The Barbie MovieSave the Children, a global non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children across the globe has joined forces with the iconic Barbie franchise to promote girls’ empowerment through its global girls’ empowerment movement. Recognizing the tremendous influence that media and popular culture have on children, this collaboration aims to inspire and uplift young girls by providing positive role models through the film and supporting Save the Children’s work. The partnership between Save the Children, Mattel and Walt Disney Discoveries aims to foster confident and empowered girls ready to take on the world by shining a light on Save the Children’s educational efforts and turning young girls’ dreams into reality.

Empowering Girls Through Film

Movies have the power to shape perceptions, influence beliefs and inspire action. The Barbie movie franchise, with its diverse characters and captivating storytelling, has been a source of entertainment for generations of children. Through this initiative, Save the Children is grasping the reach and impact of the Barbie movies to convey powerful messages of self-belief, courage and determination internationally. 

The Social Impact Solutions team at Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) implements impactful cause marketing campaigns that engage viewers, advertisers and business partners to address significant social issues. Leveraging WBD’s influential brands, franchises and global platforms in collaboration with NGOs and charitable organizations, this team delivers vital resources and support to communities worldwide.

The Barbie movie series has evolved significantly in recent years, featuring strong, independent female characters who defy stereotypes and embrace their individuality. The franchise is using its platform to champion girls’ rights around the world by aligning with Save the Children’s programs that focus on empowering girls, spanning education, health, justice and child protection sectors. These movies emphasize the importance of embracing one’s uniqueness, pursuing dreams and encouraging girls to embrace their full potential.

Addressing Key Issues

The collaboration between Save the Children and the Barbie movie also addresses critical issues that hinder girls’ empowerment. One such challenge is the limited resources that girls need to excel. Through their partnership, they aim to challenge these gender norms and inspire young girls to aspire to any role they desire.

Moreover, the partnership emphasizes the importance of education and literacy in girls’ empowerment. By highlighting the value of education and showcasing the journey of characters overcoming obstacles to achieve their dreams, this collaboration promotes the idea that knowledge is critical to unlocking opportunities.

The Impact of Barbie

When girls are empowered, they become catalysts for change in their communities and beyond. Empowered girls grow into empowered women, ready to challenge the status quo, contribute to society and effect positive change. In 2018, Mattel partnered with Save the Children and launched the Dream Gap Project to empower girls and bridge existing inequalities worldwide. Recognizing the need for collective action, Mattel and Warner Bros. Discovery have joined forces with Save the Children to enable girls to achieve their maximum potential by providing them with education and learning opportunities.

By collaborating with Barbie, Save the Children aims to instill a sense of self-worth, resilience and ambition in young girls, empowering them to overcome barriers and fearlessly pursue their dreams. This dynamic group’s impact extends far beyond the confines of the movie theater. By combining entertainment and education, the collaboration promotes gender equality, challenges stereotypes and fosters inclusivity. It encourages young girls to be confident in their abilities, to support one another and to actively participate in shaping a more equitable world.

Dreams Do Come True

Save the Children’s collaboration with the Barbie movie franchise represents a significant step toward empowering girls and creating a more inclusive society. By leveraging the influence of popular culture, this partnership strives to inspire young girls to dream big, challenge limitations and confidently pursue their goals. Together, they encourage girls to become the architects of their success and equip them with the tools they need to thrive.

“From astronaut, journalist, entrepreneur, and now movie star,” said Louise Soper, Senior Vice President, Global Brand Partnerships for Warner Bros. Pictures, “Barbie’s over 250 inspirational careers remind us that you can be whatever you want to be, and give back to your community too.”

– Dunia Matta
Photo: Unsplash

Girls Opportunity AllianceDuring her time as first lady, Michelle Obama took part in many charitable causes. Her work promoting children’s health is the most well-known, but there were many other issues she was advocating for as well. Domestically, she has supported many charities like Partnership for a Healthier America and the Entertainment Industry Foundation. In 2015, the Obama administration began a global initiative named Let Girls Learn, promoting education for girls and women all over the world. After serving as First Lady, Michelle Obama continued this work, founding the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

About the Alliance

The Girls Opportunity Alliance is a program of the Obama Foundation, founded in 2018 after the Obamas left the White House. It is a philanthropic organization that anyone can donate to and promotes others who look to advance female education. It works with GoFundMe to distribute these donations. Those in poor and underserved communities receive the most amount of money.


