Misconceptions about gender in educationApproximately 115 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school. Another 37 million African children will learn so little in school that attending may not be as advantageous as saving money or putting the children to work. However, education is paramount for improving the economic status of individuals and improving the social and economic standing of communities.

In general, the cost of attending public schools in developing nations is the responsibility of students, families and faculty. Books, supplies and teachers’ salaries are usually the responsibility of students’ families. Cost is only one reason for low school attendance.

Of the children not enrolled in schools, 53 percent are girls. In many cases, girls are denied schooling as a result of the misconceptions about gender in education which place less value on educating girls as opposed to educating boys. The belief centers on traditional gender roles which place more value on women in the home.

Some of the top barriers to education around the world include lack of funding, teachers, classrooms and materials as well as the exclusion of girls and children with disabilities. The reasons for these barriers differ across borders but there are explanations that blame the inequality on misconceptions about gender in education in terms of future success, wages and family planning.

The following facts have been determined to debunk common misconceptions about gender in education in developing nations:

  • Educated women and girls are less vulnerable to HIV as well as various forms of exploitation.
  • Each additional year of education mothers receive reduces child mortality by two percent.
  • Each additional year of schooling for women is associated with a 10 to 20 percent wage increase.
  • Women re-invest 90 percent of their income into their families

Studies have also shown successes in longer school weeks in countries like Colombia. Longer school weeks keep students occupied and prevent exposure to commonly risky situations. Improving access to education for girls has a vast economic impact which increases families’ ability to afford to send more children to school and allows parents to work longer.

This information has spurred initiatives to improve education worldwide specifically for young girls. One initiative is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) whose top priority is ensuring access to complete and quality education for girls with the aim to increase the percentage of girls completing primary school from 74 percent to 84 percent by 2018.

There are several pieces of legislation that have been introduced that aim to improve education and economic status for women. These include the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act and the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

The most recent success for legislative activism is the passing of the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act that promotes universal access to basic education for children across the globe especially girls. These acts are reliant upon constituent action so it is important to contact congressional leaders to support them.

– Rebekah Korn

Photo: Flickr

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActThe African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, was passed into law by the 200th Congress on May 18, 2000. The bill was renewed up to the year 2025 in 2015, during the Obama administration.

The primary purpose of the AGOA legislation is to establish a new trade and investment policy for sub-Saharan Africa, along with expanding trade benefits to the Caribbean Basin. The bill greatly improves the access that sub-Saharan African countries have to the U.S. market.

AGOA seeks to expand U.S. aid to regional integration efforts made by sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening and building upon the private sector in the area, particularly with small businesses and industries owned by women. Encouragement of investment and trade is emphasized by AGOA legislation, as it is indicative of economic development and increased participation in the political process.

To qualify to receive the benefits of AGOA, these countries must follow a set of standards included in the legislation. The eligibility standards include improving its rule of law, following core labor standards and meeting human rights goals. In addition, an acting president has the authority to take away AGOA benefits from any country if it is deemed that a country is not continuing to meet the requirements for eligibility.

“AGOA is AGOA and not just about trade – it’s a relationship framework as I like to say – strategic, military, trade, aid, investment… any costs associated with trade are merely that, minor overheads,” said South African economist and creator of the portal, Eckart Naumann. “The U.S. would be foolish to tamper with this, or withdraw benefits.”

Naumann believes that AGOA has become vital to the interests of the United States along with sub-Saharan African countries. He says that Congress would most likely push back against any efforts to restrict it. U.S. companies and consumers benefit from AGOA due to free-market principles taking effect with both sides profiting from it, and the legislation helps create jobs.

Currently, Congress is considering the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation serves as an extension of AGOA, and it promotes policies that foster trade and cooperation while also aiding eligible partners of AGOA. In addition, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act seeks to create a website that details the benefits of the program, give the Millennium Challenge Corporation more freedom to facilitate trade by permitting up to two compacts within one country and strengthen the accountability of the MCC by making the criteria for reporting requirements stronger. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, which was created through the Modernization Act, provides large-scale grants to help create economic growth opportunities in developing countries eligible for AGOA.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act was introduced to the House of Representatives in July as H.R. 3445 and to the Senate as S. 832 in April. Both the House and Senate have not yet made the decision to pass or reject the legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Flickr

The House Foreign Affairs Committee, including Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Karen Bass (D-CA), joined forces to introduce legislation that will improve economic trade in Africa utilizing the Africa Growth and Opportunity and Millennium Challenge Acts.

The original African Growth and Opportunity Act (or AGOA) is a U.S. Trade Act enacted in May 2000. AGOA enhances access to the U.S. market for qualifying Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries. In order to qualify for AGOA, countries have to be working to improve their rule of law, human rights and respect for labor standards. Although the act originally covered an eight-year time period until 2008, due to various amendments signed by both former Presidents George W. Bush and Obama, AGOA has been extended to 2025. The new amendments will update and strengthen the original act.

The amendments to AGOA will make information more readily available over the Internet to users in both Africa and the U.S. while encouraging policies that promote economic trade with Africa. They also provide technical assistance that allows participating countries of AGOA to utilize it to its full capacity.

The second part of this legislation will improve economic trade in Africa through updating the Millennium Challenge Act (or MCA). The MCA was passed in 2003 with the main purpose of providing global economic development through assisting in programs that will eliminate poverty while supporting good governance and economic freedom. These programs are run through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which partners with countries directly in programs that encourage economic growth.

The new amendments to the legislation will allow the MCC to work with more flexibility in their mission to increase regional trade, collaboration, and economic integrity. To accomplish this, the amendments to MCA will allow two projects, or “compacts,” per country simultaneously. In the previous legislation, there was only one allowed—making it particularly competitive. Additionally, MCC’s private-sector board members can extend their term for two years, providing stability. Lastly, the reporting requirements of MCC will be strengthened in order to ensure greater transparency.

Upon the introduction of these amendments to both AGOA and MCA, Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, Rep. Smith and Rep. Bass said in the press release by the Foreign Affairs Committee: “Moving developing countries away from aid and toward trade helps African companies, especially women. But it also benefits U.S. farmers, manufacturers and small businesses by providing new markets for their goods. So today we are introducing a bill to modernize AGOA and MCA—key laws in the effort to encourage African economic independence and promote U.S.-Africa trade. With Africa’s consumer spending expected to reach one trillion dollars, now is the time to accelerate this important trade relationship.”

The introduction of these amendments is a step in the right direction for economic trade in Africa. As so many other countries have invested in the economic growth of Sub-Saharan Africa, the US appears to be moving in that direction as well with the updates of AGOA and MCA.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr