UgandaSignificant improvements have been made in the accessibility and quality of girls’ education in Uganda. The female literacy rate has increased from 45 percent in 1991 to 68 percent in 2014.

Continuing this trend for girls’ education in Uganda is necessary to transform the country. However, there are still numerous barriers preventing girls from completing their education.

School Attendance

Despite being compulsory, 13 percent of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 didn’t go to primary school in 2011. Of the girls that did go, only 53 percent actually completed the required seven years. In secondary school, which typically encompasses students from 13 to 18 years old, female attendance significantly drops; 30 percent of girls between these ages weren’t enrolled in secondary school in 2011.

Poverty is one of the key reasons girls drop out of school. Impoverished families often need their daughters to stay at home and help with the housework or other income-generating activities. Some families have to marry off their young daughters to receive a dowry, which prevents them from continuing their education. Of the girls that stopped attending school, 40 percent dropped out because of child marriage.

Gender Roles

Another key barrier to girls’ education in Uganda are the traditional gender roles and male-dominated society. Women and girls are expected to do the majority of the domestic labor, often leaving little time to attend school and do the assigned homework.

In some areas, girls are actively discouraged from attending school. Instead, they are told education is for boys. Female students are often stigmatized as being promiscuous. These beliefs can be perpetuated in the classrooms if they are held by teachers, peers and eventually the girls themselves. The desire to participate and even attend classes suffers as a result.

The facilities and teaching style of schools were not designed to accommodate girls. The lack of proper sanitation and privacy makes it difficult for girls to attend school while menstruating. Girls can also face risks associated with a lack of security at schools, such as sexual abuse.

Alleviating Poverty

Improving girls’ education in Uganda can help pull families, and perhaps even the country, out of the poverty cycle. Every additional year of education yields a 10-25 percent increase in the income of a woman. An educated woman will then reinvest 90 percent of this income into her family. Helping a girl complete her schooling will double the likelihood that she will send her own children to school.

Educating girls can also help control the rapid population growth. Uganda currently has a 3.2 percent population growth rate, which is the fifth-highest in the world. On average, a mother has her first child at about 19 years old. Because women start having children at such a young age, Uganda also has a high fertility rate of about 5.7 children per woman.

By keeping girls in school, the rates of child marriage and teen pregnancy significantly decrease. If all girls were able to complete their education, the rate of teenage pregnancy would decrease by 59 percent.

Improvements for Girls’ Education in Uganda

Girls’ education in Uganda has been steadily improving, but still has a long way to go. Much of this progress was a result of the 1997 implementation of free, universal primary education. This policy significantly helped decrease the gaps in primary enrollment between girls and boys.

However, a report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, using 2014 Census data, found that although there were similar levels of primary school education between boys and girls, there were significant disparities in performance, levels of classroom engagement and access to facilities. In addition, there are still significant gender disparities in enrollment for secondary schools.

Because of the profound implications of girls’ education in Uganda, many organizations are determined to continue improving its accessibility and quality. Some of the most effective are local programs, which were developed to address specific problems in Uganda.

Nonprofit Uganda For Her began after one Ugandan noticed the poor access to sexual and reproductive health information for girls in rural areas of the country. It has since broadened into a more comprehensive strategy for empowering girls and women. The Girl Up Initiative Uganda has similarly local roots. The organization was founded when three individuals recognized the lack of educational opportunities for girls living in urban slums.

These organizations address the unique challenges girls in Uganda face when trying to attend school. Educating girls creates a ripple effect, helping families and communities break free from poverty.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in PalestineAlthough the conflict in Palestine often grabs headlines, day to day functions, like girls’ education in Palestine, are important as well. According to The Brookings Institute, “Education, especially for girls and women, is one of the most highly leveraged investments that a developing country can make in its future.”

With its 25 percent rate of poverty and 60 percent rate of youth unemployment in conflict zones like Gaza, Palestine has an opportunity for growth and development. Investing in girls’ education could help kick-start that process. Girls’ education in Palestine can improve local young girls’ futures and the future of the whole region.

