Girls' Education in Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, is known for its rich culture. Unfortunately, their economy is still very poor. There are many factors that lead to poverty, but education, specifically girls’ education in Malawi, is a major source of financial turmoil that is often overlooked.

Girls’ Education and Poverty

World Bank has found that girls around the world are consistently enrolled in school at lower rates than boys. Malawi is no exception. While around 67% of boys in the country complete primary school, that number is 8% lower for girls. This gap stays consistent throughout different stages of schooling. Low-income households have a larger divide between male and female education. When analyzing upper-class families in Malawi, researchers found little difference in the percentage of girls and boys attending school.

The Malala Fund discovered that improving girls’ education has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in revenue, while also increasing human rights. Therefore, the barriers to female literacy must not be overlooked. Data analysis proves that nations that discourage education for girls also have higher rates of financial struggle and a larger wage gap. As proven by the aforementioned connections between class and school enrollment, economic barriers are a factor to illiteracy. However, attempting to combat poverty without working toward equal access to education for girls will not yield results.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Daniel Moyo spoke to The Borgen Project on the relationship between education inequality and economic strain in Malawi. As the program director for Ministry of Hope Malawi, he witnesses these issues firsthand. The entrenched cultural norms that Moyo says “look at girls as sexual objects and not as equal human beings” are much more difficult to overcome than the financial burdens. Moyo explains that sexism in schooling directly impacts the economy by “creating a situation where most women are not only housewives, but also left to suffer in acute poverty.”

When charities provide economic funding for girls’ education in Malawi without understanding cultural barriers as well, their efforts are futile. Moyo cites an example of aid that went wrong due to this oversight. An NGO sponsored a secondary school in Phalombe and provided every girl with economic support. However, this backfired because it neglected to tackle the surrounding issues. Moyo discusses how the money gave the students freedom without guidance, resulting in their newfound status being used to “compete for boyfriends and men and not necessarily for financial or material gain.” Thus, “at the end of one year, almost half of the girls at this one high school became pregnant.”

Holistic Approach to Improving the Economy

The efforts by organizations such as Ministry of Hope are helping to improve poverty by recognizing its connection to girls’ education in Malawi. This nonprofit, dedicated to helping vulnerable communities, takes a holistic approach to aiding Malawians that has assisted in making tangible change. Between 2000 and 2018, almost 9% more girls were enrolled in secondary school.

Ministry of Hope encourages organizations to not blindly give money to improve the economy. Rather, “it calls for a lot of factors including policy shifts, cultural beliefs, behavior changes, and a lot of investment in girls’ education.” This is why supporting bills such as the Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071) is so crucial for tackling poverty in the Global South.

There tends to be a narrative that poverty causes illiteracy. However, if that approach is flipped, there comes a new solution with additional potential for forging change. By advancing education, poverty can also be lowered. Those fighting for change must help organizations on the ground who are providing guidance along with their scholarships. By addressing the cultural and economic barriers of educational inequality, poverty can begin to decrease in Malawi.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Women and Girls in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is a landlocked, Sub-Saharan country in West Africa. Of the 20 million people residing there, 50.3 percent are female. Women and girls in Burkina Faso are likely to suffer from sexual or violent assault, experience forced marriage, be sold as property, die from unsafe pregnancy or abortion and/or undergo genitalia mutilation.

More than 85 percent of the population in the area supports the idea that these practices should discontinue. The government reformation of the constitution in 2016 claiming to strengthen women’s and children’s rights reflects this support. Unfortunately, women living in West Africa are still in immediate need of medical aid in order to live safe and healthy lives.

The organization Lighting the Path launched a new Women’s Aid Fund (WAF) to accomplish just that by helping women and girls in the fight for life. To gain further insight into how WAF is changing the lives of those living in Burkina Faso, The Borgen Project interviewed Dawn Malcolm, founder of Lighting the Path.

Life for Females in Burkina Faso

While the country’s government has put a policy into motion that promotes gender equality, the women and girls in Burkina Faso still face many unfair and cruel practices.

According to a Country Gender Profile by Japan International Cooperation Agency, when it comes to education, it is “socially ingrained that girls should be doing household chores rather than going to school.” In 2018, Burkina Faso saw a mere 32 percent of the female population enroll in schools.

Additionally, it is likely that women and girls in Burkina Faso will experience sexual assault from other students or teachers. In 1998, a Medical Research Council Survey found that 37.7 percent of girls in South Africa said that a school teacher or principal had raped them.

Additionally, there is an issue of forced marriage, including underaged young women. Families force more than half of all girls under the legal age of 17 into unregistered marriage.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is also extremely prevalent in Burkina Faso. Specifically, female genital mutilation (FGM) is a common practice for the nation. Despite the fact that Burkina Faso banned this practice in 1996 and the majority of the population is aware of the harmful effects, 76 percent of females between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone mutilation.

