Girls’ Education in Montenegro
Montenegro 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 Moreover, UNESCO’s 2011 report on education in Montenegro saw that teaching methods were severely outdated and teachers often used intimidation tactics.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 Tonga
Located 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


Kofi 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 Stigmas
The 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

Girls’ Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Historically, Bosnia and Herzegovina was made up of two countries — the first, Bosnia, and the second, Herzegovina. Bosnia was controlled by the Ottoman Empire from 1463 until approximately 1978. At that time, Bosnia was taken over by Great Britain who implemented new schools and further nuanced the governmental structure of Bosnia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina traditionally maintained a sort of strict patriarchal society throughout its history, particularly while under Ottoman rule when the official religious structure was Islam (patriarchy is one of the most distinctive traits of a Muslim society). Currently, over half of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina adheres to the Islamic religion, followed closely by adherents of Christianity.  

It seems to be no stretch that the patriarchal heritage is present, although it is slowly weakening. Its presence is still making large impacts on the opinions of girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the way it is implemented.

A Cultural Problem

The gender traditions held in a patriarchal society dictate the types as well as the quality of education that different genders receive. In some cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, banning females from completing elementary school is an existing and acceptable roadblock to male/female equality that is based on Bosnian societal values. One such example is in the capital city of Sarajevo, where girls’ education is not permitted past third grade.

This lack of gender equality not only alienates a large portion of the society but also contributes to large cracks in the nation’s weakened economy. The population demographics in Bosnia and Herzegovina is 60 percent female and 40 percent male. By limiting girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the nation is effectively depriving well over half of its citizens from gaining the knowledge and skills that could contribute to the country’s financial prosperity.

Gendered Education

Despite the gender disparity in formal education, a different type of schooling is employed for females that do not complete secondary or even primary education.

The roles of housewife and mother are extremely valued in Bosnian culture, so much so that some females transfer from the mainstream schooling system in order to focus on acquiring the “necessary” skills that Bosnians revere in society for females. This education is typically received at home where the girls learn cooking, housekeeping and demeanor expectations.  

Even though the gender disparity in Bosnian educational systems is alive and present, initiatives have been implemented to dissolve the disparity, opening up avenues for cultural change. In 2003, the Bosnian government issued a law on gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina that covers equality in all areas of society, most significantly the workplace and educational institutions.

Literacy Rates, Family Values and the Future

Although girls’ education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is sometimes neglected in favor of male education (as tradition dictates), female literacy rates still remain almost as high as males’. This is positive news as such figures mean that more and more girls are continuing their education on into adulthood.

Further, despite city educational bans for females and oftentimes protests from fathers, an increasing amount of mothers are recognizing the need to educate their daughters in order to set them up for future success. Consequently, this shift in perspective has increased female enrollment in schooling over the last several decades.

This provides a hopeful future for girls’ education in the country, one that hopefully sparks a new tradition of female education, literacy and self-empowerment.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Benin

Benin had set tremendous precedence after The Cold War ended by being one of the first African nations to democratize. Its successful democratic system has since allowed Benin to achieve relative economic stability; however, it still suffers from high infant and maternal mortality rates as well as women’s illiteracy.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Benin

Girls’ education in Benin has been hindered by factors such as illnesses, extreme poverty and illiteracy. As the world becomes more and more technologically driven, the economic development of a country is directly affected by low levels of literacy. Poverty, coupled with the high costs of education, creates limited opportunities for girls to acquire a quality education in Benin and succeed in life.

Other major issues that Benin is facing regarding education are the high rates of teacher absenteeism and the limited resources to effectively manage the educational system. Along with these overarching issues, Beninese girls are disproportionately burdened with traditional gender roles. The traditional division of domestic labor typically calls for girls to stay at home and work, which has led to the traditional belief that an education is irrelevant to a girl’s reality. In Benin, the male literacy rate between the ages 15 and 24 is about 55 percent while the female literacy rate in the same age group is about 30 percent.

Improvements to Girls’ Education in Benin

An education population serves as the backbone of every nation. In Benin, improvement has been their top priority. The former president of Benin, Yayi Boni, took very important steps in developing the national education system and ensuring that girls had the resources they needed to go to school by enacting certain measures between the years 2006 and 2013.

A few of President Boni’s measures included ensuring free and universal primary education for all children, tuition support for girls pursuing a secondary education and partial support of enrollment fees for girls who are in industrial science and technology fields.

Partnerships for Education

International organizations such as the United Nations, The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF have all worked with the government of Benin to ensure that girls’ education in Benin is prioritized. Thus far, these partnerships have produced impressive results.