On GoFundMe, the Alliance is listed as a project and hosts a network of many different organizations for donations. One is Chhori, which means “daughter” in Nepali. This nonprofit supports girls who are survivors of gender-based violence in the country and helps them advocate for themselves.

Based in Colombia, Origin Learning helps indigenous and migrant women in the La Guajira region achieve their goals using modern technology. Many of these women have the ambition to achieve higher goals but face poverty-related issues in the region.

There is also the Secondary Education for Women’s Advancement in Tanzania, part of a more extensive female empowerment campaign in that nation. A boarding school began its journey in 2008 for girls who could not afford education and it offers services to the beneficiaries as they get older.

Success Stories

Despite the fact it began in 2018, there are already great testimonials on the Girls Opportunity Alliance website. The first comes from Kiran, a girl from Northern India, who could not attend school after her mother died. Dr. Urvashi Sahni, who was helped by the Alliance, accepted Kiran into the girls‘ school she founded.

In Vietnam, Mang Thị Hay is able to go to school, which is, unfortunately, a rarity for girls in her village. She got help from the Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund, another organization that the Alliance supports.

Thuba Sibanda is a soccer coach for younger girls in Namibia and is looking to attend university. In addition to working with Physically Active Youth Namibia, Thuba was selected to participate in the Obama Foundation’s Leaders Program in 2019.

Looking Ahead

The Girls Opportunity Alliance may need some time to fully develop, as it is a new program. However, with the successes it has already had in helping local organizations, there are promising signs for the future. And the accomplishments of girls that benefitted from the Alliance continue to be a source of hope for even more progress.

– Josh Sobchak
Photo: Flickr

bathrooms and girls’ education in AfricaIn the developed world, private bathroom stalls and toilets are largely taken for granted, especially within schools. The issues of period poverty and girls’ education in Africa do not seem like topics that would be intertwined. However, they are in fact completely dependent on one another. Most period poverty efforts focus on access to sanitary products. While this is an incredibly important component, bathrooms within schools are just as important. Without a safe space to change them, the work of providing reusable sanitary napkins cannot work. These two factors have to work together. Here are facts to know about the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa.

What is Social Infrastructure and Why Is It Important?

Social infrastructure refers to facilities that include education, health and youth services that promote a high quality lifestyle. It is created with the public good in mind, and the intent to provide better outcomes for peoples’ livelihoods. It impacts the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa directly. Buildings with a socially-minded design make children, and especially girls, feel safe, included and acknowledged. It will keep them coming back to those places. 

Research explains the positive impact of infrastructure on communities in Africa to the intersectional issue of girls’ education. It shows how infrastructure is more than just buildings and highways. Creating a physical space where girls feel safe is crucial to their personal and educational development. Focusing on infrastructure has been proven to create a more equitable society, especially within rural communities. This is due to the lack of accessibility to resources that are more likely present within urban areas. 

The Link Between Menstrual Stigma and Girls’ Education

Girls’ education in Africa faces many obstacles. This is largely due to gender stereotypes that are at the root of unsafe learning environments. Twenty-three percent of girls of primary school age are not in school, and that number jumps to 36% as they get older and enter secondary school. Menstruation is a factor in the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa. When girls begin to menstruate, they are faced with many barriers. These may include temporary social ostracization, missed school days and sexual violence by peers. 

One in ten girls misses 20% of school days because they cannot attend during their menstrual cycle. This largely due to the fact that – if they have access to sanitary products – they do not have a place to change them once at school. This discourages many girls from attending in the first place, and too many missed days ultimately leads to higher drop out rates because they cannot end up falling behind. 

Why Toilets?

Only 57% of primary schools within the world’s least developed countries have single-sex bathrooms. The good news is that countries such as Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Morocco and Mozambique have single-sex bathrooms in 80% of their primary schools. However, the work is far from complete given that some countries such as Eritrea only have these facilities in 27% of schools, and the lowest being only 9% in Senegal

The majority of sexual assault and rape incidents happen in school bathrooms because there is only one facility for all students with very little to no privacy. So along with embarrassment regarding using the restroom and changing their sanitary pads in front of male students, they feel incredibly unsafe walking into the bathroom. When girls do not have to worry about their hygiene and safety at school, they will be more likely to continue attending. Creating a safe environment is key to ensuring girls attend and stay in school. This can help break the cycle of gender disparity in education.  

