improve girls' educationAll around the globe, young girls are forced to end their educational careers early as gender inequality is still quite common. Lack of schooling for young girls limits female participation in the workplace and reinforces patriarchal societies. As of 2018, worldwide totals of illiterate girls from the ages of 5 to 25 outnumbered illiterate boys in the same age group by 12 million. Yet,  global female participation in schooling has grown by 16% since 1995. The momentum gained in the past 25 years looks to continue as three important organizations have released plans to improve girls’ education in 2020 and beyond.

3 Organizations Working to Improve Girls’ Education

  1. The World Bank. As a global economic institution, the World Bank joined the fight to preserve girls’ education years ago. In fact, the bank launched a seven-year plan in 2016 that focuses on improving all women’s rights, going beyond just education. However, the World Bank identified educational opportunities as a key way to break the cycle of injustice and has subsequently created separate funding solely to advance female schooling. In May 2020, the World Bank has already allocated a total of $1.49 billion to improving education for women of all ages, both primary and secondary. This will not only help girls learn to read and write but will also lead to women entering the workplace in countries where men are the ones who hold jobs.
  2. The United Nations. Many know the U.N. as the global agency where countries discuss peace deals and trade contracts. While this is true, the U.N. also has sectors dedicated to human rights advocacy. An entire branch, known as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), works with developing countries to devise plans that enhance educational opportunities for girls. Being under the umbrella of the United Nations adds a level of legitimacy that some nonprofits seeking to improve girls’ education are unable to achieve. The UNGEI has a wide range of contributors and currently consists of 24 global and regional partners, four regional partnerships and nearly 50 associated country partnerships. Recently, the U.N. released the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and worked with the UNGEI to add equal educational opportunity for girls as a part of this vision. Girls around the world, especially those living in developing countries, are at the center of this vision, which can lead to powerful global change.
  3. Girls Education Challenge (GEC). Back in 2012, the government of the United Kingdom made global equal education a primary focus. The government joined forces with U.K. Aid to tackle this issue. Together, the two created a groundbreaking 12-year commitment called the Girls Education Challenge (GEC). The first phase of the GEC, which was a huge success, ended in 2017. For the second phase, which will continue until 2024, the U.K. is looking to expand its impact to encompass more than 40 projects in nearly 20 nations. With hundreds of millions of dollars now raised for the GEC, its own research suggests that more than 800,000 young girls are learning in schools and are on the path to finishing their education. With four years remaining in the GEC, the United Kingdom’s impact on girls’ education will continue to bring equal opportunities well into the 2020s.

Education, Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction

The World Bank, the U.N. and the U.K. are trying to create fair schooling policies but are also breaking down social barriers in the developing world. Global society is trending in the right direction for gender equality but the international community still has much work to do. All efforts to improve girls’ education can and will be a catalyst for change.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

She’s the First Across the globe, women face harsh inequalities in education and the promotion of other crucial rights. Women make up more than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population, receive lower wages, experience gender-based violence and are forced to adhere to strict societal gender norms that prevent their progression. This is especially the case in developing countries. She’s the First is an organization where the progression of women is a central focus.

She’s the First

She’s the First, a nonprofit organization, recognizes the benefits of prioritizing women and gender equality. When females are educated and empowered, they can earn up to 20% more as an adult for each additional year of schooling completed. They are also then more likely to be in healthy relationships, have fewer but healthier children, are less likely to marry early and are more likely to make an impact in the world. These reasons are why She’s the First puts girls first by promoting women’s equality and education.

Putting Girls First

She’s the First promotes girls’ education and equality. It provides funding to different community-based organizations that can implement culturally efficient ways for girls to attend school as well as afterschool programs where they can further their education while simultaneously learning about life skills and reproductive health. She’s the First also runs training and conferences around the globe. These conferences amplify girls’ voices around the world, inspiring them to become leaders in their own communities. As of the end of 2019, She’s the First reached 11,000 girls, had a presence in 21 countries and provided training for 52 community-based organizations.

