Apple and the Malala Fund Working to Bring Education to Girls in Brazil
Founded in 2013, The Malala Fund has taken many steps towards improving education for girls across the globe. To do this, members of the initiative have invested time in local education, advocated for policy changes and an increase in resources and by providing a voice through their own publications and newsletters. As it is now, The Malala Fund has made substantial progress in Syria, Pakistan, Nigeria, India and Afghanistan. More recently, they have made movements towards ensuring approximately 12 years of education reaches girls in Brazil.

According to CNN, Brazil has the eighth largest economy in the world, but despite this, millions of girls are still denied access to education. Reasons that are perhaps correlated with this are poverty, which often results in exploitation, under-representation in government and unequal wages due to discrimination against gender and/or race. Another potential factor contributing to low education is safety concerns since rates for sexual abuse against girls are high. In 2015, 6,706 of 17,871 registered cases of sexual assault against women were attacks on children between the ages of zero and 12.

Apple Teams Up With The Malala Fund

The goal of The Malala Fund is to reach more than 100,000 girls and provide them with the necessary materials they need to become leaders and educators in their region. To make this possible, Apple and The Malala Fund has teamed up together to bring education to girls in Brazil.

Apple and The Malala Fund’s partnership mainly involves on providing financial resources to The Gulmakai Network, a group of “champions” in developing countries that work to speed up the process of ensuring every girl gets an education. Particularly in Brazil, the Gulmakai champions are tasked with not only making sure girls can access education but also educating teachers on discrimination and training young women to be more vocal about their rights.

Technology Used To Improve Education

Apple will be assisting in the form of technology, curriculum, research and grants that will be available to local advocates. Perhaps playing the biggest role is the Apple Developer Academy. The Apple Developer Academy program in Brazil is currently educating students by connecting them to other locations globally and mobilizing them to ensure that they are developing products that are useful.

Now, through this partnership, current students will be learning and using their skills in Swift (Apple’s programming language), graphics, and many more to tackle the education problem in Brazil. Specifically, students in these academies have been tasked with designing and developing apps with the purpose of enhancing the overall experience of obtaining an education. They are also encouraged to develop means of safe, secure communication for the Gulmakai champions as they empower girls and advocate.

With the help of Apple, its academy students and alumni, The Malala Fund hopes that every girl will be able to choose her own future and follow her own path whether it be to become a business tycoon, a dancer, an educator etc. Apple and The Malala Fund hope that they can successfully present this golden opportunity to girls in the safest way possible at the highest quality, so they don’t have to live in fear like so many others.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mongolia
From a single party rule to a multi-party democracy, Mongolia has sought to accommodate more of its people’s demands, particularly in the advancement of girls’ education.

In 2000, the average time spent by girls in school was 9.4 years, but by 2010, it had increased to 14.6 years. The government’s effort in funding the development of more rural classrooms and educational resources has been inspired by the hope of reducing the high rate of teen pregnancies, as about a third of the population lives in rural areas that lack access to reproductive healthcare and education.

Improving Girls’ Education in Mongolia to Spur Economic Growth

As with decreasing global poverty, decreasing discrimination against women is also an investment in accelerating economic growth. The United Nations Development Programme, along with its U.N. partners, has worked towards closing gender disparities, such as in primary education. Approximately a third of Mongolia’s labor force consists of livestock herders, but higher access to education has increased young girls’ opportunities to seek jobs in other sectors.

These efforts have been fruitful: the number of women working in non-agricultural sectors has increased from 35 percent in 1990 to 41 percent today. As reported in 2014 by the World Bank, women own or partially own almost 40 percent of Mongolian firms.

 The State of Progress in Girls’ Education  in Mongolian

Although Mongolia can now boast of its position at 53 out of 159 countries in gender inequality globally, the gender disparities in the workforce still run particularly deep, as exhibited through women’s limited access to economic opportunities, unequal salaries, and their higher rate of inclination towards unreliable, informal work away from entrepreneurial sectors. The full benefits of the progress made in girls’ education in Mongolia have been limited by such inequalities.

To maximize the advantages of increasing girls’ education in Mongolia, other factors that commonly require a woman’s time and attention should be considered. Females are traditionally assigned the role of nurturing family; therefore, increasing construction of more eldercare and childcare facilities would provide more girls the chance to prioritize their education or job. More access to early-childhood education will also yield the same empowering effect for women, especially those living in rural towns.

Teenage fertility is especially high in Mongolia, at 40.4 childbirths for every 1000 girls between the ages of 15 to 19. Unwanted pregnancies are also relatively high in this age range as 14.1 percent of pregnant girls have abortions. These factors, left often unattended, limit the educational opportunities that girls can now seek.

Location also plays a huge role in determining the level of access to education for young girls. About 55 percent of students achieve secondary education, but this holds true for only 45 percent of students in rural areas. Children from rural areas must often confront inhibitions to accessing education, such as seasonal challenges and poor infrastructure.

Support of Girls’ Educational Opportunities in the Sciences

In 2010 the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation, partnered with The Asian Foundation and the Zorig Foundation, introduced a university scholarship program for Mongolian girls that would pay for four years at the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology for 60 girls from low-income families. This program is geared towards providing girls with opportunities in the sciences since Mongolian girls are largely underrepresented in those fields.

Even though more than 60 percent of university students are female, there remains a large discrepancy in the number of men and women in the sectors related to science and technology. By focusing on improving education for girls in this subject, Mongolia is expanding its labor force to fields beyond agriculture, which has consistently faced major setbacks due to natural disasters.

In 2010, Mongolia suffered a dzud, which is a national disaster of a drought in the summer followed by a severe winter, and lost almost 20 percent of the nation’s herds. One-third of Mongolia, whose livelihoods rely on herding, could no longer afford university tuition for their children, so this scholarship program would succeed in providing an education for specifically poor, rural girls.

The country is currently focused on its development through its minerals sector. Major infrastructure projects in developing mines are underway, and skilled workers are in high demand. Investing in girls’ education, so that more girls may access a job in this sector, is also an investment in Mongolia’s economic development as the country gravitates towards a more stable means of income.

By accounting for these factors in improving gender parity, developments in areas such as location and rethinking traditional gender norms and attitudes, Mongolia can improve education for girls and yield more long-term sustainable change. As women are more likely to pursue tertiary education, Mongolia will only benefit from addressing these different factors in helping women achieve educational success, and subsequently, inclusion in sectors significant to Mongolia’s economic prosperity. The butterfly effect of these developments in empowering women will continue to ripple throughout Mongolia’s poverty-reducing progress.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

Education in Bangladesh
On May 26, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made an impassioned speech at the convocation of Kazi Nazrul University. She addressed education in Bangladesh and it’s ongoing struggle to eradicate extreme poverty, claiming “to get rid of poverty, education should be of the utmost importance.”

Playing a Role in Poverty

There is evidence to back up Hasina’s statement that education in Bangladesh plays a crucial role in the welfare of the economy. According to the Global Campaign for Education, the average individual’s income increases by 10 percent for each year of schooling they complete. A study by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute of Statistics even found that if every adult attained a full primary and secondary education, the number of people living in poverty worldwide would be less than half of what it is today.

Why such a strong correlation between poverty and education? The simplest answer is when someone is well-educated, they have more skills (or can learn skills more easily) that can be used in the workforce. This makes them more likely to be employed and have a steady income.

But there are less obvious reasons explaining how enhancing education in Bangladesh may help its citizens escape poverty. Studies show the more education a woman receives, the fewer children she is likely to have. This means she won’t have to spend as much to provide for her family. If this trend continues on a large scale then the population will decline, resulting in more employment opportunities and less strain on resources.

Education in Bangladesh

Bangladesh currently ranks 128th in global literacy with 72.8 percent of its population aged 15 or older being literate, compared to the 86 percent average worldwide. The most recent data shows 24 percent of people aged 15-24 in Bangladesh have not completed primary education and 44 percent have not completed secondary education.

Women Empowerment

In 2010, the government implemented a new national education policy focusing on gender equality in education in Bangladesh. Some of the measures included greater allocation of funds specifically toward women’s education, stipends for underprivileged women who wish to pursue higher education and a reformation of the cultural attitude toward women in school and the workplace. This is an issue Hasina has been outspoken about, stating that proper education is necessary in order to empower women.

The 2010 national education policy also pushed for students to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology. These fields are of the highest importance in today’s fast-paced world, and educating students about them in school means they will be better prepared for the tech-driven workforce. In this way, Bangladesh hopes to stay ahead of the curve, unlike many other African nations still relying on agriculture as their economic foundation.

The World Bank reports that nearly 25 percent of Bangladeshis are currently living at or below the poverty line (surviving on $1.90 per day). Steps still need to be taken to lift the Bangladeshi people out of this struggle. But the Hasini administration has the right idea about how to help, and if there is a strong enough push for education in Bangladesh, it just might be on the road to eradicating extreme poverty.

– Maddi Roy

Girls' Education in ThailandGirls’ education in Thailand has seen numerous and ongoing efforts from the government, nonprofits and local organizations. There are a variety of programs in the country, across different organizations, that are currently working toward reducing gender discrimination and providing equal access to education.

School Enrollment Rates

For the most part, Thailand does not have disparities in school enrollment rates for boys and girls. The 1999 National Act promises education for all Thai children, and in 2005 that right was extended to all children living in the country regardless of nationality. Currently, elementary and secondary school enrollment is almost equal0 for both genders. In fact, girls have overtaken boys in secondary and tertiary education enrollment. This indicates that past efforts to create equal access to education have been successful. However, this does not mean girls do not face other forms of discrimination in education.

Girls’ Education in STEM Fields

According to the Royal Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C., girls face discrimination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields from as early as primary school. This discrimination then continues through higher education and into employment. Additionally, a report published in 2015 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) indicated that this discrimination came in the form of gender stereotypes and a lack of female role models in STEM.

Girls’ Education and Nonprofit Organizations

In 2017, the Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Centre in the Greater Mekong Subregion (DEPDC) received the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. DEPDC is a local organization in Thailand and they received the award for their projects that aim to reduce exploitation of migrant children and women. The program uses education and other skills training to prevent human trafficking and other kinds of exploitation. However, DEPDC is just one example of an organization focusing on girls’ education in Thailand.

Another such organization is Angel Covers that runs the Girls Advocacy Through Education (GATE) program. GATE focuses on girls in rural, northwest Thailand where families often cannot afford to send their daughters to school. Similar to DEPDC, this organization recognizes the potential of education in reducing human trafficking. GATE provides these children with school materials, lunches, transportation costs and more.

Finally, the government and nonprofits also work to improve girls’ education in Thailand. In April 2018, the Ministry of Education announced that it would be partnering with the United Nations to promote girls’ involvement in STEM education. This is a part of a 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0, which hopes to increase development in the country. Thailand is the first country in the region to adopt a “policy toolkit” from the United Nations for gender equality in STEM.

Future of Girls’ Education in Thailand

To conclude, girls in Thailand do have equal access to education but there are often other obstacles in their way. Girls who do not attend school are at a higher risk of being human trafficked — organizations like DEPDC and Angel Covers focus on this aspect of girls’ education. Additionally, girls face much discrimination in male-dominated STEM fields, which the government recently pledged to address. While Thailand has seen many improvements in girls’ education, there is still work to be done. With continued commitment from the government and other organizations, Thailand will be on its way to achieving true gender equality in education.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Pixabay

STEM Education

Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields have been coming in a distant second to their male counterparts for the entirety of STEM’s history.

Since Marie Curie was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1903, only 17 women have won a Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry or medicine. This number is drastically lower than the 572 men who have won Nobel Prizes in that time.

Additionally, only 28 percent of researchers worldwide are women. This immense gender gap has motivated people across the world to alleviate the adversity women continue to face in the STEM world.

Among these is Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General, who has recognized that many countries hold girls back at a young age due to discrimination, biases and social norms and expectations.

Because girls are turned away from the quality STEM education that boys have access to, girls tend to lose interest in these subjects between early and late adolescence.

At the Cracking the Code: Girls’ Education in STEM conference in Bangkok from August 28-30, officials discussed this gender gap and the ways it can be improved.

Currently, only 35 percent of college students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female, which is undoubtedly low because of the lack of STEM opportunities for girls throughout primary and secondary school.

Progress has been made in some countries, known as “model countries”, that are fighting this gender gap. Malaysia has partnered with UNESCO to achieve gender parity, which has led to 57 percent of degrees in science-related fields being held by women.

Malaysia and UNESCO are working in the global south and several African countries to improve STEM education opportunities for girls. Schools across the globe are being encouraged to pay more attention to female students and provide curriculum and other learning materials that stray from the stereotypical masculinity of sciences.

Support for girls pursuing a STEM education starts at home. Family biases and gender norms are a big contributor to the low number of females in STEM-related fields.

Thus, it is increasingly important for families to encourage young girls to join science and math-related activities and clubs outside of the classroom. Science and math clubs, competitions and camps are a great source of empowerment for girls in STEM education.

While UNESCO and model countries are working to eliminate the gender gap in STEM, it takes the support of educators and role models globally to change the fate of female students.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr



Learn about the Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.