Organizations Doing the Work

The state of girls’ education in Africa is being greatly improved by organizations that are funding initiatives and creating them. Taking notice of the connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa can greatly aid these girls’ futures. The Global Partnership for Education partners with national governments to create “girl-friendly” sanitation facilities in order to improve girls’ education in Africa. Its grants to countries like Guinea and Cameroon enabled the building of separate bathrooms and water stations within schools. 

Programs like FRESH and WaterAid are coming together to ensure the creation of safe and healthy physical spaces for girls to learn. They are developing infrastructure plans that follow UNICEF and WHO guidelines. WaterAid established a list of components that should be a part of girl-friendly infrastructure. These include single-sex bathrooms with locks and privacy walls and any mechanism that can work as a disposal place for sanitary products. The availability of clean water within the bathroom is included in order to clean reusable sanitary napkins. It also includes a mirror (even if it is broken) so girls are able to check for any spots or stains before returning to the classroom. 

Why Should We Care?

The connection between bathrooms and girls’ education in Africa is a topic that deserves abundant attention. Everyone benefits from educated girls. When half of the world’s population is being excluded from equal educational opportunities it creates a greater human capital issue. The skills and talents of these girls might never be seen simply because they are unable to gain any upward mobility due to a lack of education. So on the next World Toilet Day, November 19, remember how something as simple as a private bathroom stall can make a huge difference in the life of a young, African girl. 

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

girls' education
Girls’ education is proving to be an important factor in improving a developing nation’s quality of life. Educational equality is not only a lucrative asset to a nation’s economy, but also reduces rates of child malnutrition, and decreases the wage gap found between men and women in many developing countries. These facts about girls’ education will help to illustrate the global situation regarding women in the classroom.

Knowledge is a lifelong skill that brings empowerment, and education is a gift that keeps on giving. Improvements to girls’ education will provide a country with a more knowledgeable workforce, healthier families, less early-life pregnancies and lower wage gaps between men and women.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Developing Countries 

  1. Girls’ education affects a nation’s economy. According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), when girls receive an education, they increase their ability to gain access to higher-paying jobs. This benefits their family’s income, adds to a nation’s economy and increases a woman’s involvement in politics. Investing in girls’ education provides a boost to a developing country’s progress, and acts as a catalyst for gender equality on multiple levels.
  2. Provided with an education, girls are more likely to earn a higher income later in life, increasing their family’s overall quality of life. Globally, if all girls received a primary education, then 1.7 million children would be rescued from poverty-induced malnutrition. In addition, if all girls worldwide received a secondary education, 12.2 million children could avoid malnutrition and stunted growth.
  3. In 2013, UNESCO reported that nearly 25 percent of all girls in developing countries had not completed primary school; in addition,  women encompass two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world. 
  4. Education equality has been on the rise in many countries. Thanks to the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) efforts, the total number of girls enrolled in school worldwide increased by 38 million from 2002 to 2015.  
  5. Many factors play into the educational inequalities in numerous developing countries. In India, for instance, for every 100 boys not enrolled in primary school there are 426 girls. Poverty is often the primary reason for this discrepancy. When families struggle to send multiple children to class, male children are often prioritized. Many girls in developing countries are oppressed by traditional gender roles that marginalize a female’s role in society.
  6. Each completed year of secondary school increases a woman’s income by twenty-five percent.
  7. Girl’s education can prevent childhood pregnancies. For each year that a girl in a developing nation is in school, her first child is delayed by 10 months. Pregnancy in childhood can prevent a girl from receiving an education, and decreases the chances of her child suffering from malnutrition and disease.
  8. All women worldwide receiving a secondary education would prevent 3 million child deaths.
  9. Girls’ education reduces the gender gap found in the workplace of many developing countries. In fact, UNESCO found that Pakistani women with a primary education made 51 percent of what their male counterparts made. This number increased to 70 percent when a woman completed secondary education.
  10. In Somalia, 95 percent of girls ages 7-16 have never been to school. This is the highest instance of educational inequality found worldwide. This statistic affects girls later in life, where Somali women ages 17-22 receive four months of schooling on average for their entire life.