Girls’ Bill Of Rights

She’s the First is a co-organizer of the Girls’ Bill of Rights, a declaration of the rights all girls are entitled to, written by girls, for girls. More than 1,000 girls from 34 countries contributed to the list, created on the 2019 International Day of Girl and presented to the United Nations. The Girls’ Bill of Rights advocates for the promotion of girls’ rights like quality education, equality, leadership, sexual education and reproductive rights, protection from harmful cultural practices, free decision-making and more. To support the Girls’ Bill of Rights, supporters can use the hashtag “#GirlsBillOfRights”, co-sign the bill or make a public pledge of support.

Women’s Empowerment and Poverty Reduction

She’s the First is an organization that works toward complete equality for women worldwide, especially in regards to education. Currently, women face a significant disadvantage, especially those who are uneducated. If women are given education and equality, they can lift themselves out of poverty since education is directly related to lowering poverty levels. She’s the First spreads this idea by creating culturally efficient ways for girls to go to school and further their education in developing countries. The organization also advocates for women’s rights through the Girls’ Bill of Rights. She’s the First plays a crucial part in empowering women and helping them to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Seona Maskara
Photo: Flickr

The Nike Foundation’s Girl EffectAround the world, many young girls are without access to basic health and educational resources. Research has shown that gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives are key to alleviating global poverty. Over the years, organizations have developed across the globe committed to providing such resources in order to improve the quality of life for millions. One of those organizations is The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. This organization is a creative nonprofit working where girls are marginalized and vulnerable.

4 Facts About Girl Effect

1. Girl Effect has been in operation for 12 years. The Nike Foundation launched Girl Effect in 2008 at the World Economic Forum. According to its website, “The Girl Effect is about the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Nike designed the organization to inspire the most influential leaders in the world to get girls in vulnerable nations on the global development agenda and help increase the drive of resources to them. Girl Effect also aims to create media resources for girls around the world in order to increase their access to resources surrounding education and healthcare. Through partnerships with prominent organizations and creating branded media content, Girl Effect has provided millions of girls access to life-saving information.

2. It uses media and the internet to reach girls in developing nations. Girl Effect creates branded media for girls around the world that helps to “navigate the pivotal time of adolescence so they can make positive choices about their health, education and economic future.” Girl Effect currently operates seven different digital programs to reach girls around the world; Chhaa Jaa, Ni Nyampinga, Springster, TEGA, Tujibebe, Yegna and Zathu. The Chhaa Jaa program, which means “go forth and shine” in Hindi, is a “digital-first youth brand that inspires, informs and equips girls in India with the right skills and confidence to navigate adolescence.” These resources include helping girls access information about sexual and reproductive health, how to negotiate with parents about their choices for continuing their education, and how to prepare for their first job. Tujibebe is a program that was born from Tanzanian culture and is a mobile-based brand focused on helping provide adolescent girls with information and resources they need to make positive choices about their future. This includes how to finish their education and setting up their own small business.

3. It partners with numerous organizations to share its message. Girl Effect has worked with organizations from a variety of industries, from nonprofits to social media networks, to help effectively spread its message to girls across the world. One of the largest nonprofit organizations that it partners with is UNICEF. Together the organizations support and promote the Ni Nyampinga program in Rwanda. Through this partnership, UNICEF and Girl Effect have been able to make Ni Nyampinga a nation-wide movement with 80% of the population of Rwanda aware of it, which is almost 6.6 million Rwandans. Another prominent partner of the organization is Facebook. Through the use of Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides people with full access to services on their mobile phones, Girl Effect is able to promote its Springster program on a worldwide scale. Through this partnership, Facebook and Girl Effect have been able to reach over 12 million users in the past year alone. The program is available in over 50 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. A few additional Girl Effect partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and Mastercard Foundation.

4.  The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect made great strides reaching developing countries. Since its introduction in 2008, Girl Effect has been able to reach millions of girls in developing nations to provide education and resources. In India and South Africa, its online chatbots have responded to over 1.2 million messages asking for advice on sex and healthy relationships. It has helped connect over 15,000 girls in India with efficient sexual and reproductive health information and services online. In Malawi, girls who read Girl Effect magazine are 32% more likely than non-readers to go to a medical provider and receive their first dose of HPV medication. In Indonesia, those who have seen Girl Effect’s digital nutrition campaign are 32% more likely to make healthier food choices than those who did not view it.

