Water, sanitation and hygiene

In many developing countries, gender inequality in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH for short) creates additional risks and hardships for women and girls, in addition to all equalities that women must endure. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people globally did not have access to safe water services and 4.5 billion did not have access to a safely managed sanitation service. In order to improve access to these services and the livelihoods of women in developing countries, it is essential that policy-makers view WASH as a gendered issue and involve women in decision-making.

Water Collection

In the absence of basic water services, individuals must travel to a water source to collect water for their household. This burden disproportionately falls on women, with women and girls responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households without water on the premises. More than 73 percent of water collection is done by women, and 6.9 percent is done by girls under the age of 15. While water collection can be important to the social lives of women, as it offers an opportunity to communicate with women from different households, it poses a risk to women’s safety and takes away time that could be spent on other activities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it takes approximately 33 minutes to travel to and from a water source in rural areas, and 25 minutes in urban areas. Many people have to make this trip more than once per day. During this trip, women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual assault while traveling on their own. For girls, water collection takes away from time that could be spent on obtaining an education. For women, this is the time that could be spent on childcare, housework or income-generating activities.

Sanitation and Hygiene Issues

Many people do not have access to latrines in developing countries and therefore practice open defecation. In Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of 10 individuals openly defecate in fields, forests, bushes and bodies of water. Women and girls may require additional privacy when defecating, and therefore in some cultures can only do so at night. This increases the risk of violence, and suppressing their bodily functions during the day can lead to urinary tract infections and chronic constipation.

Menstruating can also be extremely difficult in these settings, with many women lacking access to basic products and services. Many schools lack private bathroom facilities for girls, causing many girls to leave school once they reach puberty. If they do stay, they often stay home while they are menstruating, decreasing their chances for educational success. Adult women are also impacted, and may not be able to work at certain locations if they do not have gender-segregated bathroom facilities.

Additionally, without water, sanitation and hygiene become increasingly difficult. Even if women and girls do have access to private toilets, if they do not have clean water to wash their hands, this poses a serious health risk for them and for others. In general, women are more likely to be exposed to dirty water, as they do a majority of household work, including taking care of young children. Contact with wastewater increases the risk of disease for many women.

Issues to Consider

Those trying to solve the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene must take into account a few different factors. First, in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or conflict, water may become additionally scarce, increasing hardships for women and girls. They may have to walk farther to collect water, making them more likely to experience violence.

On the other hand, cultural or social constraints may confine women to the home during more dangerous times, further decreasing their access to water and sanitation facilities. Second, household gender dynamics and societal gender roles need to be considered. If gender roles are radically altered, particularly if women are given more power than they initially possessed, this could increase gender-based violence because men feel as though they are losing control.

Moving Forward

Involving women in efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial in solving these issues and is already underway in many communities. Women are influential in raising awareness about water and sanitation issues, and improving water and sanitation can greatly empower them.

A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center conducted in 15 countries found that water and sanitation projects that included women were more effective and sustainable. For example, in Zimbabwe, female community members were involved in committees on WASH, and this highlighted community health concerns and provided insights for the construction and maintenance of water sources. Similarly, a project in Uganda worked with women to help them build rainwater harvesting jars, decreasing the amount of time needed for water collection.

Projects like these are being conducted in developing countries around the world, and the general lesson remains the same- involve women in decision-making at every level and remain conscious of the role played by specific cultural contexts in these issues. Efforts that effectively work with communities have the potential to vastly decrease the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls, reducing gender inequalities and improving livelihoods of everyone.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

Femicide in ArgentinaArgentina is South America’s second-largest country and it was once one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Argentina has a vast variety of agricultural and mineral resources and a highly educated population, but it also has a long history of political and economic instability. With a population of 44.1 million people, Argentina legally has good human rights, but these rights are often disregarded or ignored, especially towards women. Women continue to face economic discrimination, gender-based wage gaps, extream violence and poor job security.

The world justice report says that women in Argentina are more likely to be employed through informal means, without any social security and find it difficult to access free services. Of all the issues that Argentina faces, the biggest and most well-known issue is the increasing amounts of femicide cases.

Definition of Femicide

Femicide is described as the gender-based killing of women because of their gender and it is the leading cause of premature death for women globally. Femicide in Argentina continues to grow each year. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports that in the last decade in Argentina, 2,638 women were killed or have died for the sole reason of being women. Out of this number, 75 percent of the deaths were committed by men close to the victims, either family members, romantic partners or ex-partners. “Every 29 hours a woman is killed in the country,” said Raquel Vivanco, president of the Observatorio Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven at a press conference.

Another chilling fact about femicide in Argentina is that 17 percent of the women murdered had filed a complaint against the assailant and 11 percent even had judicial protection. The Observatorio reported that this happened to all age ranges. Forty-one percent were between the ages of 21 and 40 years old, 25 percent between the ages of 41 and 60, 13 percent older than 60, and 10 percent between the ages of 16 and 20.

