Girls’ Education in Albania
Albania is one of the poorest of the European nations. Recently, the Albanian Government has been making strides towards economic growth, but it has only now come to realize the importance of empowering and supporting women in the country. The government is empowering women in Albania by taking a stance against violence towards women, encouraging girls’ education and increasing access for women in the workforce.

Violence at Home

The National Strategy for Gender Equality campaign was launched in 2016 to help the Albania Government implement a policy to help women achieve real equality. As it stands now, most of the women are working in agriculture on family farms, often without pay. According to the U.N., almost 60 percent of Albanian women have direct experience with in-home violence.

A woman named Tone from a village in north Albania shared her story of endurance after being in a 10-year arranged marriage full of abuse. Her family had suggested she stay with her husband in spite of the abuse because there were no support systems available for Tone and her children if they left their abusive home. When she finally had had enough, she reported the violence and, to her surprise, the police were timely, responsive and positive. They referred her to the National Centre for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of the Victims of Domestic Abuse The Centre is up and coming and is currently aiding around 100 women victims annually.

Tome’s story is just one of several stories of women’s suppression in this poverty-riddled nation. In fact, one in two women are victims of abuse in Albania. For those that have not found a helping hand and been able to escape the harsh realities of inequality, the story acts as a cycle. Children who come from uneducated mothers are less likely to complete schooling if it is even available to them in the first place. The influences of home life, such as violence, inadequate funds, illness, excessive children in the home or lack of transportation, make it hard for children to succeed in school.

Promoting Education for Empowering Women in Albania

Because children from these homes require more support to make it through school without the heightened risk of drop-out, UNICEF has joined forces with the Albanian Government to promote Child-Friendly Schools (CFS).  These CFCs encompass a holistic education based on the needs of children who need the most help, especially girls. The projected outcome of the CFS plan is to make education in Albania more readily available by increasing the country’s GDP budget towards education up from 3.27 percent to 5 percent. The hope is that, with education and proper emotional support, these girls will grow up better educated and better equipped to enter the workforce.

Sociologists are quickly realizing that empowering women through education is crucial for national growth in any developing country. In 2006, Albania joined the Global Partnership for Education and has since implemented strategies for equality such as gender quotas that will make girls’ education in Albania more accessible and better equipped to serve these young ladies. The program has already seen an increase in primary and secondary school completion rates.

Many girls in Albania don’t have the same access to education due to conflict or crisis, poverty or because so many young girls are married. With access to primary and secondary education that is made more available by USAID and other activists, women will be empowered and, therefore, be able to make better choices that support their individual needs and dreams.

Improving the Future for Women in Albania

Women make up half of the Earth’s population, which equates to half of the human capital. Rigid gender roles and cultural tradition have delayed the realization of equality for some women in countries like Albania, but as change happens, government officials are seeing the benefits of humanity and equality along with the need to act. Together with the Government of Sweden, U.N. Women is raising awareness of women’s rights across each of the 10 municipalities in Albania. The good news is that in 2014 there was a 51 percent increase in female participation in the labor market.

The majority of Foreign and Domestic aid for Albanian women is geared toward equality as a whole, which means progress for women and girls in Albania. Escaping violence, becoming educated and empowered and gaining access to the workforce are all necessary for achieving equality and truly empowering women in Albania.

– Heather Benton
Photo: Flickr

UzbekistanUzbekistan’s developmental capacity is, to some extent, contingent on the inclusion of young girls and women in the formal education system. Though work is being done to improve girls’ education in Uzbekistan, there is still a long way to go. Access to early education for girls is scarce in Uzbekistan. The U.N. uses a mechanism called gross enrollment ratio (GER) to analyze the education levels of its member states.

Pre-primary Education

Pre-primary school enrollment ratios for girls (ages 3-6) have been around 26.5 percent in the last 10 years. While pre-primary education may seem to be an inconsequential aspect of education for young girls, a study from the World Bank linking preschool attendance to employment outcomes in Uzbekistan shows that it is rather important to girls’ futures.