Girl Effect Closes the Gender Gap

Since its beginning, The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect has helped to create media for girls around the world to provide resources on how to improve their education, healthcare and well-being. For years, the world has struggled to include girls in the many advances that have been made in healthcare and education. However, organizations like Girl Effect help to close this gap.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Social Skills to Young Girls
Asante Africa Foundation, which Erna Grasz co-founded in 2007, is a Foundation to alleviate poverty and encourage the development of youth through quality learning in the classroom, gender equity and work-life skills. Its motto is to “Educate and empower the next generation of change agents, whose dreams and actions transform the future for Africa and the world.” Here is some information about how Asante Africa Foundation is working to promote health knowledge and education for young girls.

About Asante Africa Foundation

The Foundation comprises a global team that connects youth from Kenya, Tanzania, California and Uganda through three effective interconnected programs that work to promote education through low-cost resources and train teachers how to educate youth. These programs, called Accelerated Learning in the Classroom Program, Leadership and Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) Program and Wezesha Vijana Program, are active in East Africa in Narok, Kenya; Arusha, Tanzania; Livermore, California and Kassanda, Uganda.

The LEI Program, founded in 2010, is a three-year program that provides students with job readiness skills, entrepreneurship skills and personal development skills that will allow students to enter the job market and start their own businesses in the future. The Accelerated Learning in the Classroom Program is a program that works to provide intensive teacher training and utilization of technology in the classroom to better prepare students. In this way, both students and teachers gain the necessary skills to thrive and excel in modern academic fields.

The Wezesha Vijana Program, also known as the Girls’ Advancement Program, is a school-based program that works to provide a safe space for young girls to discuss their challenges and to create solutions to those problems. This program allows community support, parental engagement and peer mentoring. Young girls become armed with the knowledge and recognition of their rights and their collective power. The Foundation has changed over 600,000 youth lives by encouraging the development of cognitive skills, decision-making capacity and leadership qualities for the next generation.

Providing Education for Girls

In a virtual event that took place on October 17, 2020, called Creating Opportunity from Chaos, people received opportunities to create changes in their communities and voice their understanding of the struggles that young girls face. Participants had to describe what implementations they were making in the community to foster change and growth. The theme of the panel was to create solutions for the predicament of a young girl facing issues such as gender-based violence and limited educational and economic opportunities. Simon Kinyanjul, the representative from Asante Africa Foundation, answered that he was promoting change in the community through providing education for girls about their sexual rights, hygienic practices and financial/business knowledge.

Kinyabjul emphasized how the start of after-school clubs and activities play an important role in functioning as a safe place for girls to learn how to obtain skills such as financial education, skills training and community support. Some afterschool activities that Asante Africa Foundation has created involved building peer support networks through the administration of girl-led school clubs that educated girls in sexual maturation, reproductive health, financial knowledge, social skills and personal rights. These afterschool clubs allowed greater communication among the girls and also taught the boys to act as a support system and ally to the girls. The implementation of after-school activities and clubs has led to fewer early unintended pregnancies, reduced early marriages, increased school attendance/completion and increased financial earnings/savings for girls.

The Wezesha Vijana Program

Simon Kinyanjui took the time to explain the Wezesha Vijana Program, a program to give young girls knowledge about hygiene, finances and business, along with social skills to help them in their communities and their lives. The help gained from the local government, local chiefs and schools serve as important constituents that will aid as a support structure for young girls to pave their way into the world. This program has impacted over 125,000 youth lives and the number continues to grow. The average attendance rate in schools in Africa has increased by 7%, academic performance in schools has increased by 38% and pregnancy dropouts have decreased by 75% in 2019 alone.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, young girls and children do not have the opportunity to gather and learn these important lifelong skills. Therefore, Asante Africa Foundation has been reaching out to communities and distributing Youth Essential Kits which contain feminine hygiene products and learning products that allow these girls to become healthy women in their business and their lives.

