old cloth material, instead of sanitary products, which in turn, risks infections and other health problems. 

“When girls and women do not have access to sanitary pads, this makes them uncomfortable in working, studying and everywhere they go. They feel worried, fearful, ashamed and not brave. These problems affect their school enrolment and dropout” shares Ol Senghun, UWS’ Adolescent Girls’ Lead in Cambodia. 

Many girls are forced to miss days of school when they have their period or even drop out of school altogether - losing out on their right to an education. Myths, stigma and harmful cultural or social norms around menstruation exacerbate the difficulties for young people. Menstruation is a stigmatised and taboo topic, girls may also face discriminatory practices whilst on their periods, such as not being allowed to participate in religious practices.

UWS ensures all children are safe, included and learning. Through our WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities and safeguarding measures (for which we have been accredited by Keeping Children Safe), we ensure the school environment is safe for girls and considers their needs. But this isn’t enough. We’ve found that girls are often unprepared when they start their period, having received little or no education about menstruation before reaching puberty.

Therefore, our Girls’ Clubs and Mothers’ Groups across Cambodia and Nepal recently held pad-making training sessions, teaching girls and their mothers how to make reusable sanitary pads. The girls and mothers learnt about the reproductive system, puberty, menstruation and how to manage periods safely. Sanitary kits were provided to each attendee, containing reusable pad-making materials, a menstrual hygiene management booklet, and a bag to store their pads throughout the day.

The sessions also provide a safe space for women and girls to learn about their rights, voice concerns and build confidence and knowledge on their bodies and rights. Hourt Veasna, a UWS Education Officer in Cambodia, delivered the training to over 200 women and girls across 10 UWS schools in Siem Pang District. 

“The training on menstrual education and puberty helped mothers and girls understand more about the menstrual cycle, their health, the age of menstruation and menopause,” explains Veasna. “The sessions prepared them for how they may feel during their cycle, and to help reduce their fear and shame to talk about menstruation”. 

“We have received very good feedback from the mothers and girls,” Senghun adds. “Girls now understand about puberty​​ and are ready for the body changes they will experience. We have seen that students are now attending school regularly because they have enough products and spend less money on buying sanitary pads”.

“I was able to understand the negative perception regarding menstrual hygiene after  becoming a member of the Girls’ Club. I also learned to make reusable sanitary pads through this club,” says Seema (name changed), a Girls’ Club member from UWS Changlewa in Nepal.

The sessions, which have taken place across more than 120 UWS schools in Cambodia and Nepal, also aimed to empower girls and mothers to challenge the social norms and stigma associated with menstruation and to talk about periods in a shame-free way.

“After being involved in Girls’ Club, I have been able to be fearless and put my opinion among others. I have also been able to talk about my issues related to menstrual hygiene and help others share their problems as well.” shares Reena (name changed), a student of UWS Sathtare School in Nepal. The pad-making training sessions have received recognition from the members of mothers’ groups and local communities.

“The pad-making training was very effective. I have been using the pad myself, which is better than the household pad I used to use. I learned more about menstrual hygiene and the importance of a balanced diet during menstruation,” says Mala (name changed), a mothers’ group member at UWS Jaisithok.

Empowering people to feel confident throughout their period by providing safe products and effective menstrual hygiene education, as well as educating communities, is critical to ensuring that all students have equal access to education and opportunities. 

The above initiatives are part of our Dropout Prevention Programme, in partnership with Education Above All Foundation’s Educate A Child (EAC) programme. The Dropout Prevention Programme aims to support the children most at-risk of education marginalisation and early dropout, to stay in school. Read more here.

The Difference our Programme Will Make

At United World Schools, we're proud to have championed inclusive education from our very beginnings. Our teams work exceptionally hard to ensure that every girl and boy living in some of the world's hardest-to-reach communities is able to access the quality education that is their right.

Our Girls Will Be Girls programme, which starts in Spring 2023, forms a crucial component of furthering our inclusive education agenda. 

All donations that were made as part of this appeal will help girls across Cambodia, Myanmar, Nepal and Madagascar tear down barriers to education and attend school with their heads held high. The matched income from the UK government will go directly to funding our girls' education programme in Cambodia and Nepal, helping girls to get an education, stay in school and achieve their potential. 

Meet Asha

Asha lives in a remote village in the Himalayas of Nepal, where she attends UWS Hedangnagadi School. But not long ago, Asha was one of the millions of children globally who drop out of school before completing primary education. She'd been forced to drop out of boarding school as her family couldn't afford the fees. When this happened, Asha and her parents were devastated, they were determined that Asha would continue her education and so looked for alternatives. UWS Hedangnagadi School provided the solution. At United World Schools, we believe that every child should have access to a free, quality education.