Ni Una Menos

There have been numerous mass protests in response to the unjust treatment of women and the governments’ failure to recognize the issue. The biggest movement to date is the Ni Una Menos which translates to “Not one (woman) less.” This movement started in 2015 after a continuous string of murders of women, all in different circumstances but similar murderers and reasoning. This movement against femicide in Argentina continues to run and will have their annual march in June later this year.

Causes of Femicide in Argentina

The advocates for human rights group says that the causes of this type of violence are linked to gender inequality, discrimination and economic disempowerment and are the result of a systematic disregard for women’s human rights. Femicide frequently occurs in an environment where everyday acts of violence are accepted and impunity is facilitated by the government’s refusal to deal with the problems.

Another theory is the social attitude often associated with Latin American and Hispanic cultures called “Machismo” and can have positive and negative connotations. The positive connotation is associated with protecting one’s family, community and country. The negative connotations are what is commonly associated with the causes of femicide. This being the use of violence as a way to demonstrate physical strength, masculinity and superior over women.

Actions Being Taken

In December 2018, Argentine Chamber of Deputies approved the Micaela Law to eradicate gender-based violence with 171 votes in favor and only one against. The bill, named after Micaela Garcia, a femicide victim who was murdered in 2017, calls for a mandatory gender training for all state officials and workers. This training is much needed because of the insensitivity of public servants while dealing with cases of gender-based violence.

There are six key points of the Micaela Law:

  1. Everyone in public service must go through training on “gender and violence against women.”
  2. The National Institute of Women (INAM) will enforce the law. It will also be responsible for directly training high officials.
  3. The training will be conducted in collaboration with gender offices. New materials and programs will be produced for training.
  4. The INAM will control the quality of the said materials and the training must be imparted within a year of the law coming into force.
  5. INAM will also publish information regarding the degree of compliance of each state agency and do follow-up reports on its impact.
  6. If any public employee refuses to attend the training “without just cause”, they would be subjected to a disciplinary sanction.

Activist groups are getting involved as well. The Latin American Group for Gender and Justice (ELA) has a 12-month program which addresses the two most urgent problems, violence against women and access to reproductive rights. The purpose of this program is to promote a network of individual lawyers, practitioners, organizations, and nongovernmental organizations with expertise on women’s rights to provide legal assistance to women facing rights violations and contribute to the cultural transformation needed to end the discrimination against women.

Femicide in Argentia is a big issue and continues to negatively affect the way of life in this beautiful country. However, many activists groups and the Ni Una Menos movement are trying to team up with the Argentinian government to solve this problem and put an end to femicide in Argentina once and for all.

– Madeline Oden

Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts about Girls’ Education in HondurasAs one of the largest and poorest countries in Central America, Honduras faces several obstacles in girls’ education. The people of Honduras fear gang violence and human trafficking. Child labor and domestic violence are also issues that the government continues to combat. These are only a few facts that impact education in Honduras and the reasons why one in three Honduran girls drop out of school every year. The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Honduras include problems connected to cultural attitudes, quality of education, and the issues related to crime.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Honduras

  1. Primary school (ages 6 to 12) is compulsory and free to all Honduran children. There is an 80 percent rate of completion of primary school nationally. In 2014, the Honduran Ministry of Education created a Strategic Plan that was designed to correct educational issues at every level. One of the first steps was to make the first two years of secondary school mandatory. Coverage of secondary education level for girls is 53 percent, whereas coverage for boys is 46 percent.
  2. A national survey indicates that girls in urban settings have a 7 percent illiteracy rate, compared to 5.5 percent of illiterate urban boys. Additionally, 16.8 percent of girls in rural settings are illiterate, while 17.5 percent of rural boys are illiterate. Higher rates of poverty correlate directly with higher rates of illiteracy. This is because poorer families, typically those in rural areas, are only able to send their girls to school for 5.8 years, which dramatically increases rates of illiteracy. On the other hand, wealthier families in the larger cities are able to send girls to school for 11 years, which lowers female adult illiteracy to 2.4 percent.
  3. From 2008 to 2012, 98 percent of Honduran girls were enrolled in primary school. However, in Honduras, one out of four children are drop-outs. Interestingly, drop-out rates have been linked to the level of parental education as 78 percent of children who dropped out of school in 2016 had parents with either no education or primary education only.
  4. A 2015 study indicates that 29 percent of girls performed unsatisfactorily in Math, while 62 percent were classed as needing improvement. For boys, performance in the same category resulted in 32 percent unsatisfactory and 60 percent needing improvement. In addition to performing at lower rates than Honduran boys, performance standards for Honduran girls are significantly lower than other regional Latin countries.
  5. Because of high rates of crime, girls in urban settings are often forced to not attend class or drop-out altogether for fear of their own safety. For urban girls, the threat of harassment and sexual assault from gang members is a debilitating reality. Gangs often establish their dominance in an area of a city by murdering girls and leaving their mutilated bodies to be found in public places.
  6. While rural areas have less crime, the people living in rural settings have more pressing financial concerns. Many rural children in Honduras are forced to work at a young age, and girls, in particular, are tasked with taking care of younger siblings, as well as marrying young and starting families of their own. A 2014 program launched by Population Services International called Chicas en Conexión aims to empower nearly 700 rural girls to make choices about their own lives. The program also promotes equality by involving community leaders, providing safe spaces, and lobbying for equality legislation.
  7. Not only children suffer from the country’s impoverished educational system. Teachers in rural areas have difficulty obtaining up-to-date and functional teaching materials, as well as facing the issue of inadequate school buildings. However, teachers are fighting back. By partnering with the U.N. Refugee Agency, teachers in Honduras are making their voices heard and advocating for better policies to reduce the systemic shortfalls in the Honduran educational system. The Honduran Ministry of Education has promised to increase school funding and implement a prevention and protection strategy for schools by 2020.
  8. In 2014, only 24.4 percent of girls enrolled in college courses, significantly less than many other developed countries in the region. Moreover, even for girls who have higher education, there is a much lower chance of being hired for work outside of the home. In 2011, only 37 percent of women were employed, compared to 79.1 percent of men. This is due to the cultural custom of women working inside the home.
  9. An estimated 26 percent of Honduran women become mothers before the age of 18, which contributes to the high drop-out rates of Honduran girls. In 2013, the Committees for the Prevention of Pregnancies and STIs among Adolescents (COPEITSA), a peer-education sexual health program for Honduran children, was launched. The program teaches sexual health and family planning- topics that are all but afterthoughts in Honduran education and public awareness.
  10. As recently as 2016, 34 percent of girls were married before the age of 18. However, in 2017, the Honduran government banned child marriage. Even with parental permission, it is now illegal in Honduras for anyone over 18 to be married. This is a drastic change from past decades, where child marriage was common and kept girls uneducated and in poverty.

Since 2007, the rate of education for girls has almost doubled in Honduras. Even taking into account school performance and drop-out rates included in the text above, the number of girls being enrolled in school and pursuing secondary education has improved over the last decade. It is clear from the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Honduras that many of the new changes implemented by the Honduran government are designed to favor girls. This is an effort to address mistakes made in the past and correct the systematic failure of girl’s education in Honduras. As of 2014, the Strategic Plan set forth by the Honduran Ministry of Education has addressed many of the pitfalls in their education system. The Honduran government continues to create legislation designed to promote equality for girls and better the educational prospects of girls nationwide.

– Rachel Kingsley
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 facts about girls’ education in HaitiEducation reform in Haiti has provided opportunities for women and young girls to escape the conditions of extreme poverty in the country. However, girls continue to struggle in getting an affordable education and traditional gender norms challenge the potential opportunities for women. Haiti ranks 177th out of 186 countries in the world in terms of national spending on education. Advocating for the benefits of education for young girls can break these barriers. In the text below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti are presented.   

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Haiti

  1. Girls have shown an increase in primary school enrollment. From 2008 to 2012, primary school attendance for girls has grown to 77.7 percent compared with boys at 76.7 percent.
  2. Haiti’s education system has some challenges as ineffective teaching methods contribute to low-quality education. In addition, there is a persistent shortage of qualified teachers who remain unpaid. Around half of the public sector of teachers lack basic qualifications, 80 percent of them have not received any pre‐service training and 25 percent have never had a formal education or have attained a secondary school.
  3. The 2010 earthquake left Haiti in shambles and further damaged already-weak school infrastructure. The earthquake destroyed 4,000 schools, including one of the biggest educators of Haitian women and girls, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. Schools have struggled to provide students with a quality education. In some instances, children aged 5 to 12 attended classes in one-room local churches. Following the earthquake, these were temporary measures to shelter student so they could resume their schooling.
  4. Educate a Child is an organization that implemented a project called Quality Basic Education for Out of School Children (OOSC) with the goal to increase access to education by building primary school options in Haiti, as well as expanding them. The project’s goal is to reach at least 50,000 school children or OOSC within the following sub-groups of girls and boys: in domestic servitude situations, in rural and semi-rural areas, in rural farm situations without economic means to attend school and in street or semi-street situations. Currently, there is one OOSC program in Haiti. The project benefits parents of OOSC, teachers, school officials and an estimate of 227,000 children.
  5. Young girls with little or no education are more likely to have children and be victims of domestic violence. About 70 percent of women in Haiti have been victims of gender-based domestic violence. One survey found that 13.1 percent of girls and 14.6 percent of boys between the ages of 10 and 14 who were not enrolled in school were among the estimated 150,000 to 500,000 children who lived with non-relatives as unpaid domestic servants, and 65 percent of them being girls. Girls who are unable to attend school go to domestic labor and become vulnerable to physical, sexual and psychological abuse, unlike the girls who finish primary and secondary school who are more likely to escape these conditions and marry later in their adult years.
  6. Gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle for girls seeking access to education. Children from the ages of 5 to 17 work as unpaid domestic laborers. These children are also called restavek, and the majority of them are girls. Though girls enter school on par with boys, they are marginalized and are subject to higher dropout rates.
  7. Most Haitian schools follow French education model and French is used on the national tests. This creates a language barrier since most Haitians speak Creole. Less than 22 percent of Haitian primary school children pass the entrance examination at the end of grade five. About 13 percent of girls succeed in these entrance exams, while the rest are ill-prepared and unable to proceed to secondary school.
  8. The literacy rate is approximately 61 percent- 64 percent for males and 57 percent for females. Haiti Now is an organization committed to investing in accelerated educational programs for girls vulnerable to domestic servitude and at risk to drop out. They build on literacy skills by distributing and purchasing textbooks for young girls. As of 2016, 7,246 textbooks have been distributed to classrooms throughout Haiti and 425 girls have been recipients to textbooks.
  9. Malnutrition and natural disasters pose an obstacle for girls to stay in school. The World Food Program (WFP) delivers daily hot meals to about 485,000 school children in over 1,700 predominantly public schools throughout Haiti. WFP found that girls’ education contributes to a 43 percent reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounts for 26 percent reduction. For families who struggle to provide food at home, food programs in school also ensure that girls stay in school and are focused and ready to learn.
  10. The access to primary education in Haiti has improved with 90 percent of primary school-aged children enrolled in school to date. Although these changes are an improvement in Haiti’s education system, quality education remains a challenge. Many students repeat a grade and about 53 percent drop out before completing primary school, while 16 percent of girls stop attending primary school altogether.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Haiti demonstrate how barriers are broken and how conditions continue to improve for girls that are eager to learn. However, gender discrimination continues to be an obstacle to Haiti’s development in education. Despite these inequities, women in Haiti continue to be the necessary leaders, caregivers, professionals and heads of households by serving their communities and responding in times of crisis. As Haiti continues to rebuild, it will be critical to providing educational opportunities for the current generation of girls to ensure sustainable development efforts are met.

– Luis Santos
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about girls’ education in MozambiqueThe Southeast African country of Mozambique has made great progress in education in terms of enrollment and access. However, retention rates the quality of education are still inadequate and are still a huge issue for the country. The top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mozambique presented in the text below will cover the successes and shortcomings of the school system in the country and the effects it has on girls and gender equality.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Mozambique

  1. Mozambique ranked 139th out of 159 countries on the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. Various cultural beliefs that insist on the inferiority of women expose females to threats of disease, discrimination and violence.
  2. Around 94 percent of girls in Mozambique enroll in primary school. Mozambique’s primary and secondary schools became free in 2003, making them accessible even for low-income families. Mozambique also invested in teachers and infrastructure, reducing the distance students needed to travel to get to school. The school system reform nearly doubled school enrollments from 2003 to 2014.
  3. Despite the fact that there is a high number of girls in primary schools, only 11 percent of girls continue to study in secondary schools. As girls grow older, they are met by an increasing domestic workload and more responsibilities. Many girls choose to stay at home in order to do chores or work to help their families.
  4. In terms of primary and secondary school enrollment, Mozambique does continually increase gender parity, from 0.74 in 2000 to 0.92 in 2015.
  5. Although enrollment rates have increased dramatically, the quality of education in Mozambique still demands improvement. An alarming 66 percent of students graduate from primary school without having proper reading, writing and math skills. As one USAID sponsored study showed, over half of third graders could not read and those who could have great difficulty doing so.
  6. Mozambique’s female literacy rate is less than half of that of males. Only 28 percent of females know how to read and write compared to 60 percent of males.
  7. Women tend to enroll in more secretarial and administrative courses, composing 60 percent of students in those fields. Agriculture and technical training, however, are more male-dominated, reflecting gender stereotypes and the type of chores assigned to girls and boys.
  8. In a study done by the UNGEI, 66 percent of girls reported physical, sexual, or psychological violence and abuse and about a quarter of those abuses were conducted in schools. Young girls often face sexual abuse from older men, leading to unwanted pregnancies. In many cases, poverty pushes girls to exchange sex for money, food, or school supplies. As a result, their sexual activity starts earlier, along with their exposure to deadly threats of HIV and AIDS.
  9. Teen pregnancies prove to be a major reason for girls dropping out of school early. From 30 to 40 percent of girls are pregnant before they turn 18 years old.  As a result, many girls leave school to take care of their child and household, taking night classes instead. Although these classes allow them to continue schooling, girls often have to travel long distances to attend class, putting themselves in danger. The burden of taking care of a child, working and performing household chores can be overbearing and may leave little time for school. Teen pregnancies also put girls’ lives at risk as girls between 15 and 19 years are four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related issues than women over 20.
  10. Child marriages are another roadblock to education. Almost half of the girls in Mozambique are married before they turn 18 and around 15 percent are married before they turn 15. As a result, girls must drop out of school to stay home or work to take care of their families. Mozambique is working harder to enforce the legal age of marriage (18 years) through the initiation of the National Strategy for the Prevention and Combating of Early Marriage in 2016. The strategy serves to empower young women and target vulnerable teens.

