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Education in India
Schools in India shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19. While a lot of schools transitioned into online curriculums, many were unable to make this infrastructural shift. More than half of India’s population lives in rural areas. Furthermore, only 15% of rural households have access to the internet. The pandemic has put a spotlight on the digital divide within the country. NGOs, foundations and other social enterprises have become key to improving education in India.

Sampark

Sampark Foundation has reached more than 10 million children in six states throughout India. It focuses on education equality, providing low-cost educational services in order to broaden its reach. Sampark Smart Shala uses innovations such as board games, mobile applications and rechargeable audio devices to keep students engaged in lessons. These innovations specifically cater to students in rural areas.

Sampark’s COVID-19 response utilizes the national television channel Doordarshan and language-friendly apps to share quizzes and improve education in India. Furthermore, this organization posts ideas on a crowdsourced platform called Baithak for teachers to use. Teachers are also encouraged to keep in touch with their pupils.

Recently, Sampark has launched a program called Har Ghar Science STEM for Girls. This program’s goal is to establish science labs in rural schools and adopt an ascending approach to educating girls. As a result, education in India continues to evolve positively within rural communities.

Pratham

Pratham is an NGO based in Mumbai. Its goal is to bridge the gap in the Indian education system by implementing high-quality, low-cost and replicable interventions. This organization’s programs have improved education in India tremendously. Additionally, Pratham aids the government in encouraging children to regularly attend school. The organization relies on parents, local communities, volunteers and state governments to create personalized models of learning.

Currently, Pratham is working to engage underprivileged children and improve education in India through new programs. Karona Thodi Masti Thodi Padhai (Do it: A Little Fun, A Little Study) is a new program developed to aid students during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program uses popular messaging services, radio and WhatsApp to check in with students virtually. This new aspect of learning prioritizes “fun” and “study” to motivate students during this stressful time.

Eklavya

Eklavya is an NGO that works in education resource centers in Madhya Pradesh. This organization focuses on helping impoverished children become self-sufficient learners. Eklavya has published several books on education, children’s literature and other resource material, believing that education should be based on curiosity and experiences to motivate students. This NGO aims to enhance education in India by focusing on rural areas. Eklavya trains eligible parents, siblings and local youth to teach at well-ventilated spaces within local, socially distanced locations. Additionally, it has established a mobile-library system that rotates between localities.

Vidya

Vidya is an NGO that has served 3.7 million people in major cities such as Delhi, Gurgaon, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai. This organization aims to provide education on life-skills, vocations and mental and physical wellbeing. Vidya’s goal is to improve education equality throughout India.

In response to the pandemic, Vidya developed strategies to combat the effects of COVID-19 on education in India. The NGO divided its solutions into technology and organization-based approaches. Solutions include reorganized exam schedules, adjusted syllabi and increased planning for a teaching aid for the next academic year.

The technological divide has made it difficult for students living in impoverished areas to access education in India. However, Vidya has received donations for phones, laptops and other devices to improve access to education. It arranges for students to pick up these devices at their convenience.

Thinkzone

Thinkzone is a social enterprise that aims to improve educational outcomes for children living in vulnerable communities. It uses “tech plus touch” models to combat inequality in education. Similar to other organizations, Thinkzone uses community-based approaches. This organization’s COVID-19 response is rooted in home-based learning that relies on phone calls and SMS to interact with parents who have started teaching their children. Fortunately, automated calls and interactive voice response technologies are accessible in many different languages. These automated calls provide pre-recorded course material to improve education in India.

This organization also strives to train community educators and assess the needs of students for further improvement. Furthermore, Thinkzone has partnered with various organizations and the government to improve education in India. Its home-based initiative has successfully reached more than 10,000 children in India.

These organizations have taken significant steps to improve education in India and aid the government in creating a more sustainable way of learning. With improved access to technology, education equality will continue to improve long after the pandemic has ended.

Anuja Mukherjee 
Photo: Flickr

Girl’s Education Can Bring Financial Prosperity to Developing CountriesEnsuring fair and equal education for children globally has been a growing issue for a long time. Girls particularly can have an extremely difficult time trying to go to school and finish their education. This can be due to the social stigma. A significant obstacle to girl’s education is that their time is needed to work and help feed their families. Poverty in developing countries is also an obstacle to girl’s education. It has recently come to the attention of several different developing countries that keeping girls in school could potentially strengthen their economies and gross domestic product.