"After knowing that UWS provides quality education similar to that of the boarding school, we decided to enrol our children"

Asha's mother

Asha loves going to school, learning new things and playing with her friends. She is also involved in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths) Club at her school – an initiative to create a learning space that gives children the opportunity to connect ideas with practice.

“I am very happy to join the STEAM Club because I am learning new things everyday,” says Asha who dreams of becoming a doctor and providing health facilities to the people in her remote community.

“I think I would be very sad if I didn’t get the chance to go to school and study. Seeing the other children, including my friends going to school would further make me sad”.

Thanks to your generosity, our Girls Will Be Girls programme will work with over 14,000 girls like Asha, so they can be pioneering, revolutionary, happy… whatever they want to be.

Our Programme

Through our Girls Will Be Girls programme, we aim to work with 20,000+ people over a three-year period to increase girls’ presence, participation and achievement in school. 

Our innovative programme has four key areas:

1. Targeted support for out-of-school and at-risk girls:

Through our Girls Will Be Girls programme, we aim to work with 20,000+ people over a three-year period to increase girls’ presence, participation and achievement in school. 

2. Gender-responsive households and communities:

We’ll support girls and families to challenge harmful gender norms, for example, where women are expected to by wives, housekeepers and reproducers. We will tackle this through community workshops in over 100 communities. By establishing girls’ clubs, we’ll create safe spaces for girls in school to talk about the issues they face and discuss solutions. We’ll carry out education and training sessions for girls to increase awareness of their bodies and rights.

3. Gender-responsive schools:

Harmful social and cultural norms are often reflected in schools. Through this programme we’ll train Education Officers to deliver training to teachers to build gender inclusive schools that challenge inequalities in the classroom. We’ll audit our WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities and make upgrades to ensure the school environment is safe for girls and considers their specific needs.

4. Gender-responsive education systems:

To influence systemic level change, UWS will engage with government officials and education sector stakeholders on improving gender responsive approaches, gender inclusive teaching practices and school environments. We’ll raise awareness of harmful gender norms and increase support for girls’ education. We’ll facilitate meetings between local authorities and community representatives to amplify beneficiary voices.

Thanks to your support

We will address the structural barriers that prevent girls from participating fully in education. Together, we will create systemic change for girls living in rural areas. We look forward to keeping you updated on the impact of our Girls Will Be Girls programme. 

Usually this is due to differing gender-based cultural norms and expectations, such as child marriage and the social stigma surrounding menstruation. In Ratanakiri province, Cambodia, where UWS operates, nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 18 years old (Action Plan to Prevent & Respond to VAC 2017). Long walks to and from school also present additional safety concerns for girls due to the threat of gender-based violence.

Inclusive education is central to our education model. From the outset, we work in partnership with communities who commit to sending both girls and boys to school. Through our WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities and safeguarding measures (for which we have been accredited by Keeping Children Safe), we ensure the school environment is safe for girls and considers their needs. We hire and train community teachers who teach children in a language they understand (initially the local language) and use positive, child-centred teaching methods. For us, education is about every child feeling supported by their teachers and parents, safe in the classroom, and having the opportunity to pursue the futures they choose.

This is why we are proud to be working in partnership with Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, to deliver a Dropout Prevention Programme and further our inclusive education agenda. Our three-year Dropout Prevention Programme will support the children most at-risk of education marginalisation and early dropout, to stay in school. Addressing the barriers to learning faced by girls is a crucial part of this programme.

As part of this programme, we have established Girls’ Clubs to support girls on relevant issues and also to serve as support mechanisms for the girls at-risk of early school dropout. The clubs aim to increase girls’ resilience, as well as awareness and knowledge of how to exercise their rights.

“I am a Girls’ Club Leader at my school. Before the girls’ club we did not have any study groups. Now I understand more about the importance of peer education. I feel more confident after being involved with the Girls’ Club”

- Yi*, Grade 6 Student at UWS Dey Kro Hom School.

In the Girls’ Clubs, sessions cover topics including, menstrual hygiene, gender equality and leadership development. To encourage leadership and self-esteem, UWS Girls’ Clubs have girl leaders, who are older students enrolled at the school. Yi* is a Girls’ Club Leader at UWS Dey Kro Hom School in Cambodia.