Finally, women’s economic status in the country is far below that of men’s status. This occurs for three main reasons. Firstly, many in the country do not value women’s right to own property. Secondly, the right of succession does not apply to women. Thirdly, women cannot seem to buy or inherit the land. All of these economic issues make women reliable for men for a sustainable way of life, continuing the suppressive cycle.

Behind Lighting the Path

Dawn Malcolm founded Lighting the Path with the main goal of ending extreme poverty. The organization works with outreach programs and finds people in poverty who suffer from a lack of food, health care or education. The organization offers support through teaching business and entrepreneurship skills, which Malcolm believes is the best way to help. “Women and the people in poverty have to be empowered to help with the process of writing them out of poverty,” she says. “It can’t just be hand-outs all the time.” One example of this enterprise production model was teaching the women and girls in Burkina Faso to make soap out of the shea butter readily available to them in the village.

LTP is currently working on five fundraising projects: The Girls for Girls Project, The School for Girls Project, The Giving Hope Project, Empowerment Work in Burkina Faso and Microfinancing projects. For sustainable development, building the school for girls is the main focus of LTP’s future, as of now.

The Women’s Aid Fund

The Women’s Aid Fund is a new project that Lighting the Path has had success with. It formed while Malcolm was in Burkina Faso teaching women to make the shea butter soap. While working there, she recognized that women and girls had untreated medical issues. “Women there are husbands’ property, so they’re not always taken care of. Plus, if there’s any money, [the women] would take care of their children before they would get themselves cared for,” Malcolm told The Borgen Project. She typically saw injuries that occurred from FGM or injuries that occurred from fistulas that had not received treatment. Fistulas develop when the body is not ready for birth; in this case, the underaged girls who entered marriage unwillingly commonly developed fistulas.

Most of the things Malcolm witnessed were widespread, occurring on a daily basis and would likely require more than one group’s intervention for eradication. During her time, Malcolm encountered one woman with an injury she knew she could help with if she had the right amount of resources.

A woman named Elizabeth had lost her arm in a domestic dispute with her husband. “Life is very, very difficult [there]. It’s a lot of work, and it’s very hard there already, so when a woman has an injury, or an illness or wound that compromises her further, it just compounds the difficulty of life,” she said. Malcolm saw that by simply purchasing a prosthetic arm, she and Lighting the Path could change Elizabeth’s life for the better.

The WAF formulated with the goal of buying Elizabeth the prosthetic arm. The arm cost about $1,700 but Lighting the Path decided that was not enough. Not stopping at the prosthetic, WAF is continuing to help other women and girls in Burkina Faso who have disabilities or need medical attention. Malcolm says that even small things—a cut on the finger, for example—can sometimes become septic and lead to death if it does not receive treatment. There will always be ways we can help the women and girls in Burkina Faso. Malcolm said, “There’s always going to be women in need of some support to get some treatment or some care that they can’t otherwise afford.”

 Sadly, things like sexual assault, FGM, illegal marriage and unsafe abortion still happen to women and girls in Burkina Faso. Change may come in the future, but it is likely that everyday women and girls in the country are experiencing harm while waiting for that change to arrive. Thankfully, organizations like Lighting the Path and funds like the WAF are improving the way these women heal.

Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Women Empowerment Organizations in Sub-Saharan AfricaWomen’s empowerment is a critical component in achieving development and sustainably reducing poverty. It increases the quality of life for men and women globally. Gender parity would allow for a $28 trillion increase in the global GDP. In addition, women typically invest in their families and communities more than men. This will contribute to overall economic and social growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is a rapidly developing region. However, there are serious challenges when it comes to gender equality in terms of education, economic rights, leadership opportunity and access to healthcare. Gender parity in sub-Saharan Africa will specifically allow for $721 billion in growth to the GDP. For the region to develop and grow to its full potential, the gender gap must be addressed. Many women’s empowerment organizations are working to address gender gaps. Here are four gender empowerment organizations operating in sub-Saharan Africa