These top 10 facts about girls’ education in Mozambique show that great strides in education and gender equality have been made in the country, but more work needs to be done. Teen pregnancies and marriages pose a major threat to girls’ education, keeping them in the cycle of poverty and oppression. Improvements to education allow them to break free of that cycle and pursue better lives for them and for their communities.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

Togo Women Empower ThemselvesThe West African country of Togo has a long history of military rule and had General Gnassingbé Eyadema installed as president from 1967 until his death in 2005. Under his leadership, many human rights abuses were reported and he tightly controlled all aspects of the Togo government.

Soon after General Eyadema died, his son Faure Gnassingbé was appointed as president by the Togo military. However, he yielded to the objections of foreign and domestic protesters and held elections. He won the elections, but the legitimacy of the elections have been a subject of ongoing debate, and his presidency remains controversial because his family has essentially maintained a 50-year-long dynasty in Togo. However, under his rule Togo has demonstrated gradual democratic improvement, holding legislative elections in 2013 and a presidential vote in 2015 that was deemed credible by the international community.

Women in Togo

Although women in Togo are legally considered equal to men, in many ways they are treated as second-class citizens. Togolese women are three times less likely to be sent to primary school, they experience a great deal of discrimination both in searching for work and once they find a job and they must defer to their husbands or brothers when it comes to managing the household. A woman, according to Togolese tradition, can never be the head of her own household. Although women in Togo are positioned as the inferior sex according to the customs of the country and gender discrimination is still prevalent, they still empower themselves by finding unique and creative ways to get their voices heard.

Sexual Boycott

In 2012, a group of Togolese women from an organization called Let’s Save Togo resolved to go on a sex strike in a hope of persuading their male counterparts to take a stand against President Gnassingbé. This sexual boycott, also known as a Lysistrata, was inspired by the Liberian activists who held their own sex strike in protest of violence against women in 2003. Though the Togolese president ultimately did not step down at that point as a result of the strike, it was a notable example of how a nominally disenfranchised group could find a way to speak out and take a stand.

The movement opposing the rule of President Faure Gnassingbé is still very much in effect and Togolese women continue to play a critical role despite the dangers associated with trying to topple such a powerful man. The market women of Togo are largely responsible for financing the opposition to Eyedema, and in return, two of their buildings have been burned down by the government. Though officially a republic, Togo has essentially operated as a dictatorship, with the same family in power for over 50 years, and the Togolese women have had enough.

Plan International Togo

Faced with economic and political challenges in a country that still has a dismal ranking of 134th in U.N. Women’s Gender Inequality Index, Togo women empower themselves with an inner strength and resilience that transcends generations of oppression. The nongovernmental organization Plan International Togo is lending their support with a variety of programs for women and girls. They are providing health education, early marriage prevention and training on citizenship and the basics of government so that women can become more active in the political process.

Togolese women have always been on the front lines of political change, even fighting increased taxation during the period of French colonialism. They continue to make great strides, seemingly undaunted by the limitations that society has tried to impose on them. The way that Togo women empower themselves today would make their predecessors very proud.

– Raquel Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in LaosLaos is one of the most poorly developed countries in the world. Decades of colonial rule, economic mismanagement and government instability have created cycles of inter-generational poverty in Laos that currently affect young people in the country. Education attainment in Laos, specifically, lags behind surrounding countries and other developing countries. Additionally, as a relatively patriarchal society, Laos struggles to provide equal opportunities to the girls and boys in the country. In the article below the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Laos are presented

