Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in The Gambia
In the most densely populated country in West Africa, girls face significant barriers to education. But despite obstacles like traditional gender norms and the vicious poverty cycle that followed British colonialism, The Gambia has made impressive strides in making education more accessible for girls.

Here are the top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia.

Top Ten Facts About Girls’ Education in The Gambia

  1. Primary schools have achieved gender parity. Hopes for girls’ education in The Gambia are high, especially for the youngest girls. Since 2007, there has been an equal number of Gambian boys and girls enrolled in primary school. A significant portion of this success can be attributed to the Education for All initiative, which was implemented by UNESCO in 2004.
  2. Primary school completion remains a hurdle. While the primary school enrollment gap has disappeared, primary school completion is a different picture. For every 100 boys that complete their basic education, only 74 girls do the same. From 2009 to 2012, the girls’ primary school completion rate dropped from 82 percent to 70 percent. Additionally, out of the girls that do complete basic education, few will go on to secondary school.
  3. Secondary school enrollment is unequal across genders. In The Gambia, the net secondary school enrollment rate is low to begin with, and girls only constitute approximately 30 percent of all students enrolled in secondary or vocational schools.
  4. Social expectations place pressure on girls. The traditional family structure values a girl’s role in domestic labor, from cooking and cleaning to caring for younger siblings. Especially as girls get older, there is an added opportunity cost to attending school: girls are unable to complete the plethora of tasks thrown at them––and they are unable to earn immediate income for their families.
  5. Girls in rural areas face unique obstacles. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for girls living in urban areas was 73 percent, while the GER for girls in rural areas was 63 percent, as of 1999. But in one region farthest from the capital, girls’ GER was only 44 percent.
  6. School fees have been eliminated. In September 2013, the Global Partnership for Education partnered with the World Bank and The Gambian government to eliminate school fees for primary school. For families who could previously not afford to send their daughters to school, primary school became accessible. In September 2014, this was extended to upper basic and secondary schools as well.
  7. Scholarships for girls are available. Before school fees were abolished, Gambian government scholarships specifically for girls were available to encourage poor families to send their daughters to school. This government scholarship program increased girls’ school enrollment by nine percent. Still, many indirect costs, such as textbooks and uniforms, still place a disproportionate burden on poor families. But these top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia reflect that the Gambian government is making girls’ education a priority: they now provide merit-based scholarships to alleviate these indirect costs.
  8. Mothers’ Clubs encourage girls. Across The Gambia, 90 Mothers’ Clubs are raising money and awareness for girls’ education. UNICEF provides labor-saving machines: less time working means more time for school. UNICEF also provides seed money for the women to embark on income-generating projects to support their local schools and alleviate the aforementioned indirect costs of girls’ education.
  9. Menstrual hygiene at school is improving. Historically, menstruation has forced girls to take time off from school, making it difficult to keep up with coursework. To address this, the Education for All initiative began providing free sanitary pads at schools. Studies showed that this initiative significantly increased girls’ self-confidence and school attendance rates. After sanitary pads were supplied, girls’ attendance increased from 68 percent up to nearly 90 percent.
  10. Take Our Daughters to Work inspires young girls. An initiative called “Take Our Daughters to Work” pairs young Gambian girls with female mentors. For one week, girls shadow their mentors at work, build important professional connections, and get a glimpse of what their futures can look like.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in The Gambia show that despite social barriers, focused government initiatives and a dedicated community have the potential to change the status quo.

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

Gender Equality and Female Empowerment in Rwanda
Although Rwanda is considered an impoverished nation, it ranks number four in gender equality. On the same scale, The United States ranks number 49. Interestingly, this shift towards gender equality in Rwanda came as a result of the 1994 genocide.

Before that tragic event, women were usually caretakers and were rarely financially independent or in a position of power. During the genocide, more than 800,000 people died in just 100 days, and most of these individuals were men. This shifted the population to be 60 – 70 percent female and as a result, women were forced into formerly male-dominated jobs.

Government Support of Women

President Kagame led this movement, realizing women were necessary for the country’s recovery because there simply were not enough men to rebuild. The government rewrote the constitution in 2003, encouraging female education and requiring at least 30 percent of positions in parliament to be held by women.