4 Gender Empowerment Organizations

  1. Africare: Africans and Americans founded Africare in the 1970s. Africare is a non-governmental organization with the mission of improving the quality of life of people in Africa. Since its beginning, Africare has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to tens of millions of people across the African continent. The organization does this by addressing Africa’s development and policy issues. In addition, Africare partners with African people in an effort to build sustainable communities. Africare’s approach includes community engagement, capacity building, locally-driven behavior change and innovative public-private partnerships. Africare is a women’s empowerment organization that believes providing resources to African women is beneficial to African societies. Additionally, as women receive education and higher legal status, they are able to provide their households with better nutrition and access to healthcare. Moreover, Africare works to provide greater leadership opportunities for women by working with local partners. Africare provides leadership coaching, literacy training, business training and market access for African women.
  2. Make Every Woman Count (MEWC): Make Every Woman Count is an African, women-led organization that works in mobilization, networking, advocacy and training African women. The organization helps build women’s leadership capability and works towards changes in policy to be more supportive of women. The work is largely online, using the potential of the internet to reach out to women in Africa. In addition, MEWC plays a huge role in information proliferation. They give guidance to other organizations and grassroots movements operating to empower women in Africa. In addition, the organization also provides a platform for women to exchange ideas and create networks to “establish female leaders in Africa.” Furthermore, MEWC’s major goal is to make sure that African women “have a strong voice in governance institutions.”
  3. Asante Africa Foundation: The Asante Africa Foundation is primarily an educational organization. Its mission is to educate and empower the next generation of agents of change. In 2018 alone, the organization was able to impact 23,085 lives. Moreover, it understands the specific challenges that face women and girls in aspects of access to education in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the foundation has programs that are female-centric to aid in these issues. The foundation pioneered the Girls’ Advancement Program. This is one of the women’s empowerment organizations that centers around the idea that using girls’ education promotes development and economic growth. Moreover, the Girls’ Advancement Program takes a holistic approach by taking into account the “cultural, social and health factors.” All of these factors are relevant and correlated to the gender gap in education. The program aims to do this by creating safe spaces, educating in reproductive health, building peer support and mobilizing women as mentors in their communities.
  4. Men Engage: Non-governmental organizations along with U.N. agencies formed Men Engage in 2004. The organization works to engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality. The coalition is made up of organizations like the Family Violence Prevention Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, WHO, UNDP and so forth. The understanding that men play an important role in achieving gender equality is essential to the alliance. In addition, the alliance is working at the national level in many African nations through its MenEngage Africa section to create a dialogue with key individuals, policymakers and advocates working locally to make gender equality a reality. Its sub-Saharan African Regional Symposium brought together delegates from 25 countries, resulting in the MenEngage Africa Declaration and Call to Action.

These women’s empowerment organizations are doing important work in addressing gender inequality and building capabilities. Women’s empowerment is a necessary focus on creating sustainable development and reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

Treya Parikh

Photo: Flickr

Women around the globe account for 35 percent of students enrolled in higher education science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, according to a 2017 UNESCO report. However, by the end of tertiary education, women only comprise less than 3 percent of information and communication technology (ICT) graduates.

These numbers indicate a failure of educational systems to retain girls in STEM. This results in a deficiency of women in STEM jobs, which is especially alarming because these STEM careers drive innovation, inclusive growth and sustainable development. To address this challenge and improve the participation and achievement of girls in STEM, several organizations are amplifying girls’ STEM education in developing nations.

5 Organizations Investing in Girls’ STEM Education in Developing Nations

  1. Indian Girls Code: Founded in 2013 by two sisters, the Indian Girls Code offers free coding and robotics education for underprivileged girls in India. The initiative began in multiple cities as an afterschool program and summer camp for girls as young as 4 and 5 years old. It has since expanded to include weekly classes for 75 primary school students at Annai Ashram, an all-girls orphanage in Trichy. Indian Girls Code believes a hands-on education inspires creativity and innovation. As such, students are taught using Scratch, an open-source software, and Phiro robots, which are programmable, Lego-compatible toys
  2. Tech Needs Girls: Tech Needs Girls is an educational initiative based in mentorship that aims to equip young Ghanian girls with skills in coding and information technology. The organization has 200 mentors, who are all either female computer scientists or engineers; these mentors have collectively trained more than 4,500 girls — many of whom come from extreme poverty conditions. Girls between the ages of 6 and 18 are encouraged to participate by gaining knowledge of the basics of computing, set up blogs and develop software applications. The founder of Tech Needs Girls, Regina Agyare, an IT graduate and entrepreneur, hopes that teaching girls about technology will enable them to become economically empowered, self-confident and passionate.
  3. Code to Inspire: As the first coding academy for girls in Afghanistan, Code to Inspire has taught 200 high-school girls to code and build mobile applications and games. Since the organization’s launch in 2015, more than 70 percent of the students have graduated and continued on to find work with above-average compensation. The founder of Code to Inspire, Fereshteh Forough, aspires to help close the gender gap in STEM by teaching Afghani women the skills to achieve financial and social independence and stability. Forough sees coding as uniquely valuable to female economic empowerment — since coding can be done remotely, female software developers can work from home while building a career.
  4. Pearls Africa Foundation: Located in Nigeria’s Silicon Valley, GirlsCoding, a free program run by the Pearls Africa Foundation, is educating girls in the fields of coding and software development. GirlsCoding offers weekly courses in digital literacy to underserved and underrepresented girls between the ages of 7 and 18. Since 2012, the initiative has educated more than 400 girls. GirlsCoding also helps promote the continuation of tech education and careers by introducing students to different tech companies in the region. In the future, GirlsCoding hopes to expand to different states in Nigeria.
  5. She Will Connect Africa: An initiative of Intel, She Will Connect Africa, has trained more than 150,000 women in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya in digital literacy since launch in 2013. She Will Connect Africa aims to expand to reach five million women by the end of 2020. The program operates in two main ways. First, She Will Connect Africa partners with nongovernmental organizations to integrate face-to-face digital learning into development programs targeting women and girls. Second, the initiative also partners with job placement organizations to enable women to access continued opportunities in STEM.