Older girls are often amongst the most at-risk of dropping out of school before finishing their primary studies in Grade 6. Many feel pressured to leave school to get married or to support their families. But Yi and her peers are determined. The Girls’ Clubs focus on educating girls about their rights as children and young people, and empowering them to advocate for human rights for themselves, their peers, families and communities.

The Girls’ Clubs are part of our wider Dropout Prevention Programme to address inequalities within education through long-term systemic change. These interventions include, among others, community-awareness meetings, assistance with children’s travel to school, establishing mothers’ groups, delivering holiday and evening classes, and providing sanitary kits and menstrual education for adolescent girls. The goal of the programme is to increase the retention rates for of over 5,000 primary-level children at-risk of dropping out across Nepal and Cambodia

United World Schools will continue to support children to realise their right to an inclusive education and provide them with the tools to shape their futures, on their own terms and build pathways to new opportunities.

*name has been changed in line with our child protection and safeguarding policy

United World Schools works with some of the world’s most remote and marginalised communities to provide every child with a quality, inclusive education. We work with rural communities, who are often ethnic minorities, relying on subsistence farming with little to no educational infrastructure. Within the communities we serve, there are subgroups of children who are more vulnerable to educational exclusion and early dropout due to key demographic risk factors. These include living in extreme poverty, the challenges facing girls aged 11+, discrimination, students being overage for their grade, and having a difficult journey to school. 

The risk of school dropout has only been exacerbated by Covid-19. Prolonged school closures have heightened the risk of child labour and child marriage, widened equity gaps, and eroded cultures of learning. Girls have been disproportionately affected, UNESCO warns that more than 11 million girls are at risk of dropping out and may never return to school. This not only threatens decades of progress made towards gender equality, but also places girls at greater risk of adolescent pregnancy and child marriage.

We are committed to ensure all children are safe, included and learning. In partnership with EAC, our three-year Dropout Prevention Programme will identify the United World Schools students who are most likely to drop out and provide targeted support to enable these children to stay in school. 

In support of this, we have formed locally-established School Retention Teams (SRTs) in each UWS school in Nepal and Cambodia. SRTs are composed of teachers, community volunteers and UWS Education Officers, and over the course of the last months, they have undergone Dropout Prevention training sessions.  

Amrit is a UWS Education Officer in Sankhuwasabha, Nepal. Through spending time living with the communities he works with, he has become acutely aware of the many barriers that children face to gain a quality education. 

“I work with students from families who cannot afford simple stationery like pencils, erasers and sharpeners”says Amrit. “Some students have to walk for more than two hours to reach a school, across flowing rivers and slopes at-risk of catastrophic landslides. Coming from families without a history of education, students often lack the guidance to complete their academic work at home”.

SRTs will use five key risk factors to identify the UWS students who are most likely to drop out, and then deliver a holistic package of interventions to enable them to stay in school. These interventions include, among others, providing school supplies, assistance with children’s journey to school, establishing mothers’ groups and girls’ clubs, delivering holiday and evening classes (as pictured below), and providing sanitary kits and menstrual education for adolescent girls. 

“I am happy that United World Schools is partnering with EAC to bring the Dropout Prevention Programme to UWS schools”

- Amrit

“I strongly believe that this project will not only be crucial to retaining students who are at risk of dropout, but also to bring back and inspire students who have previously dropped out”.

United World Schools will continue to support the most marginalised children to claim their right to an inclusive education and provide them with the tools to shape their own futures, on their own terms. The goal of this programme is to increase the retention of over 5,000 high risk and most at risk children in primary education across Nepal and Cambodia.

We are proud to be launching our Dropout Prevention Programme in partnership with Educate A Child. Over the course of this project, we will be sharing more information about the progress of interventions and the experiences of our teachers and students across the communities we support.

You will hear from Ramila Singh; Senior Finance Officer for UWS Nepal, Chenda Mony; Education Officer for UWS Cambodia, Sovy Thann; UWKindergarten Officer for UWS Cambodia, and female staff members from UWS Myanmar, whose identities have been protected due to the ongoing political situation in Myanmar. 

Here are the voices of just some of the women that choose to challenge gender inequality every day through their work at United World Schools. Thank you to every single teacher, education officer, community member, staff member and volunteer who champions female education and gender equality every day across United World Schools and beyond.


I was very lucky to be born in a family where the leading role was played by my mom because my father used to be mostly out stationed due to work. During this phase my mom used to always inspire me to develop myself and think about how I can contribute to the community in future. This is the reason I became a big believer of saying, “If you want to Make a Change, Be the Change”.