Importance of Girl’s Education

It is starting to become clear that poverty is not just hunger or financial strife, but rather directly correlates with poor education. A society cannot expect to move forward and progress if their government does not provide adequate and sufficient education for girls to obtain a successful life. Instead of having the option for education, many girls must stay home. In many cases, this can lead to sexual abuse and unplanned early pregnancies.

Interestingly, strong evidence suggests that there is a strong bias in children from wealthier families having access to better education opportunities than from poorer families. Nearly 33% of girls who are age 10 to 18 have never even stepped foot inside of a classroom. In a recent report by BBC.com, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson heavily emphasized that people are ultimately unaware of the serious harm of girls not having access to education. Prime Minister Johnson has repeatedly reinforced the idea of planned out education for girls that would span 12 years.

COVID-19 Pandemic’s Effect on Girl’s Education

The spread of COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for international school systems all over the world. Within April 2020, a confirmed 194 different nations enforced mandatory school closures. While having the intention of preventing the spread of the disease, it unintentionally derailed over one billion children in their educational journeys. Families have to completely change their daily routines to practice safe distancing and provide a school for their kids. The time lost in the physical classroom is starting to become a noticeable issue. Girl’s education and its setbacks have undoubtedly had a much worse outcome for the young female population. Some are predicting that tens of millions of girls will not get a chance to return to school.

An Initiative to Help Girl’s Education and Developing Countries

A coalition of eight up and coming developing nations have come together in a new initiative. The goal is to ensure the incorporation of poverty-stricken girls completing their primary education. This initiative comes with an underlying advantage that foresees a significant increase in financial output for multiple different developing countries. It is estimated that each dollar used for a girl’s education could generate nearly $3.00 in order to add billions to a country’s total financial income. This approach would be a team effort to help the struggle of developing countries. It can also help warrant the completion of a girl’s primary education. This initiative would suggest that girl’s completion of education could be the real secret to sustainability for countries and the U.N.’s education plan.

Education is one of the most important foundations for any country to succeed. However, many countries overlook girl’s education compared to males. Keeping girls in school can provide financial gain for a country and is a potential outlet for positive change. Therefore, it is essential to ensure the success of all women globally will be carried on for generations to come.

Brandon Baham

Photo: Flickr

improve girls' educationAll around the globe, young girls are forced to end their educational careers early as gender inequality is still quite common. Lack of schooling for young girls limits female participation in the workplace and reinforces patriarchal societies. As of 2018, worldwide totals of illiterate girls from the ages of 5 to 25 outnumbered illiterate boys in the same age group by 12 million. Yet,  global female participation in schooling has grown by 16% since 1995. The momentum gained in the past 25 years looks to continue as three important organizations have released plans to improve girls’ education in 2020 and beyond.

The World Bank

As a global economic institution, the World Bank joined the fight to preserve girls’ education years ago. In fact, the bank launched a seven-year plan in 2016 that focuses on improving all women’s rights, going beyond just education. However, the World Bank identified educational opportunities as a key way to break the cycle of injustice and has subsequently created separate funding solely based on female schooling.

In May 2020, a total of $1.49 billion had already been allocated to improving education for women of all ages, both primary and secondary. This will not only help girls learn to read and write but will also lead to women entering the workplace in countries where men are the ones to hold jobs.

The United Nations (UN)

Many know the U.N. as the global agency where countries discuss peace deals and trade contracts. While this is true, the U.N. also has sectors dedicated to human rights advocacy. An entire branch, known as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), works with developing countries to devise plans that enhance educational opportunities for girls. Being under the umbrella of the United Nations adds a level of legitimacy that some nonprofits who want to improve girls’ education are unable to achieve. The UNGEI has a wide range of contributors and currently consists of 24 global and regional partners, four regional partnerships and nearly 50 associated country partnerships. Recently, the United Nations released the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and worked with the UNGEI to add equal educational opportunity for girls as a part of this vision. Girls around the world, especially those living in developing countries, are at the center of this vision, which can lead to powerful change.