With technological change accelerating, a continued failure to develop girls’ STEM education will diminish the potential of half the global population. However, by investing in girls’ STEM education in developing nations, these five organizations are driving innovation and women’s economic participation. These goals are highly cost-effective and thoughtful investments; closing the gender gap in digital fluency will open work opportunities for women, contribute to national economic growth and help achieve larger gender parity.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

Literacy Rates in Afghanistan
Afghanistan, a landlocked country in south-central Asia, houses many different ethnic groups and extremely important trade routes. The country also has a longstanding history in literature, with poets such as Reza Mohammadi and Khaled Hosseini. Unfortunately, due to the spread of the Taliban regime and devastating wars, literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world at about 45 percent for men and 17 percent for women. In 2018, Idress Siyawash had the vision to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan with the implementation of his mobile bicycle libraries.

Mobile Bicycle Libraries

Read Books, or Ketab Lwast, is a program that Idress Siyawash started to provide books and learning experiences for children in Afghanistan, especially in rural areas. Siyawash is a student at Jahan University in Kabul, Afghanistan. Each week, he and his team travel to rural areas in Afghanistan to deliver books to children. They ride around town on bright blue bicycles with baskets full of books in order to excite the children and motivate them to learn. Then, they gather all the kids and teach them to read, write, speak and understand the importance of learning. Female volunteers travel from home to home working to encourage mothers and fathers to send their daughters to school. The female volunteers serve as models for parents who want a better, more equal life for their daughters.

Motives and Inspiration

Education rates in Afghanistan are significantly lower than those of other countries. For example, Afghanistan has an average literacy rate of 38 percent, while the international average is 84 percent. Education in rural areas is especially low. Gender inequality also affects education in Afghanistan, as many women do not have permission to attend schools, and in most provinces, the amount of female teachers is below 10 percent.

Siyawash had the determination to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan and also change Afghani attitudes regarding gender equality in terms of education. In an interview, Siyawash said, “Our idea is to show that reading is fun and explain why education is so important. If we give the children books, it might help end the way of thinking that is holding this country back.”

Obstacles and Solutions

One of the main obstacles to education in Afghanistan is distance. Some children, especially in rural areas, must walk for hours to reach their schools. For example, children in the Badakhshan province walk four hours each day to go and come back from the closest government-supported school. Siyawash’s bicycle idea tackles this obstacle effectively, bringing education straight to the children.

Another obstacle is the fear of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, especially among females. Unfortunately, Taliban members have confronted and threatened Siyawash and his team twice, but they continue to travel and provide services to children because they believe in a “different future for Afghanistan.”

Read Books has had success in its goal to raise literacy rates in Afghanistan. Over the span of just a few years, the literacy rate in Afghanistan grew from 38 percent in 2015 to 43 percent in 2018. Overall, the future of education in Afghanistan is looking brighter.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Suriname
Suriname, located on the Northern Atlantic coast of South America, originated as a Dutch colony and faced many of the difficulties that other formerly colonized nations face today. Since the introduction of Suriname’s democratic government in the 1990s, the economy, culture and tourism have been thriving. However, despite this economic growth, there is a lack of emphasis on education in Suriname. Surprisingly, most of the adolescents enrolled in school are actually girls. Despite this, girls’ education in Suriname requires improvement.

Improvements to Girls’ Education

Schools in Suriname have been making vast improvements since the 1990s. Following the economic crisis, many schools fell into a state of disrepair and lacked running water, electricity and materials necessary for lessons. This created a sense of apathy and caused school attendance rates among children and teens to plummet. Although the rates of attendance and student retention in secondary school are not currently stellar, they do show signs of improvement. For instance, there were 6,000 adolescents out of school in 2015, half the amount from 2009. This is likely due to the rising GDP and economic status of the country that favors an emphasis on education.

Barriers

Despite these improvements to girls’ education in Suriname, the changes have not occurred throughout the entire nation. In particular, rural areas have fewer resources for education and more barriers for girls to attain one. One of the main obstacles of academic success that girls face is teenage pregnancy; the adolescent birth rate is 62 in 1,000 for girls in the area. Additionally, one in every 10 girls marries before age 15. Poor sexual health education combined with poverty suggests that girls often abandon education in Suriname out of necessity to find work and raise a family.

One could assume that because of the barriers to education that girls face, far more boys would enroll in secondary school than girls, but the opposite is true. In primary education, the distribution is about even; however, once children reach secondary school, many boys drop out while the girls remain. In 2015, 88 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school while only 67 percent of boys attended. This is in high contrast to other nations that people commonly perceive as “developing” because it is usually the women who do not receive as much education as men, and therefore, people do not advocate on their behalf because they are not attending school.

Solutions

Despite many women completing their education, the fact remains that more women experience unemployment than men in Suriname. There is only so much an education can do if gender bias and inequality prevents women from earning a living. In 2016, the percentage of unemployed women was at 21 percent, which was twice as high as their male counterparts.

The dichotomy of girls’ education in Suriname indicates that despite the high percentage of girls enrolled in school, the fight for gender equality in the country is not over. Teen pregnancy remains at a high, which disproportionately (and almost only) affects girls. Many groups such as the Love Foundation give teens resources to educate themselves and their peers on sexual health, which could lead to more adolescents of either gender remaining in school. As girls’ education in Suriname advances, the labor industry must follow so women can fully enter the workforce as well.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Keeping Girls in School ActThe House of Representatives passed the Keeping Girls in School Act in January 2020. The main focus of the Keeping Girls in School Act is to make sure that girls around the world are supported in staying in school despite the numerous hurdles they face. There are young girls around the world who are still being forced to leave school due to early marriages and pregnancies. This bill guarantees that the U.S. will ensure foreign assistance to break the barriers that are keeping almost 130 million girls worldwide from getting an education. 

The Keeping Girls in School Act

By focusing on their education, girls are not only gaining academic knowledge but they are also growing up with the right resources and knowledge to lead prosperous and successful lives. If countries could definitively end child marriages, they could save 5 percent or more on their budgets for education by the year 2030. The following four facts describe how the Keeping Girls in School Act will help girls stay in the classroom instead of having to stop their education to go take care of a household:

  1. Result-based financing– The Act authorizes USAID to create grant-based programs that are designed to reduce the obstacles that interfere with young girls and inhibit them from completing school. Programs like Cash on Delivery Aid and Development Impact Bonds directly link the funds obtained to deliver the specified outcomes.
  2. Ending gender-bias stigma– Sexism still exists and it is still a major factor affecting young girls. In some cultures, girls are expected to be housewives while the men go out and work. In India, students are becoming aware of gender equality and by discussing it in classrooms. These discussions are improving girls’ attitudes and behaviors on education and gender equality. 
  3. Ensuring safety for all children– At least 25 percent of students in Liberia have reported sexual abuse by teachers. In India, 21 percent of students have experienced abuse in an academic setting. One of the top priorities of this bill is to ensure that all children feel safe and comfortable while learning. 
  4. Making education affordable– In many countries, higher education is a privilege for the rich. The Keeping Girls in School Act highlights the role of USAID in supporting an education system that is affordably financed by governments domestically. The key is to focus on improving the affordability of primary and secondary schooling to promote higher learning.

Supporting Girls’ Education and Rights

More importantly, the purpose of this bill is to ensure that girls are allowed to be children and not become mothers and wives at young ages. According to recent data by UNICEF, 12 million girls are becoming wives at a young age. By marrying young, their childhoods come to a screeching halt and they are forced to grow up. In sub-Saharan Africa, 66 percent of girls who have not received an education become wives at an early age. However, for girls who have a secondary or higher education, that number drops to 13 percent.