The Government of Uzbekistan and The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) have both recognized the need to improve pre-primary education. With financial support from the GPE, The Ministry of Preschool Education plans to expand early childhood care and education, with the ultimate goal of achieving 100 percent enrollment by 2021.

Education and the Role of Women

The foundational laws and reforms in Uzbekistan have created an education system that is compulsory for primary school (ages 7-10) and secondary school (ages 11-18) boys and girls. However, practice school attendance, particularly for girls, has not been universal due to socio-cultural and socio-economic barriers. In recent years, the government has worked to remove those barriers and integrate underserved populations into the education system; a majority of those populations includes girls.

Between 2008 and 2017, the GER for girls’ primary education increased from 92.6 percent to 102.28 percent, remaining relatively equal with that of male students during the same time period. In 2017, the enrollment ratio for females in secondary school was 92.42 percent, lower but still relatively equal to their male counterparts.

Girls’ education in Uzbekistan is lacking most at the tertiary, or university level. The GER for females in tertiary schools (ages 19-23) is just 6.33 percent. However, this meager statistic is not a reflection of young women’s unwillingness to pursue higher education or a satisfaction with the status quo. It is, rather, a reflection of a lack of funding, high tuition costs and an outdated societal expectation that young women take on traditional, household roles after secondary school.

The Future of Girls’ Education

Changing the landscape of girls’ education in Uzbekistan requires structured and integrated reforms at every level. Extracurricular activities are another tool that can be used to expand and strengthen girls’ education in Uzbekistan. Encouraging girls to explore activities and career paths seldom held in the past can have an empowering effect. This was exemplified in early 2017 when the UNDP held a “technovation challenge,” in which hundreds of young female programmers collaborated to tackle social issues, including education, using their programming and innovative skills.

“The idea that ‘it is too hard for girls and women’ is as outdated as it is offensive, and yet we still hear it,” according to the event’s press release. At the end of the challenge, the girls in attendance were able to meet and hear from the Uzbek women that make up a small portion of the tech workforce now. In terms of cultural change, events like the technovation challenge are some of the most impactful as they dispel the notion that investing in these girls’ education is unnecessary. It puts on display the untapped potential within the Uzbek female population and changes the perceptions of those who still hold “outdated” understandings of the role of women in society.

The UNDP and the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan have also put their monetary resources to use in order to provide grants to female university students. Monetary investment will prove to be a vital part of expanding girls’ education in Uzbekistan given the high tuition costs. This, alongside the structural and cultural changes being implemented, can break down barriers to girls’ education in Uzbekistan in the short-run and the long-run, expanding the potential paths of all women in Uzbekistan.

– Julius Long
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in BurundiAt then end of June this year, the Ministry of Education in Burundi decided to ban pregnant girls and teenage fathers from attending school. Girls have always been treated unfairly in comparison to boys when it comes to education, and this new ban is just another example. Although the ban feigns equality by giving teenage fathers the boot: the solution is faulty.

Teenage Pregnancy in Burundi

To begin with, all children deserve the right to education and should not be denied it on the premise of pregnancy. Secondly, there is no access to a reliable method to establish a teenage boy’s paternity. The ban is inherently biased against girls because they cannot hide their pregnancy. Since teenage pregnancy is an issue, girls’ education in Burundi will be affected by this restriction because fewer girls will be able to attend school.

The impact of this new law has the potential to be irreparably damaging, as 11 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Burundi are sexually active. Additionally, 40 percent of victims of sexual or physical violence in Burundi are teenage girls. There is simply no way for the Ministry of Education to police sexual violence in order for it to entirely stop affecting girls of school-age. The ban does nothing but punish girls for a situation they have no control over.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan have also taken measures in an attempt to prevent premarital sex. The laws they have in place allow young girls to face criminal charges for adultery and extramarital sex. They can also be expelled from school. Officials have stated the laws are necessary to punish girls for “moral failures.”

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Burundi

Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 65 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Living in a low-income region already is detrimental to girls’ education in Burundi. Girls’ families often cannot afford school supplies and the quality of education is not good either.