The prolongation of the COVID-19 pandemic has denied youth the ability to attend sessions in the community that served as a place for the girls to meet regularly and discuss and share issues. It is also impeding the process that allowed girls to discuss their knowledge of financial stability, hygiene and personal health. However, through the creation and distribution of the hygiene kits, adolescent girls have the feminine hygiene products that will allow them to stay clean and that they may not have been able to afford. The pandemic has resulted in reduced earnings and increased unemployment in the African economy which, in turn, has increased poverty. As a result, these Youth Essential Kits are providing adolescent girls with the feminine products that they cannot afford due to the economic decline.

To help ease the trouble that the pandemic caused, Asante Africa Foundation has also been working with students and alumni to identify what is necessary within different communities. The effort of Asante Africa Foundation to provide a source of outreach and connection among the students through the pandemic has allowed students to remain active in their endeavors and have a positive outlook for their futures.

– Isha Bedi
Photo: Flickr

3 Lessons the World Can Learn From Mexico’s New Feminist Foreign PolicyIn January 2020, Mexico shattered barriers by announcing its adoption of a feminist foreign policy aimed at reducing “structural differences, gender gaps and inequalities” at home and abroad. This commitment made Mexico the first country in Latin America and the Global South to require that “gender equality be at the core” of all foreign policy decisions. Mexico’s new policy initiatives intend to help foster the reduction of women’s economic and social issues through representation and the elimination of structural differences. Here are three lessons that every country can learn from Mexico’s groundbreaking feminist foreign policy initiatives.

Representation Matters

Developing foreign policy necessitates introspection within a government. How can a nation help foster gender equality abroad when it fails to do so within its borders?

In establishing its new feminist foreign policy, Mexico saw the potential hypocrisy of sponsoring gender equality worldwide while failing to address inequalities present in some of its governmental organizations. For this reason, many of Mexico’s feminist foreign policy initiatives focus on the creation of “a foreign ministry with gender parity.” The Mexican government believes that to ensure equitable feminist foreign policy gets passed into law, the ministry which creates such law must have “visible equality of women” within its ranks. This part of Mexico’s feminist foreign policy entails hiring even more women into positions of leadership in the foreign ministry. This hiring shift aims to create an influx of female voices in the Foreign Ministry to instill the opinions of women in policy areas ranging from foreign aid to defense.

Already, the Mexican government has become one of the most gender-equal in the world. As of 2018, Mexico had 246 women in congress occupying 48% of congressional seats. This places it at fourth in the world for its number of women in congress. By committing to include more women in the process of drafting foreign policy legislation, the Mexican government seeks to amplify the voices of women in the legislation process even further. This means increased advocacy for women worldwide, especially those living in poverty.

Mexico’s commitment to include women in the process of foreign policy creation demonstrates to the world that equitable foreign policy requires equal representation of men and women in the lawmaking process. 

Equality and Economics Are Inextricable

Globally, women earn 24% less than men and are more likely to live in poverty than men. High poverty rates among women signal a disparity between the wages of men and women. Any attempts by a government to ensure the equality of women on a global scale must be focused on reducing the number of women in poverty. Mexico recognizes this fact, and many of its groundbreaking feminist foreign policy initiatives involve tackling structural inequalities like the gender pay gap.

The Mexican government has committed to joining with the HeForShe organization, which champions social and economic equality between the sexes throughout the world. By orienting its foreign policy goals toward fulfilling the promises of women’s rights on a global scale, Mexico commits itself to economic initiatives like “microfinancing and small loans for women,” as well as the dismantling of antiquated trade laws and tariffs that put women at an economic disadvantage to men.

Through these initiatives, Mexico aims to reduce the number of women in poverty by helping to dismantle systemic inequalities and by giving women the resources needed in order to create economic equality. Microfinancing creates limitless economic opportunities for women all over the globe and allows them to independently develop their own businesses. Global communities lose around $9 trillion a year due to the gender pay gap. By committing to reduce this inequality, even the poorest of nations can decrease their poverty rates and bring tangible economic benefits to communities in need.