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Laos

  1. The initial rate of enrollment is about equal for both genders. However, the retention and completion rate for both genders is much lower. Girls in smaller villages especially are not expected to finish primary school. In many cases, unsafe conditions for girls and male preference have contributed to a higher dropout rate for girls.
  2. Girls are less likely than boys to attend school and complete their education. Girls lag behind boys in both primary and secondary education. Cultural norms that are inclined to males, poverty, racism and discrimination against ethnic groups and a general lack of attention given to girls’ education all contribute to this disparity.
  3. Girls from minority ethnic groups have the lowest enrollment and completion rates of any other child demographic. Over 50 percent of girls from ethnic communities in Laos do not attend school. Many of these ethnic communities do not speak Lao, the official language of Laos. As a result, children in these communities are unable to receive a proper education as educational materials are only available in Lao. Additionally, girls from smaller ethnic communities have a higher poverty rate and are less likely to have the opportunity to attend school.
  4. The attendance rate for children in urban areas is around 95 percent.  That number drops to 85 percent in rural villages with roads and to 70 percent in rural areas without roads. The gender disparity in school attendance also widens in rural areas as 95 percent of both girls and boys attend primary school in urban areas, whereas only 77 percent of girls versus 83 percent of boys attend school in rural areas without roads.
  5. Child marriages result in many underage girls dropping out of school. Around one-third of Laotian girls are married before the age of 18. These girls are far more likely to become pregnant and begin child rearing at a young age. This hinders their ability to attend school, as many Laotian girls are burdened with the responsibility of caring for children and are not supported by their husbands to attend school.
  6. Organizations such as the Lotus Educational Fund are giving greater opportunities to rural Laotian girls to complete their primary and secondary education. This is done by providing girls with the materials they need to succeed in schools, such as textbooks, writing utensils, backpacks and bicycles to help them travel to school safely. Additionally, the Fund works to improve the health and wellness of the girls, by providing them with eco-friendly health kits and menstrual items. They also are working towards establishing scholarships to send more rural girls to school.
  7. Training for teachers in rural areas improves educational access and quality in Laotian villages. This is especially true when investments are made to support training for young female teachers that focus specifically on improving the education of young girls in villages. Investments in educating female teachers by the Australian government help women in Laos pursue fulfilling careers and serve to improve the learning outcomes of primary school students.
  8. Girls’ education in Laos is improving, albeit rather slowly. The percentage of girls who receive primary education has improved by less than 0.5 percent each year since 2005. To improve this slow growth, programs in Laos are working to address the wide gender gap in education by training female ethnic teachers in villages to provide higher quality education and outreach to a greater number of girls. Although the development is slow, the gender gap in primary school attendance continues to shrink, especially in urban communities, where the attendance rate is nearly equal.
  9. Educational nonprofit organizations are operating within schools in Laos to actively address gender and racial disparity in education. Organizations such as Save the Children, Room to Read and Plan International have launched educational programs in rural Laotian communities to get more children, especially girls, into schools. Save the Children has collaborated with the Ministry of Education and Sports in Laos to enact educational programs in the 10 poorest districts in Laos with a particular emphasis on ethnic minorities and girls.
  10. Pressure from the U.N., international nonprofits and foreign aid providers have encouraged the Laotian government to place more emphasis on education and gender equality. The Basic Education Quality and Access in Laos program, implemented in 2014 in partnership with the Australian government, aims to get more children completing their education in Laos. While Laos still only spends 3.3 percent of its budget on education, the education sector in Laos has shown some growth because of foreign aid assistance.

These facts show that while educational access and completion is far from equal for both genders in Laos, there are numerous programs and investments being implemented to address this imbalance. Hopefully, greater investment in girls’ education on Laos will allow the country to achieve levels of education comparable to other developing nation in the world.

– Tamar Farchy
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in IndiaIndia is one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage. Approximately 27 percent of women are married in the country by the time they turn 18. Out of the total of 29 states in India, the states of Bihar and Rajasthan lead the country with 69 percent and 65 percent of girls married under the legal age, respectively. The mean age when girls marry in these regions is only 16.6 years and more than 13 million girls in India remain child brides.

Causes of Child Marriage in India

The prevalence of child marriage in India is caused mainly by social traditions and poverty within many states. Young girls are often deemed an economic burden by their parents. The greatest expenses that families must bear are paying for education and housing and these expenses increase as a child gets older. To alleviate the economic pressure that female children create, they are transferred to a husband, that can be viewed as a guardian.

The rates of these unions have decreased in girls under 15 years of age, but have increased between in girls aged between 15 and 18. After the marriage, the male guardian becomes responsible for the female child. The child is often subjected to domestic violence and sexual abuse. Nearly 39 percent of husbands report either sexual or physical abuse toward their wives.

Health Risks and Education

The health of the child is put at greater risk because of sexual violence. Girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are two times more likely to die in childbirth. The lack of protection also exposes them to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Young women aged from 15 to 24 years are 44 percent more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than men from the same age group. This is due to many factors including lack of access to adequate health care services and inter-partner violence resulting in unsafe sex.

In addition, these child brides have less educational opportunities than girls who are not subjected to early marriages. They are directly correlated due to the fact that new brides are expected to be mothers and homemakers. This relationship goes both ways, as girls who have access to secondary and higher education are three times less likely to marry by the age of 18.