Palestinian women are among the most educated in the Middle East. They have a 94 percent literacy rate and go to primary school just as often as boys do. Palestinian girls consistently outscore their male peers in Tawhiji testing. In the 2006 school year, 14,064 more Palestinian women were enrolled in university than Palestinian men. Compared to the situations for women in Yemen, Egypt or Afghanistan, girls’ education in Palestine is thriving. However, there are still some obstacles to overcome.

Conflict with Israel

Conflict with Israel often disrupts the educational infrastructure of Palestine. Schools are damaged by rockets and bombs in volatile areas like the Gaza Strip and West Bank, limiting all children’s access to education. In 2014, in the Gaza Strip alone the education of 475,000 students was affected by this destruction. Palestinian schools in Israeli territory are regularly underserved, with overcrowded classrooms and lower budgets.

Higher Dropout Rates and Poorer Quality

Secondly, the dropout rate for high school students (though still low at less than 3 percent) has risen recently, with girls being slightly more likely than boys to leave school early. Women also tend to receive a poorer quality of education. Families are more likely to send boys to private schools because in a traditionally patriarchal culture they are seen as necessary for the extended family’s financial livelihood. When families have limited resources, they allocate them toward the boys who often work abroad, especially in the Gulf states.

Improvements for Girls’ Education in Palestine

Despite these challenges, girls’ education in Palestine continues to progress. Girls are equally represented in STEM alongside boys and their presence in universities continues to grow. The main challenges to female education in the region are political and cultural. While it may be unrealistic to expect a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian land conflict any time soon, attitudes about women are already changing.

One group of 40 Palestinian girls attending Sokaina Girls School in the Gaza Strip decided to challenge social norms about women’s role by building a library for their school. With support from UNICEF and other NGOs, they were able to bring a new world of learning and hope to a community where libraries are scarce. If more organizations and individuals supported initiatives for girls’ education in Palestine, the region would be one essential step close to eliminating poverty.

Despite cultural and political challenges, girls’ education in Palestine is progressing well. Success stories like the Sokaina Girls School library prove the power of education in bringing hope and change to the region’s underserved communities. A concentrated investment in these efforts for female education has the potential to reduce Palestinian poverty fundamentally.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in RomaniaAcross the globe young women often face the negative effects of gender discrimination on equal access to public education. This bias is often compounded by differences in ethnicity, social class, and physical and mental ability. Allowing these factors to affect a girl’s right to education is often cited as a primary cause of disadvantages throughout her lifetime, and can also have broad negative impacts on a country’s economy by limiting the contributions of a large percentage of the population. This is the case in Romania as the struggle of girls’ education in the country.

Inclusive Education in Romania

Inclusive education is defined as the right to equal access to quality education for all children, in a protective and open environment, regardless of one’s social and economic class, ability, or connection to an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minority. Mag et al.’s work on inclusive education for the journal Materials Science, Engineering, and Chemistry, or MATEC, states that “inclusive education is a child’s right, not a privilege.” However, achieving this can be particularly difficult in a country with a recent economic crisis, such as Romania, where pressures to contribute to the family’s baseline needs at a young age can fall unequally on girls.

Girls’ education in Romania is often in jeopardy—particularly young women in rural areas—as they are often forced to drop out of school in order to better support their families within the household. In the primary school years, between the ages of seven and 10, only 85 percent of Romanian girls are enrolled in school. As they move from primary to secondary education, only 64 percent of the girls who had previously attended school make the transition compared to the 72 percent of boys who continue their education.

Effects of Limited Education

A lack of education from an early age creates a ripple effect felt throughout these young women’s lives. Many women are unable to complete the education required for even low-paying professional jobs, effectively holding them in a state of dependency throughout their lives, while also limiting their ability to contribute to the national economy. Only 65 percent of young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are literate in Romania, corresponding with a high 18.4 percent youth unemployment rate in 2017—nearly 10 percent above the U.S. youth unemployment rate.