Mexico’s commitment to reducing the number of women in poverty makes it evident that if the systemic economic barriers to equality are to be dismantled, women must be given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and to earn wages and jobs at equal rates to men. Equality cannot simply be declared. Rather, social and political equality arises from equal economic opportunity.

Anyone Can Try It

Before Mexico announced its adoption of a feminist foreign policy aimed at reducing women’s poverty and encouraging a “feminist agenda abroad,” the only other countries to have oriented their foreign policies toward feminist initiatives were Sweden, Canada and France. These other three nations have an average poverty rate of 9.7 % and an average GDP per capita of $49,907. Comparatively, Mexico has a poverty rate of around 17% and a GDP per capita of $10,065. Although Mexico’s peers in the field of feminist foreign policy have more national wealth than it does, this did not prevent the nation from adopting and maintaining policy objectives with women’s rights at their core.

Mexico’s new foreign policies demonstrate that it does not take an extreme amount of national wealth to launch feminist initiatives at home and abroad. Regardless of GDP, any government can make commitments to ensuring tangible gender equality. 

Overall, although Mexico still has progress to make with respect to ensuring women’s equality at home and abroad, its commitment to a feminist foreign policy sets a strong example for other Latin American countries. With any luck, other Latin American countries will soon follow Mexico’s lead and begin to implement similar feminist foreign policies that not only work to lift women out of poverty and assure social and economic equality but that also recognize that “women’s rights are human rights.

 – Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Photography Fights Child MarriageTwelve million girls a year—or 23 girls every minute—are married before their 18th birthday. The most common factors that contribute to child marriage are poverty, lack of education and gender norms. Around the world, 21% of young women were married as minors. The prevalence of child marriage is even higher in sub-Saharan Africa, at 37% of young women. Various art forms, including photography and music, have been used to advocate for the eradication of this harmful practice. Photography fights child marriage by raising awareness for this pressing issue and empowering women to take action.

Costs of Child Marriage

When young women and girls are forced to marry, they are less likely to attend school. They are separated from their family and friends, and they are also more likely to experience life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, suffer domestic violence and contract HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, child marriage traps these girls in a cycle of poverty, in which they and their children are less able to access opportunities for education and economic empowerment.

Photography Fights Child Marriage and Empowers Girls

Too Young to Wed, a nonprofit founded in 2012 by photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair, uses photography to raise awareness of the prevalence of child marriage. This organization creates media campaigns focusing on child marriage and uses compelling photojournalism to show that the practice is a violation of human rights. The photographs have been seen by billions, and one media campaign that focused on child marriage in Nepal reached more than 9.7 million people. The photographs, alongside firsthand accounts from girls at risk of or impacted by child marriage, “inspire the global advocacy and policy-making communicates to act,” according to Sinclair.

In addition to organizing photo workshops, this organization provides leadership scholarships, vocational training and other support. The Leadership Scholarship program is especially crucial because education is vital to preventing child marriages. In the last eight years, Too Young to Wed has directly helped 600 girls, and much more indirectly, in its fight against child marriage. Sinclair told Global Citizen, “[Girls] can do all kinds of things that they can bring back to their community and then also bring them out of a level of poverty where the most extreme forms of child marriage are definitely happening.” When young women are educated, their children are more likely to be educated as well, which helps take the family out of the cycle of poverty.  Overall, Too Young to Wed uses visual evidence and storytelling to highlight the harmful impacts of child marriage, empower girls and inspire change.

Tehani Photo Workshop

Since 2016, Too Young to Wed has provided a week-long photography workshop that also functions as an immersive art therapy retreat called the Tehani Photo Workshop. Partnered with the Samburu Girls Foundation, Too Young to Wed held the first workshop in Kenya, where about 1 in 4 girls are married before the age of 18. During this workshop, 10 girls who had escaped their marriages learned how to shoot portraits, and they were able to form friendships and reclaim their narratives. To conclude the workshop, the girls presented their photographs and told their stories to more than 100 members of their community.  According to Sinclair, the workshops aim to “help [the girls] better realize their self-worth and the value of their voice.”