Preventing Child Marriage in India

India itself only reports that 27 percent of girls were married in the country by the time they are 18. This percentage has decreased from 50 percent in the last decade. India lowered child marriage rates drastically with new legislation. The country began improving the situation in 2006 with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. This act outlawed marriage in girls below the age of 18 and boys under the age of 21.

However, this act has had negative effects on the regulation of child marriage. Marriages in states like Bihar and Rajasthan are more of a social construct rather than a matter of legal documentation. The rates of child marriage remain high in these regions due to cohabitation of an older male guardian and a female child. This cohabitation is usually accompanied by a ceremony declaring martial union without registering it with the state.

It is much more difficult to regulate cohabitation, but the country drafted legislation to prevent this type of union. In 2013, the National Action Plan to Prevent Child Marriage was introduced nationally. This strategy aims to effectively end child marriage in India and make it a child protection issue. While the act is not yet finalized, as of 2017, men can be held legally accountable if they are involved in child marriages. India’s Supreme Court ruled that sex with an underage wife is considered rape. This offers an opportunity to regulate child marriage, even when it is performed as a social exchange without official documentation.

Moreover, India has joined the South Asian Initiative to End Violence against Child Marriage and UNICEF’s Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage. The country is making great strides to prevent this violation of human rights.

Women Peer Groups

When the state fails to protect the children, the women of India rise up. An activist grassroots movement of boycotting underage marriages has been incredibly effective. Over 100 Women Peer Groups are set up across five rural Indian states. These independent groups and individuals work to stop marriages in person, lobby for legislation against child marriage and improve resources for children that find themselves in these situations. Malti Tudu is one of the members of these groups that now comprise of over 2,800 women dedicated to ending illegal unions.

Child marriage is a definitive issue that the Indian government is focusing on. Through new legislation and governmental strategies, along with the aid of grassroots movements, the country can effectively create a safe landscape for children, especially young girls, to grow in.

Emily Triolet
Photo: Pixabay

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in CroatiaCroatia is a small country located in the Balkan region of Europe. It was formerly part of Yugoslavia and still adopts many of the conservative views of the former communist regime. The conservative viewpoints of the country place social restrictions on women, but they are encouraged to participate in the workforce and contribute to the economy. Croatian legislation provides incredibly specialized opportunities for both girls and boys as they move from their basic education to their career paths, but girls education is still highly influenced by traditional gender roles. In the article below, top 10 facts about girls education in Croatia are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in Croatia

  1. The female literacy rate is lower than those of men. In general, the adult population in Croatia has a very high literacy rate of 97 percent.  The men literacy rate is at 99.7 percent while the literacy rate for women is at 98.9 percent.
  2. Primary education is compulsory. Girls and boys are required to attend eight years of elementary education and then can choose to move to a secondary school and later in college. Schools teach orally in Croatian, but all written work is done in Latin. Students learn a minimum of two languages in their elementary education system. Secondary schools are optional and focus on specific areas of education and trade. Students may choose vocational, art, or specialized high school programs. Almost 67 percent of students in secondary school attend a vocational school. Female students have a gross enrollment ratio (GER) of over 100 in secondary education compared to male students with a GER of 95.6. More female students are also enrolled in tertiary education programs.
  3. Roma girls face difficulties completing primary education and Roma culture is highly discriminated in Croatia. They have Indian origins and generally live in the Northeastern provinces of the country. Few Roma children speak Croatian fluently and these children usually end up struggling in primary schools. Less than 50 percent of these children finish primary school and move onto secondary school.
  4. Most of the Croatian citizens are Roman Catholic and sexually conservative. The sex education policies of the country focus on the Family Planning method and teach abstinence-only programs. Homosexuality and gender disparity are portrayed in a negative and often “sinful” light. Girls are encouraged to follow a traditional role in their relationships and learn little knowledge about birth control methods and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) prevention.
  5. Sex and gender discrimination is normal. Girls do not learn about all of their possibilities due to the social conservative approach of education in Croatia. The role they are taught to follow tends to lead them away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career paths and influences their secondary school choices. In addition, homosexuality and transgenderism are perceived as being abnormal.
  6. Girls are encouraged to focus on the arts and educational career paths. This practice affects the number of women enrolled in STEM classes. Men only make up 8.1 percent of those enrolled in education courses at universities and women are underrepresented in computer science, engineering, and architecture courses.
  7. Schools promote gender equality in theory. The Istanbul Convention was adopted in Croatia in May 2018. It addressed many civic and gender rights issues. The Croatian government implemented national legislation to create an institution of Gender Sensitive Education. The National Policy for Gender Equality focused on the elimination of gender stereotypes, teacher education on gender equality, and less influence of gender on occupational paths. However conservative gender roles are still imposed in spite of this legislation.
  8. Secondary schools have had more success adhering to the progressive gender legislation. The terminology of various occupational choices are being equalized and textbooks are being distributed with efforts to maintain gender neutrality. The Croatian Employment Service provides occupational guidance for students after primary schools regardless of gender through educational brochures and the computer program “My Choice”.
  9. Enrollment rates of women are currently growing in secondary and tertiary education programs. The proportion of women who complete their university or vocational studies is considerably higher than men at 59.5 percent. Around 55 percent of women attending tertiary schools receive a doctoral degree. At least 58.2 percent of university attendants also received a master’s degree.
  10. Most teachers in primary and secondary schools are women. The number of men with careers in education increases as the education level increases. However, even in higher-level universities and vocational schools, the gap between the percentage of female to male teachers is still 12.7 percent. Women dominate the education system, except in administrative and management capacities. Only 20.9 percent of deans in the 52 higher education system are women.