The Keeping Girls in School Act supports the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls. Its main purpose is to focus on girls’ rights, education, health and safety. The House passed the Act. Senator Jeanne Shaheen introduced a version in the Senate in April of 2019. With enough support, the Act will pass in the Senate.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is a small country located in southeastern Europe neighboring Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Greece. The country has endured many socioeconomic hardships since the fall of communism in 1991 but is now on the rise from one of the poorest countries in Europe to a middle-income country. As in most countries, education is an integral part of social, cultural and economic development. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Albania.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Albania

  1. Most girls attend primary and secondary schools. Albania considers the first nine years of school mandatory, which it calls primary education, although most students complete three additional years of school which are part of secondary education. According to the World Bank, the female net enrollment ratio for girls of primary school age (ages 6-15) was 94 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, 89 percent of females ages 15-18 enrolled in secondary schooling in 2018. However, these percentages of girls in the Albanian school system are still very good, as nearly the entire population of eligible girls attended some type of schooling.
  2. A little over half of the population of young adult women attend tertiary schools. Tertiary schooling is typically at universities and students aged 18 and older can study to obtain a bachelor’s, master’s or a Ph.D. The gross enrollment rate in 2018 was 68 percent for women in tertiary education, up from 39 percent in 2009. Even though the gross enrollment rate in 2018 for tertiary schooling is not as high as the net enrollment rates for additional schooling, these numbers show that girls’ education in Albania is rising.
  3. There are more girls receiving an education than boys. In the same study that the World Bank conducted, only 90 percent of boys of primary school age enrolled in school, compared to 94 percent of females in 2013. As for secondary schools, the male net enrollment rate stood at 84 percent compared to 89 percent for females in 2018. Thankfully, boys’ education and girls’ education in Albania have a very small gap between them. However, since 2009, there has been a significant gap between the gross enrollment rates in tertiary schools by gender. The most recent data has the male enrollment rate in tertiary education at 43 percent, a 25 percent difference between genders.
  4. Unemployment for women could impact tertiary education enrollment. Women’s participation in the labor force has dropped drastically from 78 percent in 1989 to 46 percent in 2005, likely due to the collapse of communism and social upheaval in 1991. This number did not reach 50 percent until 2013 and has been gradually rising since then. For decades, Albania has held onto strong patriarchal values that place women outside of the labor market. Because of these values, “women of reproductive age are discriminated against in the market because they may start a family, and thus have fewer opportunities for retraining and qualification.” If women experience exclusion from employment and have to operate in the domestic sphere, they may not see the value of an education, thereby contributing to lower rates of enrollment beyond compulsory schooling.
  5. Women earn less than men on average. In addition to hiring difficulties, women also earn 10.5 percent less than their male counterparts. The good news is that Albania has a lower gender wage gap than most of the European Union. The E.U.’s gender wage gap average was 16.2 percent in 2016. However, the gender wage gap could exist due to women’s lack of participation in the labor market, or vice versa. This could also be related to the rising net enrollment rate for girls’ education in Albania, specifically in tertiary schooling.
  6. Similarly, there is a low representation of Albanian women in decision making. In 2007, women occupied only 7 percent of seats in Albania’s parliament, with only nine women total in senior-level positions and 2 percent of local government leaders women. In 2017, the number of seats that women occupied in parliament rose to 21.4 percent. Having years of low representation of women in the Albanian government has allowed for the gender-based discrimination in education and employment to run rampant throughout the country. With fewer women involved in decision making, girls have fewer protections, making something as necessary as education difficult to obtain.
  7. There are low government expenditures on education. Unfortunately, Albania spent only 3.95 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education in 2016, according to UNESCO. A government undermines the value of an education when it invests so little in it.
  8. However, the Albanian government is helping girls in other ways. The Albanian government has spent this past decade focusing on undoing the decades of gender inequality through the law, specifically the Law on Reproductive Health, Measures on Domestic Violence and laws on Prevention and Elimination of Organized Crime and Trafficking Through Preemptive Measures on Personal Assets. In 2015, the Prime Minister of Albania publicly announced to the United Nations the national government’s commitment to gender equality. Following this, the national government adopted the Gender Equality and Action Plan 2016–2020 with the aim to consolidate efforts by all institutions to advance gender equality. The government used funds to benefit women’s enterprises and support services for survivors of domestic violence.
  9. Other organizations have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of women in Albania. The Mary Ward Loreto Foundation is an organization creating programs to empower adolescent girls and protect them from domestic violence and trafficking on the ground in rural communities in Albania. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the Albanian national government and civil society to create programs to end gender-based discrimination, like the Gender Equality and Gender-Based Violence Programme in 2015. UNICEF has partnered with Albania’s Ministry of Education to implement new systems to improve access to education for children throughout the country. In November 2019, the World Bank loaned Albania $10 million to improve women’s access to economic opportunity.
  10. Female education is on the rise in Albania. Female enrollment has been rising since 2009 by roughly 1 to 2 percent every year. The total net enrollment rate is at 96 percent, so, fortunately, the majority of Albania’s children have access to public education. Despite having a lower percentage of girls attending primary and secondary school, over half of the women aged 18-22 enrolled in tertiary education at 67.58 percent in 2018. The girls who enrolled in education continue on to undergraduate and graduate studies.