The last thing girls need are more roadblocks to getting their education. The new ban on attending school while pregnant perpetuates stigmas and isolate young girls socially. These girls are often already financially disadvantaged and ostracizing them from the school system puts them in a much less supported and dangerous place.

Some countries have policies that allow girls to re-enter school after being expelled. However, it is common for these systems to have many deterrents for girls to actually re-enter. Medical exams and an extended maternity leave are just a few examples.

After a young girl has been ostracized and humiliated, it is unlikely she will want to return to pick up from where she left off. The re-entry programs make the system seem a little more humane. But when thought about realistically, they probably will not provide girls with more opportunity.

Girls’ education in Burundi has a long way to go after the passing of this law. Surpassing financial obstacles in an impoverished country to get an education is hard enough on its own. Girls should not have to live in the fear of losing their shot at getting an education because of a situation that they are not responsible for.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in the Marshall IslandsThe Republic of the Marshall Islands is a small island country located in the Western Pacific, known primarily as a tourism destination. Despite its travel appeal, the Marshall Islands deserves to be recognized for another aspect: girls’ education.

In most developing countries throughout the world, a common theme exists of girls being underrepresented in schools and having lower levels of education when compared with males. In the Marshall Islands, this is not the case.

Gender Parity in Education

According to a 2014 study by the Ministry of Education, gender parity is present at nearly all levels of the Marshall Islands educational system. Regarding primary and junior high enrollment, the study comments on the ‘absence of a gender gap’ by stating that there is equal enrollment between boys and girls. This trend is continued through secondary education systems, where women are even overrepresented, comprising 51.5 percent of those in high school despite only making up 48.3 percent of the total base population. Regarding the final rung of the educational ladder, college education, the study found that college enrollment is essentially gender neutral in the Marshall Islands. 

These enrollment numbers are significant in appraising gender parity between males and females in the Marshall Islands. But how is the education affecting men and women? Could there be a discrepancy between the scores of men and women on standardized tests?

The answer is found in results from the Marshall Islands Standards Assessment Test (MISAT) during the 2012-2013 school year, which shows that girls outperformed their male counterparts in nearly all segments of testing. This indicates another success for girls’ education in the Marshall Islands. Women are not simply being enrolled and ignored, but are actively learning and receiving equal attention when compared with their male classmates.

Potential Problems

Despite these positives, there are worries that gender parity in schools is not translating into complete gender equality. One such worry is manifested in the tendency for most high school girls to choose electives with a traditionally domestic application, such as sewing or cooking. This leads to women being underrepresented in the more “marketable” subject areas, such as mechanics and computer-related courses.

Such an imbalance can create problems for gender equality down the road, as women may fall into traditional gender roles in which they have fewer means and less independence. The study by the Ministry of Education asserts that these sort of differences are not due to a discriminatory educational system, but are simply the result of broad traditional social values. 

Whatever further approach the Ministry of Education takes, it is clear that they have been successful in reaching educational gender parity between girls and boys in the Marshall Islands. This not only applies in the academic setting but also in the greater environment of the country, evidenced by increasing general literacy rates. The same study by the Ministry of Education indicates that for those who are 10 years of age or older, the literacy rate was 97.9 percent for males and 98.0 percent for females. 

Looking to the Future

The progress made in girls’ education in the Marshall Islands deserves acknowledgment. Educational parity between girls and boys is no small feat, especially in a developing country. Furthermore, all signs point to a promising future for The Marshall Islands after the election of Hilda Heine, the first female leader of any Pacific island nation.