- Ramila Singh, UWS Nepal


Chenda Mony, UWS Cambodia: In my school age, I went against my family and people in the village to continue going to school till I finished high school; then I continued to university at which I supported myself by having a job while still at university. This experience is what I use to inspire other women and younger females, to remind them that we have the right to achieve and set any goal we want in life, that we can decide when and who to marry, and then we also have the right to do business or work to bring another source of income in the family.

Sovy Thann, UWS Cambodia:

When I first started working, I had faced many discrimination for my work and my voice was not seriously considered and valued. Despite this challenge, I continue to encourage myself to keep working hard. Today, I feel better because this challenge is fading away, because the system has changed. We have a wider education campaign that promotes women’s rights and gender equality across the country. In addition, there are more women in leadership roles in the government and NGOs sectors.

UWS Myanmar: From my experience, having role models at national and local levels have been identified to encourage the colleagues, friends, families, and broader communities to ensure equal participation for women and men, girls and boys in the community. The social benefits of gender equality should be explored and celebrated. Women’s participation in the decision making from family level to community level make the men reduce the burden, and help improve wellbeing for the children.


Ramila Singh, UWS Nepal: When you see the education scenario in Nepal it is very regressive this is why I was inspired to join UWS Nepal as this is dedicated to educating children especially girls. Once I started working in UWS I felt blessed to be working in an organization that truly practices the concept of women empowerment as well as hears what the employees say and value their feedback and contributions.

Although I am blessed to have such a wonderful team, it’s very sad that I cannot say the same for other working women in Nepal. If you see in the context of Nepal, High Girl Illiteracy Level and Women Workplace Inequality are the major issues in Community today so to help in solving these issues I have also been involved voluntarily with other NGOs that practice Women Empowerment and Community Development.

Chenda Mony, UWS Cambodia: The factor that inspires me to drive social change and support organisations like UWS is that I see the importance and value of education that UWS has brought to the communities so far. I think empowering women is very important because we are training to increase human resources in every generation to change perspectives. Since I started working for UWS, I see that most of UWS work is also focusing on women and girls, that is when I feel even more committed to work in the education sector.


Sovy Thann, UWS Cambodia: 

Younger girls are facing a big challenge nowadays due to their family economic situation. In the past, most families did their farming close to the villages. But now these farms are sold to the outsiders, thus they have gone to clear the forest that is really far away from the village. Often, families would spend their time there. This is a challenge for young girls to come to school from the farm because it is relatively unsafe to be on the road. 

UWS Myanmar: There are still widespread beliefs across the country and among different religious and ethnic groups. And the cultural norm acts as a barrier to the realization of women’s rights.

Cultural norms impact heavily on women’s opportunities for health, education and ownership of property. Such norms include: women’s menstruation is dirty; women are for reproductive work, housework and care to children; encourage women to sacrifice themselves for their families; and position women as inferior to men in the household. In ethnic culture (i.e Chin ethnic), women are not allowed to inherit all their parent property even if she is the only one child in the family. One of her father’s brothers would inherit the major property. Furthermore, according to the marriage cultural norm to maintain life-long marriage, women are held to endure the violence of the husband.

United World Schools is wholeheartedly committed to challenging gender inequality in every facet of our work, and the passion and commitment of our female colleagues and community members is essential to achieving our mission. To find out more about how we champion gender equality in the communities we work in, and across our organisation, read our inclusion policy. 

Give back this International Women's Day - just £10 could educate a girl for an entire month.


If there is one overriding feature that has driven UWS’ success in the last ten years it is an unwavering, complete and utter belief in the mission; and linking up with partners and colleagues who share total commitment to the power of education to transform lives. Reflecting recently with a number of our donors, the belief in the UWS mission is universal, and perhaps the biggest driver of our success.


Ever since the first UWS Community School in the remote village of Kong Nork, Cambodia was established in 2009, we’ve been clear on what we are trying to do. We’ve been prepared to innovate of course, but rarely strayed too far away from our core purpose and focus. We’ve kept it simple. As we’ve grown, we’ve also learnt the importance of saying ‘no’ to well-intended suggestions that ultimately distract the organisation from its core purpose. On reflection, we should have had the confidence to, politely, say ‘no’ earlier in our journey – this is all part of the learning experience.


When we launched our ‘transforming 50,000 lives’ campaign in 2014, the ambition and scale captured attention – and we successfully gained the investment and gathered momentum as a result. People either thought we were bonkers, or that we had a great idea… and wanted to work out which one it was! Fortunately, they concluded it was the latter, and we had £1m of unrestricted funding pledged to develop the organisation. We’ve never looked back.  