Girls Education Challenge (GEC)

Back in 2012, the government of the United Kingdom made global equal education a primary focus. The government joined forces with U.K. Aid to tackle this issue. Together, the two created a groundbreaking 12-year commitment called the Girls Education Challenge (GEC). The first phase of the GEC, which was a huge success, ended in 2017. For the second phase, which will continue until 2024, the U.K. is looking to expand its impact to encompass over 40 projects in nearly 20 nations. With hundreds of millions of dollars now raised for the GEC, its own research suggests that over 800,000 young girls are learning in schools and on the path to finish their education. With four years remaining in the GEC, the United Kingdom’s impact on girls’ education will continue to bring equal opportunities well into the 2020s.

Education, Gender Equality and Poverty Reduction

The World Bank, the U.N. and the U.K. are trying to create fair schooling policies but are also breaking down social barriers in the developing world. Global society is trending in the right direction for gender equality and much more work is left to be done. The work being done to improve girls’ education can and will be a catalyst for change.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Education in Burkina Faso
Frequent terrorist attacks since 2016 have impacted many sectors in Burkina Faso, especially education. The high cost of education prevents many in poverty from going to school. This is particularly true for girls, as parents are more likely to prioritize the education of their sons. Education remains a challenge for the West African country since Burkina Faso’s education spending relies heavily on aid. Furthermore, violence in the Sahel region displaced more than 765,000 people and caused more than 2,000 schools to close in March 2020. School closures continue to affect about 300,000 students and 11,000 teachers. Although recent violence has impacted education in Burkina Faso, organizations are stepping up to provide aid.

Education to Reduce Poverty

An educated society helps reduce poverty. Burkina Faso has a poverty rate of 40.1% and affordable education could benefit its people. Affordable education could also improve the country’s poor infrastructure and communication. Further benefits include the diversification of knowledge, allowing individuals to better change the world around them. All these benefits encouraged the OPEC to sign a loan of $20 million to Burkina Faso in support of its education development in 2019. A reported 18,500 on-campus University of Ouagadougou students will benefit from expanded facilities.

The loan also helps the government finance its Agricultural Value Chain Support Project, which focuses on poverty reduction and agricultural productivity. Director-General of the OPEC Fund Dr. Abdulhamid Alkhalifa said, “Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all – and promoting lifelong learning – is a fundamental ingredient to sustainable development. To see such a project come to life is inspiring and I believe this university will enable many people – young and old – to play a role in advancing the development of Burkina Faso, and more generally, in contributing toward a more equal global society.”

Improvements in Girls’ Education

Education for children continues to improve although the achievement gap between boys and girls still remains large. For females age 15 to 24, the literacy rate is only 33% in contrast to a 47% rate for boys in the same age range. In the Sahel region, girls’ education is particularly grim. Girls are two times more likely to drop out of primary school than their female counterparts nationally. About half of the girls in the Sahel region are married and give birth before the age of 19. This has created a high-drop out rate of around 30% during the final year of lower secondary school. If tests are not taken during this time, girls cannot move up to upper secondary school, both of which are barriers to furthering education for girls.

In response to these conditions, Education Cannot Wait provides emergency aid to countries without access to proper education. Education Cannot Wait, hosted by UNICEF, allocated $6 million in July 2019 to help children in the Sahel region. This came as a response to the widespread violence in the region that affected 2.3 million children. The organization provides emergency education assistance throughout the world, benefiting 187,000 children through its assistance. Its goals in the Sahel region for 2020 include constructing and rehabilitating classrooms for about 41,000 children who are out of school, distributing learning material for 94,000 children and mobilizing 83,000 community members to help support secure learning environments.

The 12-month plan also includes hygiene promotion, which includes menstrual hygiene management for more than 68,000 students. Sexual violence against women, child marriage and exploitation in the region are common, so a safe environment, such as a school, can help provide safety to student girls and female teachers in spite of the recent violence.

Moving Forward

Education remains of vital importance to a country’s wellbeing, both socially and economically. Burkina Faso continues to experience widespread violence, yet aid from outside the country is helping provide education to children and adults. However, more can be done to not only improve education but also increase economic development. Continued efforts are needed to reduce poverty and improve education in Burkina Faso.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Education in the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates started focusing on building a modern, mass-scale education system after its independence from Britain in 1971. In the past 50 years, the country revolutionized its education system aligning itself both with a modern and Western approach. Below are eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates.