Albania is a country rich in history. Unfortunately, much of that history has allowed gender-based discrimination to take root, even affecting girls’ education in Albania. Because of its changing political and social climate, patriarchal beliefs and a lack of protection for women have allowed the country to leave them behind. The good news is that women are catching up. Albania has worked tirelessly this past decade to undo gender inequality through laws, civil society and partnerships with global organizations to provide women the resources they need to succeed, starting with a promise of an education.

– Emily Young
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in YemenYemen is currently undergoing one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. In recent years, the nation’s warring conflicts have badly affected girls’ education. The year 2020, however, is looking more optimistic for the nation’s future. Change is on the horizon with peace talks in session and a vote passing in congress to end military involvement in the war. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

  1. Girls’ education in Yemen is in dire need of support. Seventy-six percent of internally displaced persons in Yemen are women and children, many of whom lack basic medical care, economic opportunity and access to education. Yemen’s ongoing civil war has worsened pre-existing living conditions for girls and women in the country. Educational opportunities for girls are also at risk of disappearing from the continued conflict in the region.
  2. Conditional cash transfer programs have enabled poorer families to send their daughters to school. From 2004 to 2012, the Yemeni government collaborated with other organizations to give stipends to girl students in grades four to nine, under the conditions that they maintain a school attendance of 80 percent and receive passing grades. The result of the monetary aid showed a shift in the cultural norms of the recipient communities. Adults began to change their perspectives on girls’ education and allowed more girls and women to attend school. The program has helped enroll over 39,000 girl students into primary education.
  3. In 2007, The World Bank organization implemented a rural female teacher contracting program effectively training 550 new teachers, with 525 going on to receive certification. Providing girls with access to trained female teachers greatly increases the chances of classroom retention and enrollment in the rural regions of the state, according to World Bank education specialist Tomoni Miyajima.
  4. More than two-thirds of girls marry before they turn 18. Families cope with economic hardships by selling their daughters into marriage. Early marriage has crippled girls’ education in Yemen. Instead of pursuing studies, girls take on household roles and often become victims of abuse by their husbands.
  5. In 2018, a Yemeni teacher opened his private home to over 700 students as a primary school. In the war-torn city of Taiz, both boys and girls can attend classes that Adel al-Shorbagy teaches free of charge. Most schools in the city are private and cost up to 100,000 Yemeni riyals a year to attend.
  6. Many private elementary and secondary schools teach the Chinese language to Yemeni girl students. Private school teachers believe Chinese is the language of the future, with increasing technological, scientific and industrial development taking place in China. Yemeni teachers and students aspire to become part of China’s growing economy.
  7. In 2019, UNICEF started to pay more than 136,000 teachers who had not received salaries in over two years. The program offered the equivalent payment of $50 a month to school teachers and staff to help address the low attendance rates of students in the country.
  8. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has set target goals to improve conditions for girls’ education in Yemen in 2020. UNICEF plans to provide individual learning materials to one million children, create education access to 820,000 students and ensure 134,000 teachers receive incentives to continue to teach.
  9. Yemeni authorities are taking action to ensure that children have safe access to education by agreeing to the Safe Schools Declaration. The declaration is an international commitment that 84 countries adopted to protect students, teachers and universities from armed conflicts. Yemen’s endorsement of the declaration’s guidelines commits to a future where “every boy and girl has the right to an education without fear of violence or attack.”
  10. The Too Young To Wed organization helps to provide daily breakfasts to 525 girl students to keep them enrolled in school in Sana’a, Yemen. The meals help students remain in classrooms and avoid early child marriages. Providing nutrition to students keeps them from falling further into poverty, and prevents them from becoming at risk of their families selling them into marriage. The price of one breakfast per student is $0.48.

Yemeni girls have many obstacles to attaining quality education. However, the ending of a drawn-out war and continued aid and support from organizations across the world is bettering the situation. These are small and steady steps, helping to ensure that the nation’s girls will lead lives full of learning and progression. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Yemen shed light on the issue of Yemen’s education system.