Future of Progress 

By providing women with the chance to better themselves academically, our global community is made all the richer. With the number of girls enrolling in school increasing every year, gender equality in developing countries worldwide is becoming a reality.

Jason Crosby

Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Iraq
Once regarded as having one of the best education systems in the region, Iraq has had a difficult history with its education. From 1970 to 1984, Iraq had achieved multiple accomplishments, such as lowering the rate of illiteracy in children ages six to 12 to less than 10 percent and having an equal inclusion of genders in the classroom. Since then, girls’ education in Iraq has faced significant setbacks. 

How Education in Iraq Fell

The war with Iran in 1980, the Gulf War in the 1990s and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq have greatly damaged the once inspiring education system. With one in five schools destroyed and unusable, teachers having to work double shifts for smaller pay and nearly 3.5 million children irregularly attending, Iraq’s education has hit a low point. Unfortunately, girls’ education in Iraq seems to have been affected the most.

Pushback Against Girls’ Education in Iraq

Many Iraqi families see education as a dangerous thing for their daughters. Through learning critical thinking skills and how to read and write, many families worry that their daughters will fall into an unhappy marriage. With 30 percent of Iraqi girls in rural areas never even attending primary school and illiteracy rates twice as high with women than with men, it is clear that girls’ education in Iraq is of high necessity.

One girl relayed on an Iraqi radio show what her father had told her. “If a girl studies too much, it will just make people get divorced,” she claims he said. “If my daughter goes to university, she will become very stubborn. Her husband won’t like this, and will eventually divorce her.”

Potential for the Future of Education

However, with the battle over the city of Mosul finally coming to an end, education for Iraqi children, especially girls, might finally be improving. UNICEF has been supplying desks, chairs and other necessary supplies to schools where the teachers have long been the ones supplying these needs, even when those teachers have not been paid in three years.

One school receiving help is Saint Abdul Ahed School for Girls. Even though the school has no electricity or running water and only 17 teachers on staff, it manages more than 1,100 girls. Each and every one of the girls is eager and ready to come back to school, though.

Rawan, 11, explained just how important being able to come back to the classroom was for her. “We have to learn to develop our thinking so we can build our future, and our country,” she says.

One teacher at the school shared with UNICEF how enthusiastic her students are. “The kids are overjoyed to come back,” she says. “Education heals.” Saint Abdul Ahed is only one of many schools within Mosul that has been able to reopen thanks to UNICEF. 100 other schools have also been reopened, serving 75,000 children.

While many of these schools deal with overcrowding, lack of electricity and water and overworked teachers with little pay, the dedication to improve girls’ education in Iraq is inspirational. With continued work, young women will soon be able to receive the same rights to education as their male counterparts.

– Marissa Wandzel
Photo: Flickr

Education in IndiaAlthough India has had substantial economic growth in the last ten years, one in five Indians is still poor. In rural areas, one in four lives under the poverty line. Almost half of the poor population cannot read or write, making it difficult for them to boost themselves out of poverty. With these considerations in mind, it is clear that education in India is crucial to reducing the number of the impoverished.

The British Empire controlled India from 1858 until 1947, so British influence can be seen in most sectors of the Indian public sphere. The education system, like many countries that were under British rule at some point, is divided into three major parts: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary education caters to children aged six to 14 and is similar to elementary and middle school in the United States. All Indian children are required to attend primary school and it is free of cost.

Secondary school, similar to American high school, instructs children aged 14 to 18. Secondary school is also free, except at private schools. At secondary school, children learn three languages: their local language, a language of their choice and English. Tertiary school, or higher education, has deep roots in Britain’s system. There are many universities and colleges in India that provide students with many educational tracts.

Public and private education is available in India, but the private schools are often more poorly funded and maintained. India has put more money into educating its children, and the percentage of adolescents without schooling has fallen about 40 percent in the last 40 years. The literacy rate has also increased substantially, even within the last 20 years.