Music as a Tool in the Fight Against Child Marriage

In Benin, where more than 25% of girls are married before they are 18 years old, artists collaborated in 2017 to release a song and music video that highlighted this issue. UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassadors Angélique Kidjo and Zeynab Abib, along with seven other artists, composed the song as part of the national Zero Tolerance Campaign against child marriage. The song is titled “Say No to Child Marriage” and includes multiple languages so its message resonates with people within Benin and in neighboring countries. “Child marriage is a negation of children’s right to grow up free,” said Kidjo. “Every child has the right to a childhood.”

In 2019, the United Nations Children’s Fund worked with music producer Moon Boots and vocalist Black Gatsby to produce a music video to speak out against child marriage in Niger, where 76% of girls are married before the age of 18. Also, according to UNICEF, Niger has the world’s highest rate of child marriage. The song, titled “Power,” promotes education as a positive alternative that can empower girls and reduce poverty in their communities. According to a Félicité Tchibindat, a UNICEF representative in Niger, it also fights against the practice of child marriage by raising awareness that “ending child marriage is possible,” even though it is a long-held social norm.

Conclusion

Although the rates of child marriage are gradually declining worldwide, it is estimated that 120 million more girls under the age of 18 will be married by 2030 if current trends continue. The coronavirus pandemic has also put up to 13 million more girls at risk of child marriage because of rising poverty rates, school closures and hindered access to reproductive health services and resources.

Twenty-five million child marriages have been prevented in the last ten years, and UNICEF attributes the decline of the practice in part to “strong public messaging around the illegality of child marriage and the harm it causes.” While photography fights child marriage, further far-reaching and powerful art initiatives, along with the work of national governments and international organizations, can continue to raise awareness, empower girls and reduce the prevalence of this practice around the world.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

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

10 Facts About Girls' Education in Malaysia 
There is a jarring gender gap within Malaysia’s workplace despite the fact that there are more women than men in higher education institutions in the country. Girls are also more successful in primary school than secondary school because of teaching tactics and gender stereotyping they encounter in schools. Below are 10 facts about girls’ education in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Girls Education in Malaysia

  1. Literacy Rate: The literacy rate between boys and girls is unequal. Malaysia measures its literacy rate by how many people over the age of 15 can read and write. The population’s literacy rate is 94 percent. Meanwhile, it is 96.2 percent among boys and 93.2 percent among girls.

  2. The Women’s Aid Organization (WAO): The Women’s Aid Organisation in Malaysia advocates for gender equality and provides refuge for domestic abuse victims. It emerged in 1982 and works to raise awareness in order to increase Malaysia’s understanding and respect for women. The WAO has reached over 3,000 women and has provided 154 women and children refuge in 2018. It understands that education is important and at its shelters, it provides educational programs for children as well as lessons about domestic abuse.

  3. Gender Stereotyping: Malaysia is reviewing its current textbooks from gender equality yielding perspective. A social media post in 2018 triggered this by bringing attention to gender stereotyping within Malaysian textbooks in elementary schools. The textbooks taught girls how to be wives, weave and sow. Malaysia is now trying to ensure boys and girls do not have stereotyped life roles.

  4. Gender Parity in Secondary Education: Based on data from the EFA Global Monitoring Report in 2008, Malaysia will likely not achieve total gender parity for enrollment in secondary education in Malaysia by 2015 or 2025 based on past trends. This report also determined that there are more boys enrolled in secondary education than girls, however, the drop out rate is higher for boys. This information stands true today.

  5. Girls Education Improvements: Still, there have been improvements. In 1957, only 33 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school, but in 2018, girls’ enrollment rose to 75 percent. Both society and education institutions changed their attitudes about whether girls should receive education or not, which influenced this increase. It is no longer as unusual for girls to seek an education to gain a career, so schools started changing the curriculum to include girls.