International Organizations offer Assistance

Since the early 2000s, there has been a movement for greater equality in girls’ education in Romania. With the help of UNICEF, the country has created policies and programs to address the need for education reforms with a focus on gender. However, overarching policies, while effective in bringing change to the education system, do not necessarily target a child’s individual needs, or even the needs of a specific minority.

Education Priority Areas, or EPA, is a project focusing on disadvantaged communities in order to increase the communities’ youth’s access to quality and equal educational opportunities. EPA, created by UNICEF together with the Institute for Educational Sciences, a nonpartisan research branch of the United States Department of Education, has provided Romania with funds for schools and computers and has assisted in setting up programs both in and outside the classroom. These programs are designed to level the playing field for young women in need of additional support by achieving the education that is, indeed, the right of all children.

Improving opportunities for students can only be as effective as those providing the education are willing and able to make it. In addition to its work on education reform and assistance to the children themselves, UNICEF, in partnership with the Romanian Ministry of Education, created the National Programme for Education on Democratic Citizenship, a program dedicated to the rights of citizens’—particularly children’s—education. This program was launched in 2003, and was responsible for the inclusivity and inter-cultural approach training for nearly 300 educators within one year of the program’s conception, furthering the effort to create more opportunities concerning girls’ education in Romania.

As recently as 2011, there have been important advancements in the policy not only limited to girls’ education in Romania but focused on all children aged zero to three years old. A law which went into effect that year mandates an additional, transitional year of schooling, to be taught either at the kindergarten or primary education level. This is a particularly vulnerable time in a child’s development, a time where growth and adjustment are very closely linked to both family and socialization through preschool.

Romanian communities and many others throughout the world have been able to benefit from the work done by UNICEF and other organizations, providing students with the support necessary to build brighter futures, regardless of gender.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in LibyaLibyan women are progressing in society because of a stronger commitment to tearing down barriers to gender equality. New policies such as the Libyan General National Congress’ funding of a study abroad program for the country’s top young scholars have opened doors for improving girls’ education in Libya.

The Funding Initiative

The program has sent educators and students alike to receive training at elite international schools to spur development upon return. The government pays for the student’s expenses and awards them a monthly stipend of 1,600 euros a month. Initially, the fund gave scholarships to students who fought in militias during the civil war but was later expanded to allow women and handicapped students to receive scholarships as well.

This legislation built on an already strong commitment to education made by previous Libyan governments. Former president Muammar Gaddafi made it mandatory and free for all students to attain a primary education. Mandating a public school education transformed Libya from a largely illiterate country before its independence to having 80 percent of its population receiving a primary education.

Education Policies in Libya

Coeducational schools were built across east Libya to accommodate the influx of students. West Libya still has male and female students attend separate schools, but the curriculum is regulated by the government as an incentive for students to choose fields that benefit the nation’s current need. A standardized curriculum helps level the playing field for all students.

The results of these policies have been largely successful for girls’ education in Libya, but the country still has a long road to true equality in education. The Libya Status of Women survey found that 52 percent of Libyan women reached secondary education or higher, compared to 53 percent of Libyan men. Both men and women are achieving similar levels of higher education which will help combat gender economic inequality. Additionally, 77 percent of female students under the age of 25 reported having plans to complete  secondary education or higher compared to 67 percent of men.

More Work to be Done

Women are striving for positions in extremely skilled and specialized positions which increases their economic desirability. These numbers are especially impressive given Libya’s recent civil war that devastated the region. Following the revolution against the Gaddafi regime, 15 schools were completely destroyed resulting in tens of thousands of students not finishing their school years. The education system has demonstrated great resilience in this chaos which has greatly benefited girls’ education in Libya.

