Dr. Molly Teas
Harvard GlobalWE is proud to recognize the efforts of Dr. Teas, a pioneer in girls' education initiatives worldwide. Her commitment to the empowerment of women and girls has spanned decades, and has had a significant impact on generations of individuals, families and communities throughout the developing world.
Dr. Teas’ lifelong commitment to the empowerment of women and girls began more than thirty years ago, when she ventured to Nepal as U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer. Here, as a math and science teacher, she got to know a small group of girls from the village in which she worked. Despite the girls’ long treks to and from their homes and school, despite their want for books and materials, and despite the school’s lack of electricity, water or a latrine, the girls soaked up their education as if it were pure happiness. Their positivity and tenacity kept them going through 6th grade, which was a feat for that village, for those times, and for the girls. It was that small group of Nepalese girls who inspired Dr. Teas to commit the rest of her professional life to improving schools and education for girls around the world.
Teas’ commitment has not waned. Since her days as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Dr. Teas has helped forge significant inroads for girls’ education in developing countries. In the early-mid 1990’s, as an Education Specialist for The World Bank, Teas helped design and implement the highly acclaimed Female Secondary School Assistance Project in Bangladesh. The program provided tuition and stipends to girls in low-literacy areas of Bangladesh in an effort to help girls stay in school through Grade 10. Over the life of the project, the enrollment of girls in supported schools more than doubled, and more than 1.6 million girls received stipends.
A few years later, as an Adjunct Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr. Teas brought her learnings and passion into the classroom through her course on Gender Issues in International Education. The course addressed issues of school enrollment, retention, and dropout rates among girls in developing countries. Through assigned research projects designed to introduce or test strategies to increase girls’ enrollment in a developing countries, several of Teas’ students won grants and went on to conduct innovative research projects.
In early 2000, as a Senior Advisor for Education for the U.S. Department of State, Teas developed a partnership between the United States Government and Room to Read, a non-profit organization focused on literacy and gender equality in education. Room to Read works in collaboration with communities and local governments across Asia and Africa to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children, and to support girls in completing secondary school with the life-skills they will need to succeed in school and beyond. Room to Read has helped millions of children across ten countries in Africa and Asia. The partnership Dr. Teas forged between the USG and Room to Read has helped promote education, establish school libraries and create new local language children’s books throughout South Asia.
Today, Dr. Teas continues her work as an Education Specialist for The World Bank with a focus on capacity building for science, engineering and technology in Sub-Saharan Africa. She also supports Art Works For Change as a member of the Board of Directors. AWFC creates contemporary art exhibitions that address critical social and environmental issues, including human trafficking and violence against women.
Harvard GlobalWe is honored to recognize Dr. Teas, and to have featured her in our October 2015 event, Bondage and Trafficking in Nepal. Together, Harvard GlobalWE members from around the world gathered online for a viewing of Suma Tharu’s Chapter, a 13-minute segment from the film, Girl Rising, followed by a live, online discussion of bondage and human trafficking in Nepal with Dr. Teas. Suma Tharu is one the the 1,200 young female scholars that Dr. Teas supported through the U.S. Government’s partnership with Room to Read. In 2012, 10x10, the global action campaign that produced Girl Rising, brought Suma to New York for the Women in the World Summit to hear her story. Before the event, Dr. Teas met Suma, and was reminded of the tiny group of girls in the village in Nepal; the ones who, more than 30 years ago, inspired the young Peace Corps Volunteer to commit her professional life to improving schools and education for girls.
Thank you, Dr. Teas, for your enduring commitment to global women’s empowerment.