  6. Likelihood of Dropping Out: According to an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report in 2015, boys are three times more likely to drop out after secondary school than girls. Many dropouts come from impoverished families because boys receive encouragement to do manual labor jobs so they can make money at a young age. Meanwhile, girls are more likely to go to higher education institutions than boys.

  7. Gender Disparity at University: The only Malaysian public university with extreme gender disparity against women is the National Defense University of Malaysia. Thirty percent of those attending the university are female because Malaysians do not typically see jobs within the uniformed forces as suitable for women. The uniformed forces, which include the military, police and fire and rescue forces, reported that 10 percent of the military are women. Additionally, the percentage of female cops in high ranking officer positions rose from 59 percent (2012) to 74 percent (2016) because the country is gradually finding it more acceptable for women to work these jobs.

  8. Merit Rather than Discrimination: In Malaysia, colleges choose applicants based on merit and women do not receive any discrimination. The gender gap within STEM fields seems to be based on gender stereotyping within society. Malaysian society has often thought that girls should be mothers and wives, and until recent years, that was what many expected. This, in turn, caused a lack of interest among women and girls to seek out education.

  9. Absence of Women in Leadership Positions: Women make up 62 percent of the total enrollment in higher education institutions. However, women are still absent from many leadership, business labor market or decision-making positions. MiWEPs, a nonprofit that works with Malaysian Indian women from three categories including employed women of blue or white-collar professions, self-employed or entrepreneurs, advocates for and helps women to be in manager, Board of Director and C-suite positions.

  10. Policies to Increase Girls Participation in STEM Education: The Malaysian government has placed STEM education as a focus in the process of becoming a developed nation. It acknowledges the role of women and has formulated policies such as the Malaysia Woman Policy in 2009 and the National Policy on Science, Technology, & Innovation in 2013-2020. These policies have increased women researchers form 35.8 percent in 2004 to 49.9 percent in 2012.

These 10 facts about girls’ education in Malaysia show that women are taking over universities and higher education institutions, but secondary school girls are still struggling with gender bias. Government policies veered towards economic education, women’s welfare and STEM fields are leading Malaysia to have more gender equality and women in leadership positions.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Girl Determined Promotes LeadershipA program called Girl Determined promotes leadership among adolescent girls through a multi-faceted, engaged approach. In Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia, it is common for young girls to grow up wishing they had been born boys. Despite progress and distribution of equal rights in developed nations, women and girls living in Myanmar still face extreme oppression today. Unfortunately, they continue to fight for some of their most basic human rights.

Women and girls regularly face issues such as gender inequality, violent relationships and extreme prejudice. 2016 Demographic and Health Survey found that 21 percent of women had reported experiencing physical, sexual or psychological violence from their partner. Researchers even believe that, given the authoritarian-style government in Myanmar, the real number is actually much higher.

Part of the problem is that girls between the ages of 12 and 17 lack the confidence and empowerment needed to speak up for their rights. In a nation where females are born into the expectation that they will remain subdued, gaining the courage to challenge the norm can be difficult. Girl Determined is working to change that.

The Program

The program is structured primarily around Circles. Circles are weekly after-school peer groups that provide young girls with a place to share their experiences and learn from one another. Currently, more than 2,000 girls across Myanmar participate in Circles. The meetings follow a curriculum that addresses five categories:

  1. Decision-making
  2. Self-confidence
  3. Building friendships
  4. Understanding cultural and religious differences
  5. Girls’ rights and planning for one’s future.

During the group sessions, topics can range from universal experiences among adolescents, like puberty and chore lists, to challenges exclusive to the female Myanmar community. For example, shared fears concerning the risk of sex trafficking, lack of education and violence witnessed in war.

To provide support for Circles, Girl Determined hosts an annual Girls’ Leadership summer camp, a Girls’ Conference and a number of athletic programs and campaigns. They are encouraged to keep a journal, plant seeds and participate in team sports. All of these opportunities are designed to put girls at center stage. Furthermore, the program intends to create an outlet to advocate for issues that inherently affect them.