In the first election following this change, the requirement was exceeded with 48 percent of seats going to women. The following election saw an even greater increase with 64 percent of parliamentary seats being held by females. This makes Rwanda number one in a global ranking of countries with the most women in legislature. For comparison, The United States ranks 96 with only 19 percent of seats going to women.

Social Inequality as a Mindset

Despite these great strides towards gender equality in Rwanda, women’s perception at home does not seem to line up with that of their public lives. Girls are still raised to be submissive both in school at home, believing that something as simple as becoming president of a club is reserved only for men.

While they are holding positions of power and becoming economically independent, women still fear speaking out against their husbands and are expected to continue to be the only one to take care of housework and childcare. Many Rwandan women see the term “feminism” as a negative, Western concept.

Unlike most social movements, this change in gender equality did not come from the oppressed group, but from President Paul Kagame. Rwandan women were ushered into positions of power before they truly believed in the movement, and now, they must play catch up with their mindset.

Working to Change Preconceived Ideas

Many organizations are helping to change that perception, starting with female education. Women to Women International has a one-year foundation training program, enabling women to become financially self-sufficient and, subsequently, build the confidence to fight for their rights and equality at home. This organization has helped 76,000 women in the ten years it has been operating.

The Akilah Institute for Women is an all-female college that fosters a more positive learning environment for women, enhancing the skills needed to launch careers in many different fields. The Institute has an 88 percent success rate for graduates. Fawe’s Girls’ School encourages young girls to take STEM courses to overcome the stigma that these classes are generally for men. They work to empower girls to understand their importance and to defend their rights. They also work to train teachers to be more gender inclusive.

Gender equality in Rwanda is far ahead of most of the world, but women must truly believe in their rights for this to be effective. With the next generation being raised in a world where gender does not restrict women from a job and schools encourage female participation and confidence; hopefully, Rwandan women will embrace their newfound power and continue to lead the world in gender equality.

Georgia Orenstein
Photo: Flickr

Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small, Spanish-speaking country located off the coast of Central Africa. Similar to many developing nations, Equatorial Guinea continues to work to reduce poverty rates and enhance the quality of life for its citizens.

As part of the effort to meet the targets set by The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), there was a strong focus placed on improving women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. A great emphasis was placed on reducing maternal mortality by strengthening the healthcare infrastructure and expanding the health workforce.

Maternal mortality

Maternal mortality refers to the number of women who die each year due to causes related to pregnancy, childbirth, and/or the period after delivery or termination of pregnancy. The MDG 5 target for maternal health was to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters between 1990 and 2015 and to achieve universal access to reproductive health.

This translates to a maternal mortality ratio below 75 deaths per 100,000 live births. In order to meet the MGD goal and improve women’s health in Equatorial Guinea, the country needed to improve access to family planning services, encourage consistent prenatal care and quality health facilities with trained workers needed to be established.

Healthcare Infrastructure

In 1992, the country’s Ministry of Health created The National Plan of Action for Women and Children to increase access to family planning services, prenatal care and skilled delivery. A key component of this plan included strengthening the health care infrastructure by establishing a system of polyclinics, regional, provincial and district hospitals. This introduced accessible care throughout the country, especially in vulnerable regions.

The Ministry of Health also instituted a set of guidelines and regulations for these new facilities to improve the quality of care that patients received. Public health education campaigns were then utilized to increase awareness of the healthcare services and to encourage women to access these services. These efforts were successful in increasing the number of women who were aware of the importance and benefits of prenatal care. In fact, women were much more likely to show up for appointments and go earlier in their pregnancies when they had received antenatal education early on.

Healthcare Workforce

In 2008, to ensure that women received quality care, the Foundation for the Development of Nursing (FUDEN) was formed by The Ministry of Health to recruit and train nurses and midwives. Within its first 5 years, FUDEN successfully trained 153 new nurses and midwives. With this strong emphasis placed on expanding the health workforce, part of The Ministry of Health’s goals is to ensure that each village in the country had at least one trained midwife.

The introduction of trained health workers resulted in a direct improvement to women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. The percent of births attended by a skilled health worker increased from 5 percent in 1994 to 65 percent in 2000. The number of women who received prenatal care also increased from 37 percent to 91 percent from 1994 to 2011.