Perhaps the organisation’s biggest strength are the partnerships that have been formed, based on mutually beneficial, trusted relationships. At our best, we’ve made it more than a great cause – we’ve made people part of a family. Where we’ve stumbled, failing to properly invest in the right people, in the right way, has almost always been part of the root cause.


We’ve often acted bigger than we are (and then grown into the space created). A good example is when we secured our first major, multi-million dollar grant from one of our partners in 2016. We were tiny in comparison to many of their other partners, but we had the appetite to grow and develop. This grant was a game changer for us, and we have subsequently become a peer organisation to the very best in our sector.


Bold, audacious plans for growth and scale were essential for UWS’ success… but meaningless without a plan to deliver them. At our best, we’ve planned in a very business-like and systematic manner; when we’ve moved to action, we’ve changed leadership ‘gear’ and intentionally executed the plan as entrepreneurs – being dynamic, problem-solving and rapidly adapting to change. By doing so, we’ve scaled with ‘glocal’ behaviours: an organisation that seeks to balance appropriate country autonomy with global consistency. Our CV19 response – as well as keeping education going through temporary school closures in 2020/21, and reopening successfully recently – is perhaps one of the best examples of this.


A budget isn’t just a budget, it’s a plan. It costs just over a dollar per week to educate a child in a UWS Community School – this represents a terrific value and is very compelling for philanthropists. We’ve played to our strength here over the years, not just with financial transparency (which is essential), but also with clear financials giving confidence in who is running the organisation. And we’ve encouraged internal colleagues to deeply engage with our numbers – and therefore own our cost-conscious, high-impact plans.


We can all choose our attitude. We’ve chosen positivity. UWS operate in difficult places – positivity has been essential to keep enthusiasm, a can-do approach and optimism. Positivity has also been infectious, motivating teams, building and sustaining organisation momentum.   


We’ve had the opportunity to engage with some extraordinarily brilliant people on our journey. The opportunities to listen and learn have been significant, and every day as CEO, I’ve aimed to improve something. This has also empowered stakeholders around the world to continue to lean in - feeling part of the journey, and able to contribute to it.   


We’re in the people business. It’s a challenging and complicated business – and also deeply rewarding. Yet in our relentless pursuit of the ‘next’ goal or objectives, we perhaps haven’t always taken the time to celebrate and recognise success on route. The learning? Taking an opportunity to make someone’s day today, sets up even more success tomorrow.    

“I live in Heluwabesi with my aunt and uncle. I have no idea where my mother has gone. I don’t even remember her. According to my Auntie Bhim, she left my father and went for another man, when I was just a little girl. After that, my father took me to a person in the village and asked them to look after me as he was unable to do so on his own.

One day, Auntie Bhim came to get me. At first, I didn’t want to go as I had gotten used to living with my foster family, but she said she will look after me like her own daughter. I still resisted, but she insisted and so, I went to live with her, my uncle and my little ‘sister’. My aunt helped me and bought me new clothes.'' 

Preeti's aunt Bhim never had the chance to go to school. She's determined that Preeti has the opportunity to learn, and follow her dreams. 

“When I was young, I wanted to go to school, but I never went because my father asked me not to go - he needed me to stay home and work. So I never went to school."


“I worked at home; my brothers would ask me to chop firewood, it was those kinds of chores.

I believe that going to school will improve my children’s minds and I tell Preeti, my eldest niece) to study. So, as long as I am here, they get to focus on their studies.

I have hope that she can become an important person in the future. I advise her to study and not be distracted.”

As the first girl in her family to go school, Preeti has the chance to break the cycle of poverty, and to dream of something more.

”Auntie Bhim insists that I go to school every day – and it makes her happy to see me go. And I enjoy going to school. On my way I see lots of beautiful fields, but it takes a long time to get there as it’s a bit far away from our home.

I like the school environment and enjoy studying. I feel glad when our teachers let us play – I love to skip. My favourite subject is Nepali. When I grow up, I want to become a doctor. ”

Preeti’s teacher Laxmi is glad that Preeti has a chance to get an education, something that wouldn’t have been possible without the building of the school in the village.

”When I taught her Maths in class 3, I asked her to study the multiplication table of 2 and she was almost the first one to memorise the multiplication table, which proves that she has an intelligent mind.  Even the top ranked students could not compete with her.”


This International Day of the Girl, help girls like Preeti to get the education that every child deserves. Donate today, and your gift will help us provide education to remote and marginalised communities, to help girls like Preeti break the cycle of poverty, and have the chance to achieve their dreams. 

Donate today, and your gift will help us provide education to remote and marginalised communities