However, education in India is far from where it needs to be. About 50 percent of nine-year-olds in India cannot do simple addition and 50 percent of 10-year-olds are unable to read a simple paragraph. These statistics are due to many factors. Many teachers in India are unqualified and the courses they teach are unable to accommodate the sheer number of students who are now in school. Their salaries are actually quite high due to union strikes, and many do not take their teaching job seriously. Every day, 25 percent of teachers do not show up to school.

There are many steps the country can take to improve education in India. In order to teach the large number of students now attending school, the curriculum must be altered so it is not catering to a small number of students. Teachers who do not show up for their positions must be held accountable by the government.

Female education is also neglected, with over 60 percent of girls dropping out of school. Legislation to support women pursuing education would help revitalize education in India and improve conditions for the impoverished, as educating women is the best way to lift communities out of poverty.

There are many organizations that are working toward improving education in India. Pratham, a nongovernmental organization, works with communities and the government to implement programs that invigorate teachers and students while minimizing costs. Founded in 1995, the organization’s programs have touched the lives of over 600,000 children.

Education for Life, a smaller organization, focuses on educating children in the rural areas of India. It currently has a little over 500 students at a small school in Rajasthan, and its efforts have improved the literacy rates in the area.

VIDYA, another nonprofit, works with the marginalized on an individual basis to empower them in their education. While there are still many ways education in India can be more effective, it is steadily improving thanks to the many nongovernmental organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of children and adults.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Health in AfricaMenstruation is a process that every woman must go through, making it a relatively normal topic of discussion in the U.S. However, this is not the case in developing areas, including Africa. Due to a lack of education, proper hygiene and sanitation practices, menstrual health in Africa struggles to improve. Fortunately, several organizations are working to improve the conditions of menstrual hygiene management.


Menstrual Health in Africa

Menstrual hygiene management, also known as MHM, encompasses puberty education and awareness, MHM product solutions (such as pads or tampons) and sanitation. These things, combined with the community and its influencers, shape young girls’ journeys through puberty.

Kenya, for example, offers the following statistics on menstrual health:

  • 50 percent of girls openly discuss menstruation at home.
  • 32 percent of rural schools have a private place for girls to change their menstrual product.
  • 12 percent of girls feel comfortable discussing menstruation with their mothers.
  • Two out of three pad users received them from sexual partners.
  • One in four girls does not associate menstruation with pregnancy.

From these facts, it is clear that there is a disconnect between the awareness of menstrual health and the tools these girls are provided with to deal with menstruation. Menstruation health enablers include education and awareness, access to products, access to sanitation and policy. These four categories determine how certain areas or countries prioritize menstrual health.

In Africa, one of the largest reasons girls miss school is because of menstruation. When young girls don’t have access to sanitary pads, they often choose to miss school or leave early. Many organizations are working to help mend this disconnect.


Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT)

SAT works to improve universal systems for sexual and reproductive health and rights for women in eastern and southern Africa. It does this by pushing for gender equality, community ownership and the agency and aspiration of young girls. For the last twenty years, SAT has worked with local communities, helping to strengthen them enough to improve their response to the HIV epidemic and improve their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Its approach helps:

  • Identify its communities better by identifying access to equitable and inclusive health systems.
  • Understand how to invest for impact by identifying low-cost, high-impact solutions.
  • Know how to mobilize for change by mobilizing stakeholders.
  • Learn, monitor and evaluate by promoting a continuous learning process.

Femme International

Femme International believes in empowering women through education by breaking global, menstrual taboos. It also attacks gender disparity by addressing menstrual health and hygienic concerns. It believes that a lack of knowledge is the reason behind the circulation of menstrual myths that continue to shame women globally.

Its most recent success has been with the Twaweza Program, which translates to “we can” in Swahili, that is working in Kenya and Tanzania. The program is taking an education-based approach to tackle menstrual health in Africa.

The program contains the following educational aims and objectives:

  1. Increasing the knowledge of feminine health and hygiene, which is done through interactive activities and discussions and providing accurate answers to people’s questions.
  2. Reducing the rate of girls missing school, which is done through boosting girls’ confidence and providing students with its Femme kits.
  3. Breaking down reproductive taboos, which is done through debunking myths, creating a comfortable conversational environment and opening up conversations with men about women’s health.