Despite these promising statistics, Libya still has to address several areas of gender inequality in its education systems to promote girls’ education across the country. The same Libya Status of Women survey also discovered that 14 percent of Libyan girls failed to finish their first six years of basic education, compared to only three percent of boys. Unfortunately, cultural stereotypes of females still put them at a systemic disadvantage. This is especially the case in rural Libya. The schools are coeducational, but boys are required to sit at the front of the class and girls in the back. West Libya faces a similar problem. The boys’ schools are given priority in government resources because it is believed they will become more skilled workers.

Opening the study abroad program to women demonstrates the current administration’s commitment to gender equality in education which will hopefully combat the disparity observed in the primary education completion rate. These efforts need to extend to rural communities in Libya to maximize effectiveness.

The future looks very optimistic for Libyan women as activists continue to pressure the government to install change. Since 1955, notable women’s rights movements have helped level the playing field for women in education and continue to be an effective driver of change. Libyan women are continually becoming more educated and some of the most skilled workers in society.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Laos
For many households of the indigenous Hmong people in Laos, girls are second on the priority list for attending school. Even some families with the desire and financial resources to send their daughters to school enforce restrictions on their education but not on their sons’. Education builds financially independent women and transforms them into critical thinkers. Such practices can also have the long-term effect of reducing poverty. The benefits of girls’ education in Laos reach out to the general community, not just to the girls.

A famous Hmong proverb translates to “Nine moons can’t compare to one sun; nine daughters can’t compare to one son.” It means that boys are expected to grow up to become breadwinners while women are seen as not being worth investing in. In part, this mindset leads to higher school enrollment rates for boys.

Exposure to Western Education Systems Influences Girls’ Education in Laos

Laotian history has been marked by the Pathet Lao’s rise to power in 1975. The communist regime began a genocide against the Hmong people in retaliation for aiding the United States with covert operations related to the Vietnam War. As a result, nearly one in 10 Hmong citizens fled to Thailand, later arriving in the United States. Education is especially valuable to the children of refugee parents because it offers a chance for them to seek a better life than what previous generations in Laos endured.

In the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement, Kaozong N. Mouavangsou, the daughter of Hmong refugees, described the influence of Hmong culture even as she pursued higher education in the U.S. Family members encouraged her to attend a university close to home while her brothers got to choose schools farther away. They aimed to protect Mouavangsou from environments where she might get distracted from her studies by men who wanted to marry and have children.

When girls pursue higher levels of education, they are able to form their own opinions about how girls are treated in Hmong culture. Mouavangsou’s Western education gave her insight into the differences between the U.S. and Laos in terms of women’s roles in society. Such knowledge provided her an opportunity to choose which path in life was best for her, instead of prioritizing the needs of a potential husband and children.

International Organizations Work to End Sexual Harassment in Schools

Unfortunately, many girls in Laos do not receive the advanced schooling they need to forge such a path for themselves. In South Asia, approximately 100 million girls will drop out of school before getting a chance to pursue secondary education. Girls have a lower attendance rate in secondary education because those schools are located farther from home. This means it is harder for parents to guard against sexual harassment inflicted by male classmates.

In response to such issues, UNICEF began a project in collaboration with Plan International, CARE, U.N. Women and Girl Guides to make secondary schools safer environments for girls. The project created a chatbot where boys and girls can share their ideas about how to end violence. This forum engages a demographic of people who might have peers that are either the aggressor or the ones being harassed.

In addition to UNICEF’s chatbot, more plans are being implemented to help make girls’ education in Laos more accessible. Some schools are offering flexible hours to accommodate when girls can attend classes. Others are promoting an atmosphere free of gender-based violence and awarding scholarships to make the cost of education more affordable. Overall, the gender disparity in the Laotian education system dropped from 4 percent in 2008 to less than 2 percent in 2010.

Many issues, such as sexual harassment, gender inequality and poverty are interdependent upon one another. With that in mind, girls’ education in Laos can help the whole of Hmong society as well as provide girls with greater well-being.

– Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in ZambiaYoung women in Zambia are lacking the proper education needed due to harsh poverty. Fortunately, a group called Global Samaritans is continuing education in orphanages and schools in the hopes of bettering girls’ education in Zambia and equipping these women with the tools they need in order to shape their own futures.

Global Samaritans is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of improving life for those in Zambia. Its goal is to provide Zambian children with access to the highest level of school they wish to pursue, Executive Director for Global Samaritans, Erin Porter, told The Borgen Project.

Issues with Girls’ Education in Zambia

Zambia is struggling to maintain enough schools for children that are eligible to attend, according to UNICEF. It is estimated that 1,500 classrooms need to be constructed each year in order for children to go to school in Zambia. Citizens that live in the rural areas of the country are less likely to go to school because they cannot afford school supplies.

Zambian women face these hardships even worse than men when trying to become educated because of gender stereotypes and inequalities. In rural areas, 27 percent of Zambian women are not educated, compared to men at 18 percent.

Despite girls having a higher school attendance rate than boys, illiteracy is 15 percent higher in girls. Zambian girls are also twice as likely to drop out than boys by grade seven because of socioeconomic problems, according to the World Bank.

Addressing Gender Stereotypes in Zambia

These women are prone to marrying young, getting pregnant early and staying at home, performing household tasks such as cooking and cleaning. Since boys are seen as more profitable to a family, they are more likely to be sent to school instead of girls. Diseases such as AIDs spread quickly throughout the country, causing poverty to heighten, which forces girls to either drop out of school or not go at all.

“Girls are the ones who suffer the most when it comes to education in Zambia,” Porter said. “Oftentimes, they are responsible for the home and Zambia suffers from water scarcity. So, if a young girl has to walk 30 minutes to an hour each way to collect water two times a day, that is vital time spent on domestic chores instead of attending school.”

How Good Samaritans is Helping

To help with this problem, Global Samaritans has set up an orphanage and a school so Zambian children can receive the education they deserve. The group built a high school in 2010 called the Global Samaritans High School to provide children a secondary level education, helping achieve girls’ education in Zambia.

Children attend a government school from grades one through seven and then attend boarding schools after that, which can be costly due to fees, uniforms and school supplies. Global Samaritans High School provides children two more years of education at a nominal fee, Porter said.

The high school works hand-in-hand with the orphanage to allow a higher level of girls’ education in Zambia. For the girls who fall pregnant at a young age, the orphanage welcomes them back to learn and holds informational meetings about the importance of girls’ education in Zambia, Marriam Konga, orphanage administrator, said.

“I am proud to say that as an orphanage, we have been able to raise girls into adults today, some of whom are working as teachers and nurses and are already making a change in the communities around them,” Konga said. Global Samaritans will continue to work toward improving the lives of young women in Zambia and lowering the level of poverty in the African nation.

– McKenzie Hamby
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ education in Myanmar
The education of girls and women has been found to be of paramount importance for the success of individuals, communities and nations, leading to increased efforts to improve girls’ education in Myanmar, among other countries. Women who receive a higher level of education generally receive higher pay and tend to have fewer health problems. Additionally, education increases job opportunities for women, positively impacting them as well as employers.

Pressures of Poverty Hurt Girls’ Access to Education

In Myanmar, however, many girls (and boys) do not complete their education, with many students dropping out once they reach high school. During the 2009-2010 school year, 42 percent of boys and 44 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 15 were no longer attending school.

One of the main reasons students leave school is because their parents can no longer afford it. According to UNESCO, public schools in Myanmar do not charge tuition fees, but “hidden costs, such as school supplies and transportation, make them unaffordable for many.” If parents can only afford to send a few of their children to school, girls are more likely to stay at home.

In addition to being less able to afford school, poorer families are more likely to see “work as a better long-term option for their children,” particularly if the school is not providing high-quality education, according to a UNICEF report. They may also need their children to work in order to help support the family. During the 2009-2010 school year, 85.5 percent of children from the richest households attended secondary school, while only 28.2 percent from the poorest households did.