The United Nation’s main objective with this initiative was to mobilize the government of Benin and develop partners to improve the quality and availability of education, confront traditional gender norms surrounding girls’ education in Benin and help economically struggling parents afford the direct and indirect costs of school.

In 2016, the GPE approved a $428,794 grant for Benin to develop its education sector. This plan was implemented in 2017 and is set to end in 2025. The Education Sector Plan Development Grant will allow Benin to conduct a sector-wide analysis of the educational system in Benin.

UNICEF and Big Sistering

A creative UNICEF-supported program called “Big Sistering” was also established in Benin to make the typically long walk from home to school a little more enjoyable. The older girls who are considered “big sisters” not only make sure that the younger girls get to school every day but also have the added responsibility of advocating for the importance of going to school.

If a girl does not come to school one day, it is the big sister’s duty to find out why and report it back to the headmaster. Big sisters also keep a lookout for girls who are not enrolled in school and encourage them to attend. Often times, parents keep their girls home from school to work on farms or tend to animals. In these cases, the parent-teacher association contacts the parents in hopes of finding ways to overcome these barriers.

Through the collaboration of international organizations and the government of Benin, gross enrollment rates for primary education rose from 93 percent to 121 percent, the primary school completion rate increased from 65 percent to 77 percent and gender parity has almost been achieved.

To support these developments, Benin plans to continue its efforts in increasing the education budget. Increasing the budget will not only improve access to secondary education but also the quality of learning and equity at all levels of education.

– Lolontika Hoque

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mauritania

Mauritania is a deeply divided and struggling country. Slavery has only recently been legally abolished, about 20 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day and over half of adults are illiterate. Although one of the biggest threats to Mauritania remains the increasing influence of Al Qaeda, poverty and lack of female educational opportunities are some of the worst perils facing Mauritanians in their daily lives. To understand the current reality of girls’ education in Mauritania, it is first necessary to know where the country has been.

Mauritania’s History

Initially settled by Berbers and Arabs in the 3rd century A.D., Mauritania was a trading and transport hub for connecting West Africa to the Maghreb. In the 1850s, France came to control the territory militarily, leading a brutal regime of oppression. This regime left those living in the area profoundly divided between Arabs and Berbers and subjugated to subhuman conditions. By 1904, France formally established Mauritania as a colony, and in 1920, Mauritania became part of French West Africa and was subsequently administered by Senegal. Mauritania became an overseas territory in 1946; by 1958, the country was self-governing and became independent in 1960. 

Shortly after Mauritania gained independence, a series of elections, coups and race riots took place through much of the latter 20th century. The elections and coups slowed to a considerably slower pace in the 2000s and the subsequent decade, providing Mauritania with some semblance of stability. This stability was vital; it allowed outside organizations such as the U.N. and UNICEF to offer much-needed assistance to the battered nation of 3.7 million. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, literacy declined nearly 8 points. This was primarily due to the Mauritanian government’s failure to dedicate any time, money or resources to education.

Successes in Education

While Mauritania has had significant struggles with education, there have been signs of improvement and cases of success. For example, the NGO Global Partnership for Education (GPE) began funding the Mauritania Basic Education Sector Support Project. Over the course of this program, gross enrollment rates increased from 88 percent to 97 percent and completion rates rose from 53 percent to 71 percent between 2001 and 2012. Girls’ education in Mauritania also improved significantly; 21,168 adolescent females have been enrolled in lower secondary education in 2016, as opposed to 7,400 in 2014. 

UNICEF has also forged a partnership with the Mauritanian government to promote education and provide resources for schools. This national partnership was reached following the success of UNICEF’s initial mission in the country. The new goal of UNICEF and the Mauritanian government is to achieve universal access and completion of secondary education for all Mauritanian children.

The Importance of Female Education

It is critical to recognize why female education in Mauritania is so important beyond the educational aspects. Girls’ education has been shown to lead to female empowerment. In a country so bitterly divided and struggling with social progress, support for women’s empowerment is a vital aspect. Improving education in Mauritania also improves poverty in the country. The United Nations Girls Education Initiative reports that many young girls in Mauritania face dire poverty. Since only 53 percent of households have access to clean water, disease is common, and there is insufficient access to vaccinations. Girls’ education provides access to schools, which in turn provides access to the water and medicine many desperately need.

