Erin Ganju is a Managing Director at The Echidna Giving Fund, which invests in organizations advancing girls’ education in lower-income countries. Prior to her role at Echidna Giving, Erin turned a bold idea for advancing literacy and gender equality into an international NGO: Room to Read. Erin was a Co-Founder, former Chief Executive Officer, former Chief Operating Officer, and currently remains an Emeritus Board Member of Room to Read. During her tenure, Room to Read helped over 12 million children in 15 countries pursue a quality education. Erin was selected as the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur (2014); recognized as a Global Impact Featured Member for 2017 by the Young Presidents’ Organization; and awarded the Women’s Bond Club Isabel Benham Award (2014). She also co-authored Scaling Global Change: A Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Surviving the Start-up Phase and Driving Impact.
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Room to Read
Room to Read focuses on two of the most significant issues in developing countries where extreme poverty and other barriers prevent children from pursuing an education: literacy and girls’ education.
The Literacy program increases access to culturally-relevant, age-appropriate reading materials; increases the effectiveness of teachers to teach literacy skills; and improves the school environment to be more conducive to learning. To increase the amount of culturally-appropriate reading material, Room to Read trains local authors and illustrators on themes and techniques for younger readers and commissions books from local publishers, thereby fueling a local publishing industry. In addition, Room to Read has established more than 16,000 school libraries and trained over 40,000 teachers on how to engage students with reading material, including lesson plans, book reports, and read aloud sessions.
Under the Girls’ Education programme, Room to Read provides financial assistance and mentoring through a network of social mobilizers, who act as role models, counsellors, and advocates for girls. Girls enrolled in the programme also attend life skills camps and workshops to develop needed skills in school and after graduation, such as self-awareness and empathy, communication and interpersonal skills, decision- making and problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and coping with stress and emotions. The Girls Education programme cumulatively reached 25,000 girls in 2013 and maintains a 95% retention rate.
To date, the organization has benefitted the lives of nearly 9 million children. Evaluation studies in multiple countries demonstrate that children in schools that have Room to Read programmes read for leisure 20-30% more on a weekly basis than children in government schools.