There is still work to be done. How the Marshall Islands moves through the more advanced steps of changing gender inequality and social attitudes remains to be seen, but much optimism can be drawn from what the country has already achieved.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in RussiaThere is always something to see in the international media when it comes to Russia but most of the information out there tell us nothing about the country’s education culture. When it comes to understanding what kind of education culture exist in a nation, it is important to take a look at different dynamics such as girls education with respect to gender gap and more. Here are 10 facts about the girls’ education in Russia.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Russia

  1. Russia has one of the highest rates of literacy with 98 percent in general. The rate is higher than most of the Western European countries.
  2. The education system, in general, is run by the state. The government is offering free general education to its people and there are three common segments of schools known as pre-school, primary and secondary.
  3. Just like in most of the countries, Russia also has both private and state schools in its education system. There is no gender inequality between the attendees of either private or state school. Socioeconomic status of families is the primary determinant on whether the child goes to private or state school.
  4. Back in 2017, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets highlighted that 37 percent of the Russian women have a higher education degree. She also added that women usually combine their professional duties with housework and childcare and in this way, natural reasons for gender discrimination is created.
  5. For men, the abovementioned number is 29 percent, which is eight percent lower than women’s rate. The Deputy Prime Minister Golodets underlines that although there is a bigger rate of the woman in terms of holding a higher education degree, discrimination still exists in the job industry.
  6. Even though the rate of the woman holding a higher education degree is higher than men, women’s wages are only 73 percent of men’s average salary. In other words, discrimination is real among genders in terms of the salaries.
  7. UNESCO highlights that 29 percent of the scientific research worldwide is done by the woman. This number is different in Russia. According to the data shared by UNESCO, 41 percent of the scientific research in Russia is provided by women.
  8. Not every woman in Russia is encouraged to do science. There are so-called “womanhood” schools in the country teaching woman how to do the housework like cooking and cleaning properly. A school called “Woman Inside” is an example of one of those schools, where women are coached to be nice to their husbands and keep their homes tidy.
  9. Girls have an early interest in STEM subjects, which is an abbreviation for science, technology, engineering and maths. These are preferred subject by the girls in Russia. A study conducted by Microsoft shows that lack of woman in STEM subject-related fields due to peer pressure, lack of role models or encouragement is not applicable for Russia. Russian girls perceive the STEM way too positively and try pursuing a career in the field as well.
  10. Stereotype view of engineering as a manly job is not the case in Russia. The same Microsoft study emphasized that stereotype towards woman exist in the sense that usually few women pursue a career in engineering. The case is different in Russia where 15 percent of the inventors are women which is a very high number considering the fact that, in comparison, this number is 4 percent for the U.K.

Conclusion

These facts about girls’ education in Russia show that the country has both negative and positive images on the questions of girls education. Equality of wages between genders still seems like an issue that needs improvement, but there are positive examples in decreasing the stereotyping of gender in different fields of study, which is very promising. One thing should not be forgotten: improvement in girls’ education is always possible and important. 

– Orçun Doğmazer

Photo: Google

TurkmenistanTurkmenistan is one of the five independent states that formed after the dissolution of The Soviet Union in 1991. Despite no longer being under Soviet rule, the educational standards that had been established under its former rule have generally remained consistent in all five nations, including having a formal tertiary education and almost universal literacy rates. Gender equality has recently been a hot topic with a special emphasis needed in girls’ education in Turkmenistan.

The good news is that the enrollment rate for primary school is currently around 97 percent, and completion of this level shows to be equally high for both genders. As part of The United Nations, Turkmenistan is continuously looking for ways to achieve international standards of quality education as well as the integration of the marginalized and minorities.

Standards Need To Be Improved

Among school districts across Turkmenistan, a standardized curriculum is required with a few years dedicated to humanities studies. This includes subjects like history, physics, foreign languages, world cultures and the Turkmen or Russian language. Unfortunately, Turkmenistan education lacks quality, especially among teachers.

Finding and retaining qualified teachers remains an issue due to unreasonable teaching hours, insufficient instruction materials, scarce materials and equipment and low salaries. Moreover, “an estimated 13 percent of schools have such serious structural defects in their physical plants that they are too dangerous to use for classes.” The low quality of crucial mentors as a result of such poor educational infrastructure ultimately affects the education of developing children in a negative way.

Another issue has been that 77 percent of the schools in Turkmenistan teach in Turkmen. The remaining 16 percent still use Russian as the primary language and are seeing higher success rates. This poses a problem in hiring new, qualified teachers as well as in educating students.