Girls are able to receive an incredibly comprehensive academic education through the Croatian public school system. With the adoption of the Istanbul Convention girls’ rights throughout the country should increase, including their rights in the school systems. The country has attempted to make strides in gender equality but still focuses on conservative viewpoints of sexuality. As the social structure of Croatia becomes more progressive, so will the dynamic of women in the academic sector.

– Emily Triolet
Photo: Flickr

Global Girls’ AllianceOn the International Day of the Girl, Michelle Obama, former first lady of the U.S., announced that she is launching the Global Girls Alliance, a program aimed at empowering adolescent girls through education around the world.

The Goal of Global Girls Alliance

The Global Girls Alliance is designed to support grassroots leaders around the world who best understand the unique challenges girls face in their local communities and the strategies needed to overcome them. Obama was inspired to start the alliance during her visit to a local high school in Liberia. Obama stated that the organization is seeking to empower adolescent girls around the world through education so that they can support their families, communities and countries.

She said that she is supportive of the girls that show up every day in school even though their families depend on them to take care of younger siblings, cook meals and ensure their household is running smoothly. They show up even though many are pressured to marry as adolescents, sidetracking their own goals for a man’s. Girls that attend secondary schools have higher salaries, lower infant and mortality rates and are less likely to contract malaria and HIV. Educating girls is not good just for the girl, but for wider communities as well.

Girls’ Educational Issues

According to a U.N. study, there are almost 98 million adolescent girls that are not receiving any form of education. In some countries, it is unsafe for girls to attend school as they can be subjects of sexual harassment, assault, or a dangerous commute. In addition, many adolescent girls are forced to miss school during menstruation due to lack of resources or stigma and some are expected to take on household responsibilities or get married. Child-marriage is also a big issue that perpetuates global poverty, and one major way to reduce child-marriage is to get more girls in school. Through education, women can be empowered and work to eradicate global poverty.

Successful Story

Mainly, the Global Girls Alliance connects with grassroots leaders globally to share ideas and strategies that best work for their community. Among these grassroots leaders is Eliakunda Kaaya from Tanzania, who was the first in her family to graduate from high school and college despite her family’s belief that women shouldn’t attend school. Kaaya has worked as an education mentor for girls and is currently working on girls on reproductive health sessions, as Tanzania’s education policy is that girls cannot attend school if they become pregnant, even after the child is born.

Kaaya hopes the Global Girls Alliance will help this movement move forward with more resources and by mobilizing more members of global communities to be involved in the issues surrounding girls’ education. Kaaya, like many other girls, grew up with this belief in her household and community, but sought education despite it and is empowering girls through education as part of the Global Girls Alliance. “Anything good you see in this world it is because women have been part of it,” Kaaya said in Webster’s interview, reflecting on her meeting with Michelle Obama.

GoFundMe

The program also has a GoFundMe page where donors can give financial support to these grassroots leaders, either as a general donation or to a specific project. Funding is used for scholarships, mentorship programs, entrepreneurship preparations and parental education to ensure girls are supported both at school and within the home.

So far, the campaign has raised $225,907 of their $250,000 goal. Specific project donations include Uganda’s Empower Girls through Education, Malawi’s CRECCOM Equitable Quality Education, India’s SHEF’s Education Initiative, Ghana’s Change the World, Educate a Girl! and Guatemala’s The Thousand Girl Initiative. These donations can reap a large return effect.

According to the World Bank, limiting girls’ education costs countries from $15 to $30 trillion in loss of lifetime productivity and earnings. Educating girls can improve health, economic well-being and overall livelihood of communities. The alliance also seeks to shift the paradigm of girls’ education by advocating for developed countries to spread the word and get involved by spreading awareness.

Education young girls and women, in general, is beneficial for women, but for the whole world as well. Empowering them to step out of their traditional roles and take command over their lives can directly impact GDP growth of the countries. Organizations such as Global Girls Alliance are realizing this potential and are making sure it is being utilized.

– Anna Power
Photo: Flickr