Setting the Goals for 2020

Through improved access to facilities and trained health workers, there was a great improvement in women’s health in Equatorial Guinea. The country successfully achieved MDG 5 with an 81 percent reduction to maternal deaths. As Equatorial Guinea looks to meet the Horizon 2020 goals, there will be a continued focus on improving maternal mortality and women’s health.

The Ministry of Health has developed plans to implement a nationwide reproductive health policy and to use a “Reach Every District” strategy to ensure that all regions are provided with the same resources to improve the health of all citizens. Hopefully, these plans will capitalize on the success of the MDG and continue to improve women’s health in Equatorial Guinea.

– Chinanu Chi-Ukpai
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kenya 
Kenya is a country located on the eastern coast of the African continent with ongoing reforms for tremendous political, social and economic development. The first steps of these reforms began with the passage of a new constitution in 2010 that introduced a bicameral legislative house and devolved county government. Whilst these developments are taking place, the country faces challenges fighting poverty, inequality, climate change and the vulnerability of the economy to internal and external fluctuations.

A huge subset of these challenges facing Kenya is girls education. Similar to the countries across the continent, Kenya portrays a reality where girls are denied their right to education due to social and cultural norms, such as child marriage and female genital cutting aside from economic barriers. These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kenya reveal some of the historical contexts for these hurdles, the challenges for better access and steps being taken toward future goals. 

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Kenya

  1. In 2003, Kenya enacted a law that made primary education free. As a result of this legislation, enrollment rates increased to 84 percent. 
  2. This legislation by the government had a positive outcome at large; however, it was found that in some regions where poverty and gender inequality are particularly high, only 19 percent of girls were in school. 
  3. From the student population that enrolls in the first year of school, one in five (or less) make it to their eighth year. This high rate of dropouts is a result of early marriage, female genital cutting, poverty and other factors. 
  4. Female genital cutting is a historically and culturally rooted social tradition that has reached as high as 89 percent of the female population in marginalized areas such as the Maasailand in Kenya. 
  5. While the practice of genital cutting is illegal in Kenya, lots of parents in marginalized areas still subject their girls to female genital cutting with the aim of eliminating teenage pregnancies and increasing girls’ chances for marriage. 
  6. Although primary education is free, a family still holds the responsibility of paying for textbooks, uniforms and teachers’ salaries. Moreover, if a child is going to school, it also means that they are not spending time contributing to the family’s income. Such an occurrence adds a perceived loss in addition to the cost of going to school. This is particularly worse for girls who are expected to marry early and join their husband’s family. 
  7. In 2016, the U.N. reported that an estimated one in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss school during their menstrual cycle due to an inability to access affordable sanitary products. 
  8. Despite its many obstacles, Kenya has met some Millennium Development Goals with targets — including reduced child mortality, near universal primary school enrolment and narrowed gender gaps in education. 
  9. A step for progress, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Basic Education Amendment Act requiring the government to provide free sanitary towels to schoolgirls in 2017 and allocated $4.6 million to the gender department ministry for the projects. 
  10. One year of secondary education for a girl in Kenya corresponds to over 25 percent increase in wages; if girls were to finish their secondary education, child marriage would be reduced by at least 50 percent. 

Investing in Girls’ Education in Kenya

Long-standing traditions and beliefs along with high levels of poverty are seemingly huge hurdles to overcome; however, the pursuit of providing more than half of the Kenyan population with access to education is a challenge worth taking — especially when it has the potential for great social and economic returns. 

– Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

Informal Sector in India
The socio-economic landscape in India is largely informal. According to the International Labor Organization, close to an estimated 81 percent of all employed people in India are engaged in the informal economy, most of which is in the agricultural sector.

The Informal Sector in India

Contrary to popular belief, the informal sector in India has seen improvements in productivity and employment and, to some extent, wages. The informal sector contributes to the economy and also helps the formal economy; however, informal economy workers continue to earn lower wages, lack social security and have less protection than their peers in the organized sector. The informal sector attracts the workforce because it offers easy access; the formal sector, on the other hand, hosts barriers to entry that are often costly and tedious to get through.

The informal sector in India is socially regulated rather than state-regulated; however, the government is attempting to gather data and regularize the informal sector through the process of digitization. This will allow for effective regulation of cash transfers and provide the government with the tools to better understand the informal sector. By mapping the vast informal sector, the government will have more information about the real growth in India’s economy.