Globally, some cultures have developed negative mindsets about menstrual health. With the help of the above organizations and the distribution of proper resources, menstrual health in Africa will continue to improve.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr

At the UN, World Leaders Pledge to Boost Investments in EducationFinancing and investments in education promote economic development, reduce gender disparities and are potentially the most effective way to accomplish all of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) developed by the U.N. Member States in 2015 and to prevent conflict and sustain peace.

At the event titled “Financing the Future: Education 2030,” world leaders, advocates, children and students gathered in New York to underscore the importance of unreservedly financing global education. According to the U.N. News Centre, the event was co-organized by governments, the private sector, civil society and U.N. agencies to encourage greater investments and political commitments in quality education. This included education at all levels: early childhood, primary and secondary.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres delivered the opening remarks by speaking of his background as a teacher in his native Portugal, where he began to see education as “a basic human right, a transformational force for poverty eradication, an engine for sustainability and a force for peace.”

Guterres underlined four areas of focus where he urged world leaders to boost investments in education. Noting that about 260 million young children, most of whom are girls, are deprived of school education, he urged for greater investments by governments and donors in education funding. He also advocated for the reduction of gender-based disparities, adoption of lifelong learning habits and a particular focus on children, notably refugees, affected by wars and conflicts.

Guterres also envisioned the launch of an International Finance Facility for Education as early as next year through the G-20 Education Commission. Speaking of the wide range of barriers faced by girls in obtaining primary and secondary education, he noted that only 1 percent of poor rural women in developing countries completed their secondary education studies.

This means that half of any low-income country’s assets–women and girls–can not currently play a role in a country’s economic development simply because they lack proper access to education or suffer disproportionately in poor and vulnerable households. As Guterres reiterated, each year of secondary education can boost a girl’s future earning power by as much as 25 percent.

U.N. Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai, the youngest laureate of the Noble Peace Prize, built on this theme and urged world leaders to boost investments in education, especially for girls. She said that girls worldwide desire greater opportunities and are actively pushing back against poverty, war and child poverty.

“We have big goals,” said Malala, referring to the SDGs, “but we will not reach any of them unless we educate girls.”

The U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, stressed the need to widen the circle of beneficiaries of quality education and labeled it as “the civil rights struggle of our time.”

“Confronted by the largest refugee crisis since the close of the Second World War, and with education receiving less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid, it is vital we marshal the funds to provide an education for all children–especially those left out and left behind: refugee children,” he said.

A recently released report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) further breaks down the extent of the problem. More than half a billion children and adolescents worldwide are unable to meet the minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics and are headed towards a “learning crisis.”

Many of the global goals are dependent on SDG 4, which directs “inclusive and equitable quality education and the promotion of lifelong learning opportunities.” But lack of access to school, failure to maintain children’s attendance and the poor quality of education are among the three common problems hampering progress in quality education.

Speaking about the UNESCO report, Silvia Montoya, director of the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, stated that “[t]he figures are staggering both in terms of the waste of human potential and for the prospects of achieving sustainable development.”

The UNESCO report and the U.N. event show that tackling the global education crisis requires far greater investments in education than have been previously allocated. Greater resources are needed to promote equitable opportunities for children around the world seeking quality education.

Governments, the private sector and citizens can all play a critical role in ensuring that our most precious resources–our young population–are not deprived of the resources they themselves need to succeed and become tomorrow’s leaders. As Guterres concluded, “[f]inancing education is indeed the best investment we can make for a better world and a better future.”

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

Protecting Girls' Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings ActThe Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 3 and goes to the Senate next for consideration.

In May 2017, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) reintroduced the bill in the House of Representatives. Prior to its passing in the House, the legislation gained 50 cosponsors — 37 Democrats and 13 Republicans.

The bill was assigned to the House of Foreign Affairs Committee and is meant “to enhance the transparency, improve the coordination and intensify the impact of assistance to support access to primary and secondary education for displaced children and persons, including women and girls.”

This means that if the bill passes Congress, USAID would be able to further improve existing education programs for displaced children, with an emphasis on girls. USAID would collaborate with the private sector and civil society groups to make these improvements possible. The bill would also require the State Department and USAID to include education data in any report to Congress that covers disaster relief efforts.