Henry Schrandt
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in Bolivia
Since the early 1970s, education from ages 6 to 13 has been mandatory in Bolivia. However, nationwide education rates after primary school have decreased drastically, with less than a quarter of young adults attending. The infrastructure of Bolivia’s education system, particularly in rural areas, is very underdeveloped, making girls’ access to education bleaker. However, the country is making strides to improve the quality of its education system. Here are 10 facts about girls’ education in Bolivia and the implemented laws and programs in place to enhance it.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Bolivia

  1. Urban vs Rural: A big part in determining the quality and endurance of each child’s education depends a lot on their socioeconomic status, region and gender. According to a UNICEF report, a girl living in the Amazon may only receive two years of schooling, while the son of an affluent family in the city could receive up to a 14-year education. Even within the city, there is gender disparity among ethnicity. For example, a city girl of indigenous background is only half as likely to complete her education as an urban boy of non-indigenous background.
  2. Indigenous People: Ethnicity has played a role in the suffering Bolivian education system, particularly in terms of income and class. While there have been slow improvements, the gender and ethnicity gap still remains. Indigenous women are five times less likely to complete secondary school education in comparison to non-indigenous males, mostly due to a limitation of proper resources to succeed in school and a lack of easy access to schools. UNICEF Bolivia initiated a four-year-long program from 2018 that works to improve “gender trends across different socio-economic structures.”
  3. Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez: Bolivia passed the Avelino Siñani-Elizardo Pérez law in 2010 with the goal of making education a plurinational system in Bolivia. Alternative and special education are on the rise as a result of the passing of this law. Alternative education offers schooling for those 15 years or older, also known as continuing education outside of the classroom and through a department in the Ministry of Education. Special education focuses on helping people with disabilities learn. A translation of Article 10 reads that the law will “complement and articulate humanistic education with…gender equity.”
  4. Sanitation and Hygiene: Research shows that most rural schools do not have the resources for sanitation products for juvenile girls which affects girls’ education in Bolivia. These young women do not receive the help and equipment they need to transition into this new stage of life. In fact, the report concluded that this lack of support stems from the stigma and misconceptions about menstruation. The government has reported that many girls feel embarrassed or confused due to a lack of skills to manage menstruation and their companions often tease them. This leads to distraction from schoolwork, which can cause them to fail their classes.
  5. Gender-based Approach: UNICEF is stepping in to help bridge the disparity among gender and ethnicity in the education system. In a report, it says it has taken a gender-based approach in order to reach the most impoverished areas of the country and provide girls there with a better education. It plans to do this through a three-part system of “multilingual education, right-age enrollment, and child-centered pedagogy.” With an emphasis on educating and providing girls with resources from adolescent ages, UNICEF hopes to address many roadblocks for children in Bolivia.
  6. Discrimination: Among the small population of girls who pursue secondary and tertiary levels of education, they find themselves facing other hurdles, such as discrimination. According to a report by the World Bank, 20 percent of these women, particularly those who are indigenous or Afro-descendants, face discrimination when they pursue higher education. Much of the discrimination they face is based on their skin color, language, economic circumstances, gender, clothing and age. Programs like UNICEF develop new strategies to help tackle the marginalized indigenous groups of Bolivia and ensure they receive equal educational opportunities throughout their whole life.
  7. Secondary School Statistics: As of 2018, statistics show that the gender gap among secondary school students increases as social class lowers. In high-income families, the gender gap is almost nonexistent with both genders at about 95 percent completion rate. In middle-class families, there is only a marginal difference of about 3 to 4 percent. However, low-income families have the biggest gap, with almost a 10 percent difference.
  8. Future Employment: In 2009, the authoritarian form of government in Bolivia fell and democracy took its place. Bolivia has provided more educational, political and economic opportunities for women to involve themselves in their country due to these changes in the political structure. The workforce has seen a 7 percent increase from women, female representation has increased by 37 percent since 2002 and 46 percent of women feel free to participate in their political system, in comparison to the male statistic of 50 percent.
  9. The Programme: The mass migration of families to urban areas has left a large amount of poverty and single mothers in its wake. In an effort to increase the employment rate of these rural women, an initiative called The Programme helps these impoverished families by teaching them about property ownership and sustainable practices. The Programme does not provide them with traditional education but instead takes on a two-part plan to teach women tools to be able to provide for their families. The first part of this plan is transferring a monetary portion for “seed capital, startup grants, joint venture and risk capital.” The second part involves training and services that teach women about civic education and “full use of citizenship.” The Programme has successfully helped over 4,000 women find employment.
  10. Child Labor: Reports have found some of the worst forms of child labor in Bolivia, such as agriculture and sexual exploitation. A practice known as padrinazgo sends rural children to urban areas for better educational opportunities but leads to forced child labor. People have launched many programs over the past decade to end child labor, such as the Safe Terminal Program, which increases awareness and provides training to transportation officials about forced labor. However, despite the quantity of implemented programs, inclusivity of all regions and funding remain two issues that keep them from effectively reducing child labor.

There are definitely ways to go in improving the quality of education for the marginalized population of Bolivia, particularly for its young girls. However, with Bolivia taking on different initiatives and its government prioritizing poverty reduction, there is a promise that Bolivia’s education system will develop a strong infrastructure and be inclusive of all ethnicities and genders.

– Shreya Chari
Photo: Flickr