Women Workers in India

Around 94 percent of total women workers are employed in the informal sector, most of whom work as agricultural workers, construction labor and domestic help. Many women are able to gain entry and jobs in this sector, as there are no barriers with regards to skill. This then acts as a way for women to provide for their families. Women find it difficult to enter the organized sector, and their gender exposes them to political, economic and social discrimination, which is why they enter the informal sector.

There is hope that women’s participation in the workforce will reduce gender inequality and that integrating women into the labor force will allow for social and economic empowerment. However, there is a  lack of recognition of the role of women in both their homes and at work.

Equality, Gender and Children

It might appear that there is little gender discrimination in the informal sector, as it is commonplace to see women working alongside men, carrying heavy loads on construction sites or in brick kilns. However, closer examination reveals that amongst the more skilled and higher-paid jobs — such as that of masons, plumbers or carpenters — the workforce is predominantly male.

There are also concerns about the welfare of children —  women are often left with no option but to bring infants to the workplace, where they exist largely unattended. Non-governmental organizations are now setting up mobile creches so that the children of migrant workers receive some care; but this option is limited in its current status as an urban phenomenon, confined to the metropolises.

Goal for Growth

Women’s collectives are agencies which provide women with the space to grow and demand rights. This provides women with legal training to seek social services and adequate work conditions. In recent years we see greater activity here, especially in the field of legal aid, and women-only police stations make it easier for women to seek justice.

Some areas, however, remain untouched; domestic workers, for instance, have no written contracts, they enjoy no mandatory weekly off days nor any regulated working hours. Thus. one can see that there is a need to create regulations in the informal sector in India to measure growth, empower women and improve working conditions.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

e-Commerce Industry in India
The e-commerce industry in India is growing at an unprecedented rate and is estimated to be worth $150 billion by 2022. This industry is expected to generate employment throughout the country; it includes e-travel, e-tail and e-financial services. Fashion retail is around 30 percent of the online retail searches and may reach as much as $35 billion by 2020. This will be a significant source of employment for women and minorities.

Supporting Digital Commerce

The Government of India has supported this sector through initiatives such as Digital India and Startup India. Digital India is a campaign to increase access to digital technology throughout the country by improving infrastructure, spreading awareness about digital technology and digitizing government services. This campaign has been endorsed by several high profile companies such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Other major initiatives, such as the GST (Goods and Services Tax), have coaxed the economy away from cash transactions towards the digital economy.

The Government of India has involved various stakeholders from the private and public sector to create an updated e-commerce policy that recommends improving the regulatory mechanism and enforcing certain protectionist barriers. The draft version of this policy includes providing data protection for users, giving more control to the founders of e-commerce and encouraging domestic production.

Helping Women Become Successful Entrepreneurs

The e-commerce industry in India is expected to generate more than a million jobs by 2023; this will not only increase jobs in the corporate sector but also in industries such as logistics, warehousing, customer care, human resources and technology. This will benefit many Indians in both urban and rural areas.

Studies show that more than 70 percent of online sellers come from smaller towns, and more than 20 percent of them are women. Thus, e-commerce encourages women entrepreneurship and adds to the growth of the economy. Creating opportunities for women to be economically independent helps fight gender norms and make progress towards economic equality of the sexes.

Many women are selling products within the fashion, health and wellness as well as handicraft industries. The ability to work from home is a convenient and effective way to earn a living, and it also supplements family incomes. Studies show that empowering women has a huge impact on the health and well being of the family.

An online portal named Mahila-e-Haat is an organization that facilitates a direct interaction between vendors and buyers. It provides support to women who wish to gain financial independence; this group is expected to help 125,000 women nationwide.

Craftsmanship on the Rise

Global as well as local companies are contributing to the market by expanding the workforce. Many traditional craftsman and artisans have been able to use this platform to sell their products. Now, they can continue the age-old traditions of craftsmanship while at the same time break free from the traditional costs of the middleman.

Plus, the e-commerce industry in India is empowering small manufacturers since many e-commerce companies are employing experienced craftsman, many of whom were not formally employed before, but rather, worked with their families unofficially.

– Isha Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Identification closes the gender gap
Empowering women has long been acknowledged as a key ingredient in reducing poverty and improving economic development. The United Nations (U.N.) has set 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality underlies almost all of them. More specifically, the fifth SDG is set to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. As the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes, these goals are interdependent, meaning gender equality is essential not only to the economic prosperity of the communities but for other important issues like health and sustainability as well.

Even today, gender inequality persists worldwide, depriving women of basic human rights and equal opportunities. In poverty-stricken communities around the world, an estimated 90 percent sustain long-standing social practices that devalue women.

Need for Identification

Breaking these modes will require great efforts. Both legal and cultural strides need to change in order to counter deeply ingrained discrimination throughout societies. Studies by the U.N. and UNHCR found that women in conflict and poverty affected regions do not have adequate identification documents. These documents are necessary for achieving the benefits of civic and public life.

Access to identification closes the gender gap in the developing world, but a lack of awareness around the documents prevents women from obtaining them in some cases. Many believe that identification cards are only necessary for exceptional circumstances when in reality they are needed to make the most of social programs and civil rights.

Having personal identification cards in the developing world acts as an important stepping stone. In having the ability to access decisive services and claim entitlements as citizens, women are able to increase their voice and agency through civic participation, access to finances and voting. In assisting women’s social engagement, identification closes the gender gap.

Example of Myanmar

All factors of the country development are intertwined. Women’s documentation is often essential to the peace process in some countries. Resolving the issue of land rights, for example, is crucial to the current conflict in Myanmar, and gender inclusion in the peace process is fundamental to reaching a genuine peace accord. The laws in this country allow women to register and co-register for the property even if they are not head of the household.

While progressive laws have been enacted, there lies a major gap between the law and the reality that women face. Cultural conventions exclude women from participating in land governing let alone a peace accord, making it essential that their names are registered to partake in community meetings. The decisions affect both women and men, making identification an important transition step in transforming cultural norms in poverty and conflict-stricken regions.

Problems with Women Identification

In 2012, four out of every 10 infants born worldwide were not registered with civil governments or authorities. Globally, 750 million children lack identification. A 2013 UNICEF survey found that there is no major disparity between the birth registration of boys and girls.

Evidence suggests that adult women, however, face gender-specific barriers to getting identification documents. Women must provide proof of marriage, additional family signatures and conduct many other steps in the process to obtain identification that men simply do not have to deal with. Unmarried women especially face discrimination as, without a male counterpart or marriage certificate, obtaining identification documents (IDs) is often impossible. IDs are also optional for women, although essential to accessing civic opportunities and required for men.

Increasing access to identification closes the gender gap by helping international organizations better plan and target gender inequality in poverty. The incompleteness of civil registration for women has generated holes in statistics and data for organizations like the World Bank to measure the progress of women in the developing world.

Changing Cultural Barriers

Equality is fundamental to building strong societies. Having active members at every level of a community makes the plight of poverty that much easier to conquer. Gender equality is no different. Ensuring that more than half of the population can do its part must remain at the foremost of poverty reduction endeavors.

While the legal framework with these notions in mind has changed for the better, an uphill battle in the mindset of the communities is much needed. Obtaining identification is the first step in employing available programs and in realizing the agency needed to transform the cultural barriers that devalue women.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls' Education in Gabon
The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon presented in the text below are interesting to consider because of the intersection they suggest between the country’s strengths and weaknesses. Women in Gabon suffer at the hands of domestic abuse and a deficiency of certain instrumental rights. At the same time, literacy rates in the country are relatively high compared to other countries in the region.

The 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Gabon

  1. Compulsory education in Gabon lasts for 10 years. Students begin at age 6 and finish at age 15. This can be considered as a relatively short period, particularly when compared with a typical education in a country like the United States where students usually begin their education at age 6 and finish at age 18.
  2. In 2012, about 82 percent of people over age 15 in Gabon were considered literate. Out of this number, 85 percent were male and 80 percent were female. This is one indicator of gender inequity in education in Gabon.
  3. Compared to other countries in the region, Gabon has a relatively high overall education enrollment rate. In 2005, this rate was at the 92.4 percent. This may, in part, have to do with the fact that education is compulsory through certain ages.
  4. There is overcrowding in primary level schools and a high drop out rate in secondary schools. This suggests that when the compulsory years are finished, students neglect the idea of continuing their education.
  5. Gender equality in schools increases with age and education level. Still, only 54 percent of female students in Gabon continue into the latter parts of secondary education.
  6. UNICEF is making efforts to help keep girls in school. The Ministry of Family has set up in-school daycare to help ensure that young mothers are able to attend school. Many women in the country marry and start families young so solutions like these are essential to ensure woman’s continuing education.
  7. Poverty is most rampant in villages in Gabon. Because of this, villages also lack proper education systems. This often means that children have to attend schools far away from their homes. Families in rural areas often discourage their children from pursuing education, particularly females who are expected to help in the household.
  8. Education itself is free in Gabon but students are subject to fees that amount to about $50. Poor families cannot afford these fees and their children are, as a consequence, unable to receive an education. This education barrier affects both girls and boys in the country.
  9. In 2011, a study revealed that 77 percent of children in Gabon were victims of violence. Children are not likely to want to continue education past compulsory stages if it is associated with trauma and abuse.
  10. Constitution of Gabon affirms gender equality and the country has ratified documents affirming women’s rights but problems still persist. Women are frequently victims of domestic abuse and are often forced to marry at very young ages. These young marriages often prevent them from continuing to pursue their education.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Gabon indicate that though the system is providing decent literacy rates, education in Gabon is far from perfect. Women still face lower literacy rates than men and early marriages prevent them from having sufficient educational opportunities.

Efforts like those of UNICEF mentioned above will help to ameliorate such problems but the most promising prospects for the future will have to come from the country itself.

– Julia Bloechl
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education
A history of conflict has negatively reflected on girls’ educational future in Iraq. Education levels have never returned to their pre-Gulf War levels. Furthermore, conflict with ISIS has erased much of the progress for girls’ education seen through higher enrollment rates in times of relative peace. Therefore, a rough chronology of conflicts is useful when reading the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, as these events drastically change the quality of education.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Iraq

  1. Girls are under-represented in both primary and secondary schools and tend to drop out at a higher rate than boys. In the 2015/2016 school year, five million boys were enrolled in school compared to 4.2 million girls. In addition, at the lower secondary level, 4.7 percent of girls dropped out compared to 3.6 percent of boys.
  2. Rural girls are one of the groups with the lowest access to education in Iraq. For example, the lowest rate of primary school enrollment is among rural girls. The enrollment rate in 2009 was only 68 percent. Furthermore, this enrollment rate drops even further to 15 percent when analyzing the secondary school enrollment among rural girls. A contributing factor to this situation is the decline in the capabilities of teachers.
  3. The illiteracy rate among girls that are 12 and older is more than double the male rate. The illiteracy rate for girls is 28.2 percent, compared to the male rate of 13 percent. According to the U.N., traditional cultural and social factors remain main obstacles in improving the access to education for girls. The discrepancy between literacy rates illustrates how gender-based discrimination in the education system is both a cause and an effect of poverty.
  4. The rate of girls’ education and their access to adequate teaching was slightly better in Northern Iraq than the other regions in 2007. In the southern provinces, there was a decline in female attendance from two girls for every three boys to one girl for every four boys in this same time period.
  5. While this was true in 2007, a 2016 report by a UNICEF consultant found that in Kurdistan, the northern region of Iraq, education environments were a momentous challenge to girls’ education. Mistreatment, beatings and poor quality of teaching was reported, giving parents more reasons to remove their girls from school.
  6. While girls do suffer from underrepresentation in the school system, total girls’ enrollment in Iraq was 4.2 million in 2015-2016, up from 3.8 million in 2013-2014. Although this statistic is initially promising, two problems remain. First, girls still remain at a disadvantage in educational access. Contributing factors to the issue of educational access include a family’s wealth, the child’s age and the choice to work instead of attending school. Second, if the trend toward increased enrollment continues, a strain will be placed on existing educational resources and further funding for public education are needed.
  7. About 355,000 internally displaced children in Iraq don’t attend school, the majority of them being girls. The two main sources of internally displaced persons (IDP) originate from the upheaval caused by the Syrian civil war and the brutality of the Islamic State in neighboring countries. In IDP camps, the most common reason cited for children not attending school was a lack of interest in the classes. Other reasons included the cost of education and the time period for their arrival at the camp.
  8. Cities occupied by the Islamic State struggle to provide education to girls. In 2014, the Islamic State detained up to 7,000 Yazidi women and girls in Northern Iraq, removing them from access to education. Given the testimony of survivors who managed to escape, a report released by Human Rights Watch stated that the crimes against the Yazidis in Northern Iraq might amount to crimes against humanity.
  9. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) first access to an education project in Iraq is in collaboration with teachers from the Al-Rajaa school for girls in Ramadi. When the ICRC team first visited the school it there was danger and destruction around every corner, so the ICRC team began to rebuild it. This school is the only one in Ramadi to offer a science curriculum to girls’ and has been reopened in 2017 after conflict forced it to shut down. The school currently educates approximately 600 children.
  10. The issue of girls’ education in Iraq has received the attention of humanitarian celebrities like Malala Yousafazai who spent her 20th birthday in Iraq meeting with young women who were, and continue to be, victims of ISIS. The meeting was part of the Malala Fund’s Girl Power Trip, an initiative meant to tell the stories of the more than 130 million girls around the world who are out of school.