The bill would specifically allow the State Department and USAID to bolster programs that provide safe primary and secondary education for displaced children, increase school capacity in countries hosting displaced children and help give displaced children, especially girls, opportunities in educational, economic and entrepreneurial realms. It would allow the State Department and USAID to coordinate with multilateral organizations to collect data.

Educating girls is a key step to ending poverty. Girls who attend school are less likely to get married young, and if every girl received an education, adolescent marriage could decrease by 64 percent worldwide. Women are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS if they have adequate education. In addition, an extra year of secondary school increases a woman’s future earnings by anywhere from 15 to 25 percent. Lastly, educated women are more likely to become entrepreneurs and invest in their communities, breaking the cycle of poverty.

Despite these facts, girls everywhere, especially displaced girls, lack access to proper education. Girls in conflict-affected countries are nearly two and a half times more likely to be out of school, and young women affected by conflict are nearly 90 percent more likely to be out of secondary school than their counterparts in stable countries. There are 98 million girls worldwide who do not attend school.

The vote to pass the bill in the House was done by voice, so there is no written record of which representatives voted yes and which voted no. The Senate must approve the bill in its original form in order for it to be passed on to the next step. If the Senate amends the bill in any way, it must be sent back to the House of Representatives to be accepted or rejected.

If the Senate passes the bill, it will go to the President’s desk next. He will then either sign it into law, veto it and send it back to Congress (which can overrule the veto with a two-thirds vote), or pocket veto it — which means that he would wait too long for it to be signed during the current legislative session.

According to Skopos Labs, there is a 38 percent chance of the bill being enacted. You can learn more about the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act here, and find out how to contact your senators about the bill here.

-Téa Franco

Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Cameroon: Nurturing Opportunity and Choice
Education in Cameroon, although constitutionally guaranteed, falls short in execution. Undeniable disparities hinder educational access for poor, disabled, indigenous and refugee children, particularly disadvantaged girls. Issues ranging from sexual harassment, unplanned pregnancies and early marriages to domestic chores and socio-cultural biases proliferate a trend in which fewer girls attend primary schools than boys. Incongruences between male and female education in Cameroon exacerbate the growing movement of students leaving the country to study and live elsewhere that has been termed the “brain drain.”

Rectifying this gender discrepancy can boost individuals’ capacities for financial autonomy as well as improve the state of the nation overall.

Less than 50 percent of Cameroonian girls attend primary school, and the average adult has only 5.9 years of education under his or her belt. There are many, however, who are working to change that.

The ShineALight Africa initiative was inspired by one Cameroonian woman, Nsaigha Thecla, who risked her livelihood and security to give her daughter the education she had never attained. Borrowing, investing and selling all she had, her children received an uncommonly good education in Cameroon. Years later, Nsaigha’s granddaughter, Leila Kigha, founded ShineALight Africa in that spirit.

ShineALight Africa mobilizes individual women into a cooperative through which they can sell their farm produce as a group, and the profits are dedicated to keeping local community children in school. Participation fosters the skills to help women gain financial autonomy, which provides previously non-existent options regarding marriage and domesticity.

Self-sufficiency and personal livelihood are certainly not all there is to be gained through more available education. Many claim that national security is at stake when education is inaccessible, for “an educated population doesn’t give away to extremism.” As a military campaign against Boko Haram rages in northern Cameroon, mosques in the south resist the spread of Islamist insurgency by providing girls’ education. The director of the Grande Mosque in Briquerterie, Mohaman Saminou, claims girls are at the greatest risk of being radicalized due to their lack of education.

To that end, his mosque provides free classes to girls every weekend in subjects like computer science, sewing and the Qur’an. Other mosques, like the Yaoundé Central Mosque, follow suit, providing girls’ classes in French, English and Arabic to promote the notion of “bilingualism as a gateway to quality education and sustainable development.” This work should broaden opportunities and choices for Cameroonian girls, consequently decrease the likelihood of radicalization.

Improving education in Cameroon can hugely impact both individual lives and national wellbeing. The ability to make financial and social choices is essential to the welfare of the people and the state to which they belong.

Robin Lee

Photo: Flickr