Furthermore, lack of interest has been found to be a common reason for not completing secondary education. This could be due to quality-related issues if parents believe that the school curriculum is not preparing their child for future employment. It could also reflect incidents, including bullying and gender-based violence, that children (girls in particular) drop out of school to avoid.

Focus on Girls’ Education in Myanmar Sees Great Success

While these are continuing problems that make advancing girls’ education in Myanmar difficult, some significant improvements have been made, most notably in achieving gender parity in enrollment in primary, middle and high school. By 2010, girls comprised approximately 50 percent of students at each level.

Additionally, according to a U.N. report, girls who were able to complete high school and take the Matriculation Exam, which is “both a high school completion exam and a university screening exam,” passed at higher rates than their male counterparts. In 2012, 55 percent of exam takers and 58 percent of students who passed the exam were female.

Even more striking is the significantly greater enrollment of women in higher education institutions in Myanmar. In 2012, 59 percent of undergraduate students, 80 percent of master’s degree students and 81 percent of Ph.D. students were female.

There are a few explanations for this phenomenon. First, boys have a greater likelihood of being employed immediately out of high school, and therefore may not feel the need to enroll in higher education. Second, more girls than boys become teachers, a profession for which higher education is required. They are also more likely to become professors; in 2012, 82.6 percent of higher education academic staff members were women.

As girls who are able to receive a good education are becoming academically successful and enrolling in undergraduate and graduate programs, the next steps in Myanmar are to improve girls’ access to education and ensure their education is high quality. Ideally, the number of women who are passing the Matriculation Exam and attending higher education institutions will then continue to increase as well.

Girls’ education in Myanmar is a continuing priority for the nation’s leaders and United Nations organizations, including UNICEF, which has been active in Myanmar for more than 60 years and plans to continue working to bring education to all children in the nation.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in South Sudan
South Sudan has struggled to establish an effective and inclusive education system. The statistics show that 1.8 million children are out of school and 8 percent of schools are damaged, destroyed, occupied or closed.

This trend heavily impacts girls. The Gender Parity Index expresses the ratio of girls to boys in education, and has tracked a trend of fewer girls attending school as they get older. In South Sudan, the female enrollment is 0.92 in pre-primary, 0.68 in primary education and 0.46 in secondary education.

However, since South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, the government has worked diligently to improve education, especially girls’ education, throughout the country. The government prioritized improving education in its development plan. Four major initiatives and governmental policies demonstrate how South Sudan is working to solve the problem of the gender gap in education.

Initiatives to Improve Girls’ Education in South Sudan

  1. The 2008 Child Act and Transitional Constitution was the first step in South Sudan’s commitment to girls’ education. This act provided for the right to free and compulsory primary education. More importantly, the Child Act allows pregnant women and young mothers to continue their education and not be expelled. This clause is important because many pregnant women and young mothers are subject to discrimination and punishment due to their maternal responsibilities.
  2. The Alternative Education System provides an education for those who do not have access to formal education, including pregnant girls and women. Approximately 70,000 girls and women utilized this program in 2011. One alternative education program developed specifically for girls is called Community Girls’ Schools, which compresses material from primary years one through four into three years. This program is designed to empower young girls from poor backgrounds.
  3. Girls’ Education South Sudan (GESS) works to increase the number of educated girls in South Sudan by giving more girls access to quality education. To improve the quality of education, teachers and education managers will be trained to enhance their skills in and out of the classroom. GESS benefits approximately 200,000 girls eligible for primary and secondary education. This program collaborates with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction to create strategies to improve gender equality in the country’s education system.
  4. Global Partnership for Education (GPE) contributes funding to help remove barriers to girls’ education in South Sudan. It cooperates with other organizations to expand its efforts and works to create an education system based on equality. GPE collaborated with USAID to grant South Sudan $66 million for 2013-2016. One part of this partnership’s goals is to support measures to eliminate gender-based violence. This fund built 25 “girl-friendly” schools to benefit 3,000 girls. Gender sensitivity programs within the schools include separate washroom facilities for girls and teacher training on gender-based violence.

