Young women in Angola are becoming more empowered than ever due to the nation’s efforts to increase child education. This rise in female independence and enfranchisement is also due to significant efforts to change the nation’s culture regarding gender roles.
Improvements in Girls’ Education in Angola
Primary education is free in nearly every African country, including Angola. This has caused a drastic increase in the number of children enrolled in school, with Angola having one of the highest improvement rates.
Particularly, the number of young girls enrolled in schools has soared to a number that more than doubles the total of 10 years ago. Between the years 2000 and 2011, there was an increase in girls’ education in Angola from 35 percent to 78 percent.
Additionally, the overall literacy rate for girls in Angola from the ages of 15 to 24 rose from 63 percent to 71 percent from 2001 to 2014. The primary school completion rate for girls in Angola has increased from 40 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2014.
Improving Gender Issues in Education
One of the ways in which girls’ education in Angola has been able to see such dramatic improvements is through the efforts of the nation to address gender issues in the classroom. This is also done by reaching out to those with authority and influence over families, who can thus help end restrictive ideas about women’s rights.
Since 2002, a total of 20,000 teachers in Angola have taken part in the “Back to School” campaign, a movement supported by UNICEF. This movement aims to train teachers in how to make their classrooms more sensitive to gender-based disparities. Teachers enroll in a five-year training program that educates them on the causes and solutions for inequalities in female versus male education rates.
One of the issues this movement faces is that oftentimes, when girls attend school, they will soon after drop out due to pressures from members of their communities. The traditional gender role for women in Angola is to be domestic wives and mothers and these pressures often prevent families from allowing their daughters to be educated.
It is common for parents to feel that educating their daughters is a waste of time and resources. There is a societal perspective that if a daughter’s fate is to marry, become a mother and run a household, why send her away to school when she could be learning domestic skills?
Changing the Role of Women
In order to change this perspective, Angolan teachers aim to mobilize those members of the community that parents trust, namely religious leaders and members of the traditional and various ethnic communities. By gaining the support of those that parents view as authority figures, the culture around girls’ education in Angola begins to shift from one of wastefulness to one of independence and progress.
The “Back to School” campaign, along with various independent advocacy efforts, work toward teaching young girls that there is no shame in breaking away from the gender roles that they have been taught to accept. Angolan teachers are shown how to make the classroom a place where young girls not only feel invited but encouraged to participate and learn.
Through the efforts of organizations and communities around the nation, young Angolan girls are no longer left with only one option for their lives and futures. Rather, they can become empowered to cultivate new, intellectual skills that will allow them to forge their own path in life based on their own personal choices.
– Theresa Marino