8 Facts About Education in the United Arab Emirates

  1. The UAE achieved universal education which was part of its ‘Education for All’ initiative, thus focusing on a new challenge for its UAE Vision 2021, that is, quality education. Its primary goal is to create a ‘first-rate education system,’ intended to enable students in the UAE to rank among the best in the world in the fields of mathematics, reading and science. To achieve this, the government proposes a transformation of the education system and intends to use Smart systems and devices as a basis for new teaching methods. In doing so, the UAE aligns its own national agenda to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to achieve quality education as its Target 4.
  2. The UAE now focuses on ways to develop the economy outside the hydrocarbons sector and sees education as the key to do so. The core mission of the Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan 2017-2021 is to develop an education system adapted to generate a high-skilled and knowledge-based competitive economy. The founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, stated that the “greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people… [T]he prosperity and success of the people are measured by the standard of their education”.
  3. Literacy is a powerful tool against poverty, and the literacy rate in the UAE has increased from 54 percent among adult men and 31 percent among adult women in 1975 to almost 95 percent for both genders in 2019. Besides this considerable improvement, the government is now working on increasing the inclusivity of the education system to migrant workers too, in order to further close the wealth gap in the UAE.
  4. The education system in the UAE comprises both private and public education. Public education, from primary school through university, is free for all Emirati citizens and is entirely funded by the government. The primary language of instruction is Arabic and English is often taught as a secondary language. Public school enrollment is also accessible to non-UAE citizens, provided they pay a tuition fee, however, only 26 percent of the total enrolled students in the UAE are enrolled in public schools.
  5. Approximately 74 percent of students are enrolled in private schools, representing a huge part of the education system. This is mostly due to the transient nature of the expatriate population that opts for international schools. There is an increasing demand for private-sector education in the UAE, and according to the Boston Consulting Group, there is an expected growth in the education market from $4.4 billion in 2017 to over $7 billion by 2023.
  6. The UAE aims to improve considerably its tertiary education system in order to retain a higher number of Emirati citizens in enrolling in tertiary degrees, as well as attract students from abroad. The UAE has an extremely high outbound student mobility ratio, as 7.1 percent of UAE nationals enrolled in tertiary degrees abroad in 2016. Moreover, its inbound mobility ratio is one of the highest in the world, attaining 48.6 percent in 2016.
  7. The UAE emphasizes the importance of inclusiveness and quality education for all and has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol in 2006. The government strongly supports people with disabilities/special needs and has included federal laws to protect the rights of people with special, guaranteeing equal education opportunities. In addition, the UAE aims to increase the inclusiveness of special needs children in mainstream educational environments, through various initiatives and as a part of its 2020 agenda.
  8. In 2019, the UAE allocated a $2.79 billion budget to Education, representing 17 percent of its total federal budget. A part of it will go towards the establishment of an Education Support Fund to incentivize partnerships and involvement with the private sector, in order to achieve its upcoming goals and priorities.

 

These eight facts about education in the United Arab Emirates illustrate the achievements and progress made in the country’s education system and highlights the ambitious aims and goals the UAE has for the future.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Education in Palau

Recently, the northern Pacific island nation of Palau hosted its 25th Education Convention from July 23 to July 25, with approximately 530 public and private school teachers attending. The convention follows years of progress in improving education in Palau by increasing enrollment rates, creating primary school retention programs and prolonging the average school life for both boys and girls. All these factors allow Palau to further develop its education system.

Education in Palau and Gender

Surprisingly, girls and young women in Palau have at times had higher enrollment rates than boys and men, according to a 2008 analysis by UNICEF. The Ministry of Education of Palau even stated, “…gender disparity is not an issue in Palau. If there are any cases of gender disparity, they would involve males rather than females.”

The numbers are telling. According to the Ministry in 2005, the adjusted ratio of women to men with post-secondary education was 1.11, and the ratio of girls to boys in secondary school and primary school was 1.23 and 0.92, respectively. Furthermore, according to Palau Census Data as cited in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) status report, a larger proportion of Palau women have reached higher education than men for a college degree since 2000, an associate degree since 2005 and a bachelor degree since 1990.

Only 1.5 percent of women 25 years old and over have no education background compared to 2 percent for men in the same age group. In the same category, 81.5 percent of women have one to four years of college education, while the number only stands at 75 percent for men.