The Impact

Through something as simple as open discussion and encouragement, participants are paving a brighter future for girls in Myanmar. Adolescent girls have become a marginalized group after decades of being taught to follow cultural norms and remain silent. Girl Determined promotes leadership, while also functioning as a platform for real change. Many of the girls who have participated in the program say it taught them to speak up, specifically against gender-based violence and has mobilized them to spark change in their communities.

In 2013, over 800 participants gathered for a conference in Rangoon to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. Teenagers from Girl Determined advocated for policy change in the social welfare department. The local news even covered their statement. Since their statement, women’s organizations working closely with the government have implemented protection for girls into Myanmar’s National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women.

The Circles program is entirely voluntary, so the program measures its overall success is by retention of attendance. Across various project sites in Myanmar, attendance averages at 90 percent. Overall, this speaks to the power in how Girl Determined promotes leadership among young women.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Health in East AfricaMenstrual health products are fairly expensive across the globe. Safe measures of menstrual health in East Africa are difficult to come by since many women cannot afford to purchase feminine hygiene products, which often cost approximately half of their daily pay. ZanaAfrica is working to combat this injustice by providing sanitary pads and education regarding menstrual health.

The Problem with Menstrual Health in East Africa

Due to the exorbitant cost of menstrual health products, girls in Africa often have to resort to using potentially unsafe means of coping with menstruation. Some young women use cloths and rags to deal with menstruation, but they also use unconventional approaches such as twigs, mattress stuffing and even mud. These practices founded out of necessity can have detrimental impacts on the health of adolescent girls. Infections and diseases can result from these measures.

Additionally, female students are likely to miss school as a result of menstruation. Due to stigma, lack of hygiene products and harassment, many girls are unable to attend school during menstruation and miss up to 20 percent of school days as a result. Another aspect affecting adolescent girls is the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation.

Sexual and reproductive health education is lacking in Kenya. In an interview on March 25, 2019, Linda Curran, the Senior Communications & Development Consultant at ZanaAfrica, told The Borgen Project, “Their lack of access to SRHR educational resources exacerbated by the negative external pressures they face leaves girls susceptible to inaccurate information and unsafe influences that often hold deep and lasting negative implications for their sense of voice and agency, their confidence and self-determination, their sexual activity and health, and their education.”

In Kenya, 50 percent of girls cannot openly discuss menstruation at home. Additionally, 68 percent of schools do not have a private area for adolescent girls to address their hygiene needs.

An Organization Helping Improve Menstrual Health in East Africa

Based in Washington D.C., ZanaAfrica is a nonprofit organization that provides sanitary pads and menstrual health education to girls in Kenya. Its efforts in Kenya center around the town of Kilifi, along the East African coast. Kilifi was home to 1.2 million residents as of 2012. Since then, its population has grown.

A large portion of the population in Kilifi, 47 percent, is under the age of 15. In addition, compared to the national average, fewer students enter secondary school. Kilifi also has staggering numbers of violations of women’s rights, including high incidences of teen pregnancy, child marriage and sexual predation. In Kenya, 527,000 girls are child brides. The work of ZanaAfrica in Kilifi is pivotal in providing positive changes for the adolescent girls of Kilifi.

Supplementing sanitary pads, ZanaAfrica also has a publication aimed at educating girls about their changing bodies, Nia Teen. This magazine has a rights-based focus and ZanaAfrica distributes it alongside its health education program, Nia Yetu.

ZanaAfrica is truly making a difference in Kilifi with programs educating nearly 4,000 girls regarding their sexual and reproductive health. Also, the organization distributed 35,600 sanitary pads to the girls of the region. With Nia Yetu, ZanaAfrica is extending its reach by working with World Vision and The Kenyan Ministry of Health to provide sexual and reproductive health education in 40 schools that will reach a total of 1,600 girls.

ZanaAfrica accepts donations to further its mission of providing adolescent girls with access to sanitary products and eliminating the taboo surrounding menstruation. While ZanaAfrica only sells its sanitary pads in Kenya, the organization’s brand partner, Cora, is available in the United States. A portion of each purchase helps support the work of ZanaAfrica in Kenya.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Google