While the challenges to girls’ education in Mauritania are plentiful and can seem immense, much headway has been made in recent years. With organizations like the U.N., UNICEF, and GPE working with the government, there is significant improvement on the horizon for girls’ education in Mauritania.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in St. Lucia
Saint Lucia, a developing nation and part of a chain of islands located off the coasts of Puerto Rico and Venezuela, is known primarily in the United States for its white sand beaches, prime vacation rentals and banana exports; in fact, the country is among the wealthiest developing nations in the world.

Along with captivating scenery and booming resort and banana revenues, there are several other commendable situations in St. Lucia. One area in particular is the status of girls’ education in St. Lucia.

What’s Trending?

In St. Lucia, the current differences between female and male education are not significant. About 91.9 percent of females in St. Lucia attend primary school, and 78.4 percent of females are expected to attend secondary school.

These figures are compared to 94 percent of males attending primary school and the expectation of 80.1 percent of males attending secondary school. This gender disparity is hardly a disparity at all; in fact, it reflects St. Lucia’s immense progress as a nation that values women in their educational and career aspirations.

Gender Equality

A surprising revelation for most people is that more females than males actually complete primary school education in St. Lucia, despite the higher percentage of males that actually attend primary schooling.

It may then seem obvious that in St. Lucia more females than males will go on to attend post-secondary school education — females make up 86 percent of the student population in the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, the single community college on the island.  

Girls’ education in St. Lucia has been on the rise over the last decade with the implementation of several new programs and pushes for female education and careers.

These pushes have sparked more and more female interest in completing school, a surprising trend in a typically male-dominated world. The progress goes further in St. Lucia with Governor General Dame Pearlette’s pushes for education — these new measures will benefit all genders, such as the push for technological incorporation in schools.

A Look into the Future

What happens when females are educated? According to the Hamilton Project — an organization that presents economic strategies to the public — the higher one’s education, the greater likelihood that person has to earn more money.

Typically, education has been male-dominated, naturally pushing males into the higher earning categories. However, with the rise in female education, females are now able to compete for higher earnings. This allows for better markets, increased diversity and more prosperous societies as an entire half of St. Lucian society now has higher earning potential.  

The improved focus on girls’ education in St. Lucia is certainly a deviation from the norm compared to other developing countries and even the rest of the world. St. Lucia’s educational rates for both females and males are significantly higher than those of other developing countries — including those of Pakistan — which have been steadily on the rise over the last two decades.

A Global Model

Facts such as these display St. Lucia’s success in female empowerment. St. Lucia is among the first island nations to propel female achievement so far forward that any gender disparities essentially dissolve.

Hopefully, St. Lucia will become a trendsetter in the coming years, encouraging other island nations to empower their women.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Google

Girls’ Education in Nepal

Important steps are underway towards improving Nepal’s education system for girls, which may help raise Nepal towards becoming a developed nation. Thanks in part to assistance from the United States and United Nations, improving girls’ education in Nepal is now a focus of the Nepali government and educators.

Girls’ Education in Nepal

With only 64 percent of the Nepali people age 15 or older able to read and write, Nepal has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. Approximately 76 percent of Nepali men are literate, while only around 53 percent of Nepali women are literate.

While educators are careful to not exclude boys in educational improvements, a special focus on academic improvements for girls is being implemented to increase the relatively low literacy rate among girls and equalize opportunities between boys and girls.

WiSTEM’s Promotion of Equality

Binita Shrestha and Pratiksha Pandey, co-founders of Women in Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (WiSTEM), work with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to improve girls’ education in Nepal.

Shrestha explains, “Even though we target girls, we welcome everyone because even boys are not receiving STEM education… The biggest reason most children don’t pursue a STEM career is because they don’t start learning from an early age. They tend to underestimate themselves afterwards.”

WiSTEM guides children from an early age towards utilizing STEM education opportunities, which build courage and determination to stay in school and work towards a career. Among the opportunities offered through WiSTEM, students can choose workshops and hands-on experience with electronics, coding and design.

Discouraging Absenteeism

While WiSTEM expands opportunities for girls in school and increases their confidence in themselves, one of the main problems regarding girls’ education in Nepal is absenteeism.

A recent study utilizing data from the 2014 Nepal Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) reveals that marriage is the most common reason in Nepal for children quitting school. The study found that dropouts due to marriage range from fifth to tenth grade, and married girls are 10 times more likely to quit school than unmarried girls.

Social norms and security concerns in Nepal commonly prevent married girls from attending school. It is a common view in Nepal that education is unnecessary for girls beyond marriage. Even in areas with free or low-cost school supplies and easily accessible schools, married girls often stay home.

It is also common for husbands and parents-in-law to fear that married girls will be raped or abducted, and thus prevent them from traveling to formal schools.

Zero Tolerance Project

Since Nepali girls’ safety is at greater risk than boys’ of becoming victims of gender-based violence in school, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is working with UNICEF on a project for Nepal called “Zero Tolerance, Gender-based Violence-Free Schools.”

This project focuses on increasing the ability of students and educators to report violence and receive assistance in areas where child marriage and violence against girls are most common.

In addition to spreading awareness of gender-based violence at Nepali schools and encouraging witnesses to report incidences, the Zero Tolerance project links together the communication network within and between schools and community service providers.

This stronger reporting network works as an alarm system to prevent violence at school, which helps girls and their families feel safer about sending them to school. This project is active in 200 schools in the central region of Nepal where child marriage is common.

Creating Opportunities

Both boys and girls need assistance in education, yet girls in Nepal face more risks than Nepali boys regarding school and may need more assistance. Hopefully, with continued support from the U.S. and U.N., Nepali government and educators will continue to focus on improving education, with extra effort for ensuring safety and equal opportunities for girls.

Overall, the more literate the men and women of Nepal become, the more Nepal changes towards becoming a developed country. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), while linking literacy rates definitively to other variables is difficult, studies show it is likely that improving literacy rates increases health, income, political participation, democratic ideals, economic growth and confidence in asserting human rights.

– Emme Leigh

Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Niger
As the least educated country in the world, Niger faces severe issues with its current stability and long-term prosperity as a nation. Even more concerning is the educational disparity that exists between the male and female population. While female primary school participation rests at just over 50 percent, the literacy rate for women between the ages of 15 and 25 is less than 25 percent.

Gender Inequality

A potential reason for this gap in early enrollment and more comprehensive literacy could be the average length of schooling for a Nigerian citizen, which sits at a troubling 1.5 years.

As UNICEF reports, “in Niger, only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.” Without a lasting commitment to education, early schooling is worthless as many will choose to exit the system before they can learn the necessary educational lessons for an effective and prosperous career.

Girls’ Education in Niger

Girls’ education in Niger has an overall void in educational emphasis. If schooling for males is lacking in a country that experiences gender inequality, as is true in Niger, then there is little hope that female education will be any better. Even when schooling is available, family dynamics and responsibility can serve as barriers for young women being able to attend class.

As a whole, males tend to have greater opportunities to pursue education as many household chores and family finances fall on the girls. Ten-year-old Choukouria from Niger explains, “my mother has six children: three boys and three girls. My brothers are allowed to go to school, but I am not allowed because I need to take care of the daily chores, take care of my little sisters and also contribute to my family’s expenses.”

Stories like this are commonplace for young females which makes girls’ education in Niger a constant struggle.

Child-Rearing and Educational Access

Another obstacle facing improvement in girls’ education in Niger is exceptionally high birth rates across the country. On average, women in Niger have 7.6 children over the course of their lives, with most births happening at a young age.

Teenage motherhood not only places social, financial and physical stress on women, but it also reduces any chance they have of receiving an education. In addition, as citizens of one of the poorest nations on earth, women in Niger do not have the extra capital necessary for child services even if they did want to pursue educational opportunities.

As a whole, girls’ education in Niger is severely lacking. Both poverty and a combination of young motherhood and high birth rates affect female access to educational resources and opportunities. An overall lack of commitment to education in Niger affects both males and females, but it appears that women have very little power in their own schooling experience.

It is young girls who are tasked with family responsibility and finances, which leaves them with very little chance in continuing their education later on.

Projects for Improvement

Among these many adversities, there is still potential in creating a new atmosphere surrounding education throughout Sierra Leone, especially for girls and young women. USAID is currently working to promote a larger reading culture in the country by involving the community in education and its functioning.

In addition, UNESCO also commits itself to transforming education in Niger through their project titled “Tackling Gender Inequalities in Niger’s Educational System.”

This project seeks to make learning environments more “girl-friendly” and aims at implementing more female role models for young girls in the school system through awareness campaigns and critical analysis of current educational conditions.

The Long Game

While these projects do exist, their recent implementation means that apparent success will take time to develop. International aid and redevelopment plans, which include education as primary aspects, are also beginning to enter Niger but have not yet taken a firm hold.

As can be seen via U.N. statistics, Niger sits at the bottom of economic and educational rankings for a reason. The nation is in an era of hardship and it will require greater help from international groups and foreign countries to remove itself from future difficulties or disasters.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr