Due to extreme poverty in Zambia, many Zambian girls and women miss out on the opportunity to receive an education. With 64 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Unfortunately, this leads to serious repercussions for the youth in the country. In fact, the Southern African Consortium for Measuring Education Quality found that Zambia comes in at number 13 out of the 15 countries in terms of literacy and numeracy. In rural areas, 27 percent of females have no education, primarily due to poverty, pregnancy and early marriages.
The Impact of Marriage
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative found that female literacy measures at 67 percent, while male literacy measures at 82 percent. This disparity holds females back in terms of economic advancement and independence from their male counterparts. The legal age for marriage in this country is 16. However, 46.3 percent of all girls marry before the age of 18. Further, evidence shows that early marriages play a big role in contributing to female dropout rates; therefore, initiatives encouraging women to delay marriage will likely decrease drop out rates.
Gender Equality in School
In Oct. 2018, Christine Kalamwina, the Zambia Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, recognized that girls’ education was imperative in ensuring gender equality and economic female progress. In response to this, the government in Zambia enacted a new law. This law made it mandatory for schools to have an equal number of males and females enrolled. The reasoning behind these efforts was to assist in closing the education gender gap. Additionally, many girls drop out of school due to menstruation. The Zambian government is now distributing free sanitary towels in rural areas to allow women more opportunities.
CAMFED and GEWEL
Fortunately, there are many organizations working towards improving education for girls in Zambia. The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) is one of the organizations that works with the local government in order to promote gender equality and child protection. It has already provided secondary scholarships for 38,168 girls in Zambia alone.
The International Development Association (IDA) has also made a crucial impact. The IDA is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries. The Girls Education and Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood Project (GEWEL) is a program attempting to decrease the rate of child marriage. Its focus is on expanding access to secondary school for young girls, and more specifically, young girls from poor families through the Keep Girls in School bursary. Forced to drop out due to financial issues, the KGS assists by providing funds to continue girls’ education. There is also a program for working-age women, the Supporting Women’s Livelihood program, which offers training, startup funds, additional savings and mentor programs. Through the GEWEL project, 20,000 women received assistance in 2017, and in 2018, the project had a goal to help over 50,000 women.
– Jessica Haidet
Photo: Wikimedia Commons