Reduce Poverty in Developing Countries

A country’s economic growth, security, development and prosperity depend on the ability of its young population to obtain proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. Students exposed to STEM education at an early age gain valuable experience in a consistently growing field. The skills they gain can be used to create a more innovative, efficient and productive workforce. Though most developing countries face many obstacles in affording basic education for young children, promoting STEM education can be one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty in developing countries.

As technological advancements become an inseparable part of our lives, STEM education can empower human resources with global competitiveness. UNESCO emphasizes that it is also a building block in creating “a critical mass of scientists, researchers and engineers to enable them to participate fully in the global economy.”

Obstacles in providing STEM education remain. According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology, low-quality teaching and a monotonous curriculum have been identified as two common barriers to students who end up losing interest in STEM education. Afraid of being perceived as “geeks” or “nerds,” students give in to negative stereotypes and fail to see how a STEM education can help propel them towards interesting, lucrative careers and reduce poverty in developing countries.

The perceived difficulty of STEM subjects and the ever-present pressure to obtain high scores scare off students, while a passive approach in transitioning from primary to secondary school discourages more thorough engagement. Furthermore, gender stereotypes create significant challenges for girls in developing countries to maintain an appreciable literary level, much less make strides in the STEM arena.

But there are also positive developments. In 2014, for example, 19 universities in west and central Africa received funding from the World Bank for specialized studies in STEM-related disciplines, as well as in agriculture and health.

Initiatives like Code to Hope seek to improve digital literacy and education by empowering underserved communities with the necessary computer and technical skills. Code to Hope notes that access to technology is directly related to an income increase of $21 per month.

Organizations such as the WorldFund work in Latin America and target poverty by assisting educators in devising teaching methods that can help spark students’ interests in learning STEM-related subjects.

Moreover, open source applications, which depend on the collaborative work of people all over the world, are also enhancing learning in STEM fields for students and helping to reduce poverty in developing countries. Schools utilizing the open source approach not only provide a more robust education for their students, but also help create a more sustainable future by helping people move out of poverty.

The United Nations places a special emphasis on STEM education, noting that it can empower youths and help eliminate the gender gap for young women and girls. The U.N. also notes that growing career opportunities in STEM-related fields present the best antidote to chronic youth unemployment and that STEM skills are “an ideal communication channel that enhances social engagement as well as sharing information and innovative ideas to overcome poverty and to promote peace and prosperity for all.”

By providing the necessary skill development and equal employment opportunities as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce inequality, STEM education can help reduce poverty in developing countries.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Einstein ForumAs leaders in Africa packed up their bags at the conclusion of the first-ever Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering in Dakar, Senegal, there was new hope for the future of science and technology in the region.

The event, which was held from March 8-10, addressed various topics pertinent to the state of African science and technology research, such as gender disparity and the need for more advanced education. These issues brought commentary from local leaders to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

The Next Einstein Forum (NEF) was created in 2013 but this year marked the first global gathering, which was focused on promoting “a vibrant and cohesive scientific community.” The focus is on Africa in particular because it believes that the “next Einstein will be African.”

Panelists focused on the mobilization of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector of Africa. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon showed his support for STEM research as a weapon against poverty when he said, “Science is a force multiplier for advancing progress across all the Sustainable Development Goals.” The Next Einstein Forum supports a number of the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations by inspiring change in a continent with the capability to grow rapidly.

However, this growth has been stunted by the need to outsource STEM-based jobs worth almost $4 billion a year. PR Newswire reported that this yearly sum accounts for about 35 percent of the continent’s aid. This expense could easily be reduced with the emergence of STEM-educated Africans that could keep the jobs local.

The 2016 NEF also focused on the barriers African women interested in jobs in the STEM sector face. Many speakers supported the removal of the gender disparity in the industry as a solution to the lack of innovators.

The panel leading the fight, named “Driving the Agenda for African Women in STEM,” featured prominent female scientists such as France Cordova, the director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and Naledi Pandor, South Africa’s Minister of Science and Technology. But they weren’t alone, as women made up about 40 percent of the NEF Fellows class.

In a culture described as “less progressive than most,” this number shows the group’s recent success in combating the gender gap in employment.

With the 2016 event over, the forum looks forward to its next meeting in Kigali, Rwanda in 2018. Supporters of the cause can still take action now, though, by signing the I Am Einstein petition and staying connected through the forum’s Twitter page with daily updates.

With its international backing and optimistic outlook, the Next Einstein Forum has inspired a new generation of African STEM students. By advancing education and providing more opportunities for growth, it has put itself in a good position to fight poverty in the region.

Jacob Hess

Sources: NEF, PR Newswire
Photo: Flickr