Inequality in Girls’ Education in Turkmenistan

Equality pertaining to girls’ education in Turkmenistan is lacking. Statistically, fewer than 40 percent of girls in Turkmenistan are studying at the tertiary education level. In contrast, girls in surrounding nations formerly under Soviet rule – like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are actually more likely than boys to attend school.

Women and girls in Turkmenistan suffer great discrimination, especially within the realm of political involvement and gender-based violence. Sadly, women of ethnic minorities experience dual discrimination. For this population, higher education at university institutions is never an option. They are rejected outright for the national belief that their identity is not true Turkmen.

The handfuls of women who do exercise their ability to attend university are not without restrictions. Simply, no female student is allowed to enter the university unless they are dressed in the national Turkmen dress, including a scarf to cover the head. Men, on the other hand, have no such restrictions to follow.

Working Towards Equality in Girls’ Education in Turkmenistan

Currently, higher education generally requires five years, which can present a challenge to women since they are expected to marry by the age of 20 – 21. The existing timeline hardly allows for school completion and decreases the chance of women attending and/or completing their education. However, reforms are being considered that will allow women a greater opportunity to complete their time at higher institutions.

Despite the equality gap, the government is working toward reform for girls’ education in Turkmenistan. In 1997, the country approved The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which defends women’s rights in all realms and works to eliminate discrimination, stereotypes and sex trafficking. The country adopted a law in 2015 guaranteeing “equal rights and equal opportunity for women and men” as a way to reach its goals of international gender equality standards.

Progress is being made to encourage a higher standard of gender equality. State and local government are working together to fund 15 key areas to improve gender equality, including a much-needed data collection database in order to monitor progress. The country is far from its goal, but these continued efforts should secure a better future for girls’ education in Turkmenistan.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in MontenegroMontenegro has recently seen calls from multiple organizations—UNICEF, UNESCO, and The World Bank—to better its education system and improve education for girls. Although universal enrollment in Montenegro is 97 percent, the dropout rate from primary schools is high. About 13 percent of women in Montenegro have not completed primary school, and about 6.4 percent of women do not have any education. In addition, the illiteracy rate in Montenegro is higher for women (3.4 percent in comparison to 2.35 percent for men). Overall, only 50 percent of students are proficient in less than 30 percent of essential knowledge.

Gender Inequality in Montenegro

In a recent report, UNICEF deemed schools in Montenegro as “non-girl-friendly” and claimed this was a major factor in the impediment of girls’ education in Montenegro. Moreover, UNESCO’s 2011 report on education in Montenegro saw that teaching methods were severely outdated and teachers often used intimidation tactics. Finally, discrimination against girls, particularly in schools across Montenegro, was 80 percent higher than against boys.

These discrepancies have caused an imbalance in the work force, though it is not completely one-sided. Only 52 percent of females, compared to 66 percent of men, participate in the labor force. The major disparities of gender is in parliament and other positions of power. In parliament, as of 2015, only 17 percent of seats are held by women.  In 2013, only 24 percent of firms saw female ownership. And in 2012, only 12 percent of females, compared to the 22 percent of males, were self-employed. There has been much backlash to these statistics, and many organizations have taken direct action to improve girls’ education in Montenegro.

The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education and Science of Montenegro, the main policy making body for education and sports in Montenegro, has received support from said organizations—UNICEF and UNESCO mainly.  This support is to ensure that basic learning needs are met and sustained of all children regardless of their ethnic background, social class, and especially gender.

Though the country has a National Plan of Action towards girls’ education in Montenegro, UNICEF’s annual report of 2016 found that the country is now more focused on the second decade of life and ending violence against women. In 2015, Montenegro’s prime minister stated that the country was committed to increasing attendance and expanding preschool coverage. The Minister of Education, in 2017, reiterated this same focus to UNICEF. The now disbanded Ministry of Education and Science’s publication of a “Comprehensive Evaluation of Primary Education in Yugoslavia” is, nevertheless, still being used as an outline for education reform, as is the World Bank’s emphasis on active learning in young children and a life-skills education in later years.

Though the country has moved away from focusing on girls’ education, the calls for reform have nonetheless been consistent. Montenegro has changed its focus in the past decade from gender-based education reform, to improvement of school systems, to now expanding their preschools and their enrollment. Girls’ education in Montenegro, while in need of alteration, has found itself stuck under the larger issues of migration, poverty and an overall lacking education system. Thus, change has yet to be seen.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

 

Girls' Education in TongaLocated off the coast of Australia and New Zealand, Tonga is part of a 170-island archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The country itself is immersed in a rich culture that is founded on a matriarchal society, bringing benefits to girl’s education in Tonga. The eldest women, usually called “aunties,” have shared power regarding family affairs, including their own choice in marriage. This matriarchal-based society stems from the fact that Tonga’s royal line is passed down through women rather than men.

Positive Aspects of Girls’ Education in Tonga

Although women in Tonga play a secondary role in their day-to-day society, girls’ education in Tonga is anything but secondary. Girls are exposed to education and modern technology from an early age. All children, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to take part in playgroups prior to preschool. The groups are organized by the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning Project (PEARL), whose main goal is to help children learn to read and write before beginning school, as well as help develop skills important to their education. The playgroups are implemented by the community and the World Bank.

Programs like PEARL have had a positive effect on the literacy rate of Tonga, which currently stands at over 95 percent. Education in Tonga is mandatory and free for children ages 6 to 14. Furthering girls’ education in Tonga beyond the age of 14 is not determined by gender, but by financial resources. Queen Salote, who ruled Tonga from 1918 until 1965 and was educated herself, promoted the importance of girl’s education. She helped by paying for school funds during difficult financial times and established a group that advocated education for women. 

Challenges to Girls’ Education

Despite the matriarchal-based society and the progress that has been made, girls’ education in Tonga still faces challenges. Women in the country cannot own land and have to dress modestly. In addition, girls’ education in Tonga was recently affected by a law issued by the Education Minister, Penisimani Fifita, banning girls from participating in rugby and boxing at public schools.

Fifita stated that it was against Tonga’s culture and tradition for girls to play rugby. However, the state later issued a statement saying that the ban was imposed to give students more time for school. Fehoko Tu’ivai, the girl’s rugby head coach at Tonga High School and President of the Tonga Women’s Rugby Association, stated, “Rugby is one of the oldest sports in Tonga. We have realized that we Tongans were born to be great sportsmen and women, especially in rugby.” 

The ban on girls’ ability to play sports because of tradition deprives them of many opportunities. Two-time Olympian champion in shot put, Valerie Adams, is half-Tongan. She expressed the importance of keeping girls in rugby on social media, saying, “Tongan women must be free to choose their destiny, and not be held back by misguided and stubborn misinterpretation.” Tongans and people residing in New Zealand continue to express their disagreement and disappointment with the female-undermining bill.

Looking to the Future

Despite the setbacks, girls’ education in Tonga is supported by a strong base of literacy-based programs like PEARL and has made substantial progress. If this progress continues, the future is bright for women in Tonga. 

– Alyssa Hannam
Photo: Flickr

TajikistanKofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, once stated that “Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.” Tajikistan, located in Central Asia, is widely known for its mountains and hiking locations. The country has recently faced financial pressure which has led to a series of problems, one of which is the lack of girls’ education in Tajikistan.

Economic Conditions Impeding Education

According to UNICEF, “In Tajikistan, compulsory education (primary and lower-secondary) is guaranteed for all children, free of charge, under Article 41 of Tajikistan’s Constitution.” While education is guaranteed for all children, only 88 percent of girls in Tajikistan complete their basic education. Education in the region has been on the decline since the country’s civil war in the 1990s, which was estimated to have destroyed over one-fifth of all schools in the region. The ensuing economic hardships have made it difficult to build new schools or keep teachers and other scholars from leaving the country. The United Nations Education Index ranks Tajikistan 133 out of 187 countries; the lowest rank of all former Soviet republics.

Financial Difficulties and Child Labor

Following Tajikistan’s independence, the country saw the revival of ideas surrounding gender roles which led to the view that women and girls are expected to take care of the household. Financial troubles in enrolling children in schools have also led parents to prioritize education for sons over education for daughters. Other financial obstacles stand in the way of girl’s education in Tajikistan; paying for extra school uniforms and enrollment fees have forced parents into choosing which child gets to go to school.

Increases in child labor have also sparked a higher number of children dropping out of school to join the workforce. The International Labor Organization stated that from 2012 to 2013, more than 23 percent of all children in Tajikistan worked in child labor jobs.

Progress for Girls’ Education

While the current situation is alarming in Tajikistan, steps are being taken to help fix the issue of girls’ education. Since the 2012 adoption of the National Strategy of Education Development, progress has been made, although the girls continue to drop out of schools in the country.

Multiple initiatives by the Tajikistan government and worldwide institutions such as UNICEF have created an expansion in girls’ education in Tajikistan. The Girls Education Package, an initiative created by the work of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education of Tajikistan and Oshtii Milli, an NGO, has succeeded in slowly reducing gender disparities in education. These parties have brought together stakeholders in the community and local authorities to create an atmosphere that supports a gender-sensitive learning environment.

While organizations around the world work tirelessly to help out in Tajikistan, much more needs to be done for the expansion of girls’ education in the country. By ensuring that education retention grows among the population, Tajikistan’s future will become brighter every day moving forward.

– Michael Huang
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Vanuatu: Putting a Stop to Social StigmasThe Republic of Vanuatu is an island in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of only 283,558 people. Of that, 49.1 percent are females. With no effective care and knowledge, addressing menstruation is taboo and handling it is more complex than usual. While it is one of the most important and common changes all women experience, women in Vanuatu are at their most vulnerable during their menstrual cycle. In fact, 75 percent of girls miss school for three to seven days per month when they are on their period due to the social stigma that girls are unclean and unfit to work around the house or go to school.

Girls’ Education in Vanuatu

Education is a main tool for success, but girls’ education in Vanuatu is not guaranteed. According to Spain Exchange, Vanuatu schools have the lowest attendance and enrollment rate in the Pacific because attending school in Vanuatu is not mandatory. Even when given the opportunity to go to school, girls don’t have the proper support system they need to finish because schools lack access to proper bathroom facilities, toiletries and feminine hygiene products. Eventually, girls are forced to drop out because they are falling behind from missing school, making it difficult to catch up with the rest of the class. To make matters worse, young girls can’t turn to their mothers for help because mothers barely understand what is happening to their own bodies.

When girls miss school, they are at home trying to use the little resources they have as menstrual pads, usually using rags or leaves. However, these methods are unreliable and unsanitary. Throughout this process, these young girls are feeling sad, ashamed and confused. Fortunately, there are several organizations that have created effective ways for the girls in Vanuatu to feel protected and clean at school during their menstrual cycle.

CARE for Girls’ Education in Vanuatu

CARE is an international humanitarian campaign that fights global poverty. To help girls in Vanuatu, CARE raised $20,349 to help over 300 girls in 10 different schools. Each girl received a hygiene kit filled with various feminine products including pads, washable and reusable pad liners, soap, laundry detergent and a bucket to wash her clothes and pads.

CARE Australia states that the pads are made by Mamma’s Laef, a Vanuatu business that employs local women. Mamma’s Laef sews reusable and eco-friendly pads that are expected to last up to four years for women all over the country. Australian ABC News reported that, at first, this company was making just a few kits a week, but after high demand for its products, business was booming and catching the attention of the government.

Now, Mamma’s Laef holds educational sessions and programs as part of girls’ education in Vanuatu to inform the students about the reproductive system and the natural changes the human body experiences. Girls learn about the menstrual cycle and how to handle it while boys are taught self-care and how to respect women in their country.

With the help and knowledge of organizations such as CARE and Mamma’s Laef, Vanuatu is one step closer to becoming a successful, self-sufficient country. The girls in Vanuatu prove every day that, with just the help and support of each other, anything is possible.

– Kristen Uedoi
Photo: Flickr