These four programs and policies are not exhaustive of the measures to improve girls’ education in South Sudan. However, it is crucial to note the multitude of the work and the solutions that combine to improve education. With these programs in place, the country will continue to see decreased dropout rates and increased enrollment of girls in the educational system. The relatively new country of South Sudan has come a long way in the fight for gender equality in education. With the continued efforts of these organizations and the global movement for gender equality, its standing in the Gender Parity Index will improve.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Jordan
According to a recent report by the World Bank, countries around the world are losing about $160 trillion in wealth because of the inequality between men and women in their lifetime earnings. Much like elsewhere in the Middle East, Jordan struggles to achieve gender equality in its economic and political landscapes; interestingly, though, the gap is beginning to close at the educational level. Girls’ education in Jordan has successfully been at par with that of boys.

In 2015, the primary school enrollment was 98 percent for boys and 96 percent for girls. For the secondary schools, the enrollment was at 89 percent and 86 percent for boys and girls, respectively. Moreover, the girls in the country outperform boys in almost all the subjects in about all age groups.

Nevertheless, most of the Jordanian women remain unemployed, despite their educational levels. The female workforce participation in Jordan remains at 15.3 percent. Along with that, Jordanian women are still highly underrepresented in politics. While only 15.4 percent of the parliamentarians are women, only 7.1 percent of the ministerial positions are held by women.

Understanding the Disconnect Between Educational Attainment and Sociopolitical Empowerment

On the one hand, the Global Gender Gap Report ranks Jordan at 51 among the 144 countries on its educational attainment. On the other hand, the country’s rank for economic participation and opportunity is 138 and for political empowerment is 126. Despite an outstanding literacy rate (99.8 percent for men and 99.7 percent for women), Jordan has a long way to go in order to provide equal opportunities to its girls as they graduate from school.

Although some attribute the higher attainment of educational levels to the intrinsic motivation found in the students, others associate external variables (such as cultural norms and family support) as being instrumental in determining women’s outcomes of success. Both perspectives have merit, and the later can be  especially true later in their lives when they want to become financially independent and politically represented.

One reason for the under-utilization of these highly educated women lies in the social norms and practices of the country. The traditional belief system discourages women from joining the workforce, limits their participation in political activities and prefers them to marry early – even sometimes during their school years.

On the one hand, boys are mostly able to get jobs right after high school with average test scores; these jobs may not be the high-paying ones, but they are the ones that make them relatively financially independent and eligible for marriage. On the other hand, girls, if allowed, are supposed to mainly work in a reputable sector (such as teaching and medicine) because working in a restaurant or a hotel is seen dishonorably. Thus, in order to seek jobs, girls generally have to strive for higher levels of education with better test scores.

Changing the Social Norms

The untapped potential of the Jordanian women can be utilized in many ways. One such initiative that puts this potential in action is the Takamol Project. Takamol is directed toward improving girls’ education in Jordan and expanding career opportunities for women in the country.

Implemented by USAID along with its Jordanian partners, Takamol consists of actions targeted to ensure the success of girls in schools and the advancement of women in workplaces. From creating safe spaces which hold social dialogues about changing gender norms, to supporting advocacy efforts for female empowerment, Takamol is playing a significant role in expanding the opportunities for the women in Jordan.

Key Achievements

Some of Takamols key achievements include:

  • Revisiting and developing 59 laws and policies in the country to promote gender inequality and address issues like gender-based violence.
  • Supporting the creation of Jordan’s first women’s caucus in Parliament.
  • Training 350 female public servants with leadership skills.
  • Assisting 657 women-owned businesses to gain better financial accessibility.
  • Training over 100 female health workers who visit another 400,000 Jordanian women every year to provide counseling on women’s health issues and family planning.

Moreover, in order to address the problem of gender inequality at its root, Takamol has recognized the importance of preparing the upcoming generations with more gender-egalitarian mindsets. The books and plays in schools are being revised and rewritten to present a counternarrative vis-à-vis the prevailing gender norms.

Along with Haya Cultural Center, Takamol has created a series of six children books and performances. Through the stories of strong and independent female characters, the books and plays attempt to evoke gender sensitive thoughts in the minds of the children and dismantle the existing gender stereotypes. So far, these stories have reached more than 2,900 children across the country.

Steps Towards Gender Equality

Yet much more has to be accomplished to move towards greater gender equality. More efforts like Takamol’s storytelling projects can help bring about the change for the girls and women in Jordan. Girls’ education in Jordan is surely a sign of success. But the country needs to make efforts to ensure that the women have access to opportunities when they graduate from their schools.

It is not only the wealth that is lost when women are unable to participate in economic and political activities of a country; the country also loses the knowledge of an academic, the creativity of an entrepreneur, the spirit of an artist and the voice of a mother in the process.

– Fariha Khalid
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Botswana
Botswana, a country in southern Africa, has reached a stable, democratic government with strength in its economic policies and education system. Primary net enrollment rate is about 85 percent with participation between girls and boys averaging an almost equal number. 

However, there are still many barriers to girls education such as sexual violence, orphan and child-headed household, social-cultural issues and early pregnancies. Many initiatives and programs, such as those shown below, are motivated to improve learning outcomes and provide a gender-sensitive environment that will encourage girls to stay in school. 

Free Sanitary Pads as School Supplies

One in 10 girls in sub-Saharan Africa misses schools during their period. Others lose 20 percent of their education which makes them more likely to drop out of school. oftentimes, poor academic performance can be attributed to girls missing school when on their monthly menstrual period. 

Botswana’s parliament is improving girls’ education in Botswana through a motion on August 2017 that offers girls in both private and public schools sanitary pads. This will allow the girls who cannot afford their own sanitary pads to continue their education during menstrual periods. It is the first country in Africa and the second country in the world to offer free sanitary products to young women.

Women in STEM 

Up to 40 percent of all orphans in Botswana are 12-17 years old. Many children become caregivers, especially girls, and are forced to have adult responsibilities. As a result, inadequate health care, lack of protection from sexual assault and decreased education all increase.

Stepping Stones International (SSI) is an after-school and community outreach program that serves orphaned and vulnerable adolescents and their caregivers.

SSI is improving girls’ education in Botswana through the implementation of a year-long, day after-school program that includes STEM activities that empower girls to obtain critical thinking skills. The program also hopes to each girls to understand the impact of engineering in a global context. Through aiding youth in developing design process skills and using them in various engineering challenges, the organization helps address the gap in girls’ education and teaches youth how to apply STEM tools to real-life situations. 

Educating Girls on HIV Risks

At 24 percent, Botswana has the third-highest HIV prevalence worldwide among adults. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of those with HIV are from older males that offer girls gifts and money in exchange for sexual relationships. For each year older a male partner is than the female, the risk of unprotected sex increases by 28 percent.

Young 1ove is a non-governmental organization based in Botswana that scales evidence-based programs in health and education. The group is improving girls’ education in Botswana through its program, “No Sugar,” which teaches girls about the likelihood of attracting HIV from older men.

The course has reaches more that 350,000 students in 350 schools across the country. A study conducted by the organization on pregnancy rates — another risk of unprotected sex — revealed that in schools that taught the course, pregnancy dropped 30 to 40 percent. 

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Botswana

An educated girl is healthier, married later, has healthier children and reinvests in her family and community. Botswana is committed to overcoming the barriers that hinder girls access to education.

The long-term goal of aiding organizations and initiatives is to see an increase in the number of girls who complete secondary school and go on to attend college or begin a career. 

– Anne-Marie Maher
Photo: Flickr