As it can be seen through these top 10 facts about girls’ education in Iraq, the education system continues to be plagued by conflicts in the country, and girls are disproportionately at higher risk of dropping out or repeating grades if remained in school.

While this is certainly a cause for concern, the risks for girls’ education in Iraq have not gone unnoticed and many strive to change this. The Iraqi education system was once hailed as the best in the Middle East and many nongovernmental organizations, domestic policymakers, politicians, celebrities, and the local populous desire to return it to this position of dominance.

Georgie Giannopoulos

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Nepal
Nepal is one of nine Asian countries carrying the status of “least developed.” Any instability the country faced was intensified by the 2015 earthquake that killed over 6,000 people. One of the sectors tied to country’s much-needed development is, of course, education. To get a sense of the status of the education system in the country, in the text below the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Nepal

  1. In 2015, 48.05 percent of women older than 15 did not have any form of education. Of the total population aged 15 and older, 36.15 percent did not have any education. This rate increases with age as 91.61 percent of women in the age group from 60 to 64 did not have any form of education.
  2. Gender-separate bathrooms are only available in one-third of schools in Nepal. This deters some from attending school over concerns of modesty or, sometimes, inability to follow religious guidelines that require separation of toilets.
  3. A project conducted in recent years found that 72 percent of students in Nepal saw their peers involved in gender-related violent situations though only 55 percent took action against it. Thus, schools cannot be considered a safe space for female students.
  4. Forty-one percent of Nepali women between ages 20 and 24 are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is most prevalent among less educated, poor women. Improving female education may improve the childhood marriage rate.
  5. The practice of chhaupadi often prevents women from attending school. Chhaupadi involves the banishing of girls who are menstruating to sheds where they are forced to suffer alone and risk catching illnesses. This dangerous practice, which was legally banned in 2005, still persists.
  6. Only about 11.8 percent of Dalit (lowest caste in Nepal) women are in secondary school. This indicates that education is both an issue of gender and class division.
  7. In Nepal, 44 percent of primary school teachers are female. This is the most encouraging fact about girls’ education in the country since this suggests that there is something near gender equality in teaching professions. This fact may be encouraging to young school girls.
  8. Only about 25 percent of women in Nepal enroll in higher education and their presence is particularly weak in technical and vocational education programs. Instead, there are large numbers of women in, for example, health-related professions such as nursing. In other words, professions are somewhat gender-segregated in the country.
  9. Though the quality of education in Nepal is not high, school enrollment rates are increasing across genders. Since 1990, the primary school enrollment rate has increased from 64 to 96 percent. Nepal is working to improve its education system by providing wider access to education.
  10. The Government of Nepal has developed the School Sector Development Plan (SSDP) that will last from 2016 to 2023. This plan is part of the country’s goal of graduating from the status of a least developed country by the year 2022. The plan will look to instigate growth in the Nepali education program and ensure quality education for all citizens.

In recent years, Nepal has faced great hardship. After the 2015 earthquake, the country faced the unwieldy challenge of rebuilding much of its infrastructure, including education facilities. Organizations like USAID supported this effort by helping the government establish temporary learning centers across the country.

Though Nepal faces great challenges, many are encouraged by some of the country’s efforts toward bettering its education system and promoting gender equity.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Nepal suggest that though the country has a long way to go before being considered as well-developed, progress is being made in the education sector.

– Julia Bloechl

Photo: Flickr