Palau has outperformed some Pacific island countries in such efforts. The Global Partnership for Education states that in Papua New Guinea, for example, the 2016 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 84.7 and 73.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Palau’s 2014 primary completion rate for boys and girls was 96.947 and 94.69 percent, respectively. Although the Pacific Education for All effort lists various concerns of gender equity, low enrollment rates and high dropout rates for many Pacific island countries, many of these metrics do not apply to Palau.

Other Improvements Still Needed

While efforts to offer better girls’ education in Palau have been successful, other metrics for assessing the education system in Palau show that there is still room for improvement: The CIA World Factbook states that the school life expectancy for women in primary to tertiary education is 18 years compared to 16 for men. Further, the male literacy rate is 96.8 percent compared while the female literacy rate is 86 percent.

Other areas of the education system require further attention. Improving the quality of instruction is one of Palau’s top priorities, as the U.S. National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Excellence reported in 2016 that instructors scored “relatively low” on reading, writing and math skills in an assessment test. The accompanying survey found that the teachers scored particularly low on data analysis and probability; the report additionally found that teachers who scored higher had higher levels of education, taught upper-level schoolchildren and had higher reported proficiency in English.

Other indicators show weaknesses in the education system. In 2016, the student to teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools was 12:1, suggesting the possibility of overworked teachers who may not be able to give personalized attention. In primary schools in 2018, the CBE -– Life Sciences Education found that only 40 percent of teachers possessed a high school diploma. According to UNICEF, in 2015, 29 percent possessed an Associate of Arts or Science degree, and only 9 percent possessed a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Sciences. Past just the teachers, many schools do not even have adequate funding for school supplies and many buildings are in desperate need of renovations.

Tertiary education opportunities are also limited, given the small nature of Palau’s education system. With only one public high school in the country, many students attend private schools. Should students choose to attend college, the country only has one––Palau Community College (PCC). Though scholarships to attend the University of California San Diego are available, little data on tertiary education in Palau indicates few opportunities for students to expand on their education following high school.

Given that Palau has a matrilineal society and aforementioned indicators demonstrate successes in improving girls’ education in Palau and the country’s high regard for education, the main challenge is not to achieve gender parity in education but to generally boost the quality of education.

To address these concerns, the Ministry of Education has made calls for Palau schools to begin formal accreditation processes to bring more international attention to the country. Accompanying this have been efforts to implement teacher certification procedures. Studies have found varying results in English language teaching proficiency that underscore a greater need to establish training requirements for teachers and offering more opportunities for students to engage in a variety of fields, including STEM collaborations with PCC. To achieve this, the Palau government passed legislation requiring that teachers participate in a teacher preparation program at PCC.

Shaping the Landscape

International movements, organizations and regional efforts, alongside national educational improvement programs, have all helped Palau maintain high enrollment rates for girls and women and generally improve the education system. Palau’s educational achievements come almost two decades after the 2000 World Education Forum sparked Educational for All, an international movement calling for nations across the world to identify and achieve six educational goals.

With the 2006-2016 Ministry of Education’s 10-year plan to improve the quality of instruction, children have access to education from first grade until the end of high school, with compulsory primary and secondary education. The nation’s Early Childhood Comprehensive System and Head Start program––modeled similarly to American programs––provide support for families, medical services and works with Human Services and the Department of Health to help primary care providers, teachers, caregivers and families holistically care for 400 children and their development.

The ever-increasing access women have to financial stability and a wider variety of careers and roles in society throughout the past few decades have not been linked directly to women surpassing men in educational performance and attainment, according to the U.N. The 2005 census shows that women have a higher life expectancy than men, and though women are still less likely to be employed than men are, women’s median income is greater ($9,740) than that of men ($8,417). Women have “dominated” the judiciary in Palau and roles in public boards, but have yet to achieve equity in politics at the national level.

With the 25th convention coming up, the opportunities are endless for how Palau can build off its successes in creating more educational opportunities for both genders, particularly girls, by improving the overall quality of education and allowing for that education to carry over into careers and contributions to Palau society.

Jeongyoon Han
Photo: Flickr

Girls' education in Vietnam

“Girls’ education…is a primary issue in terms of breaking the cycle of poverty,” says Carolyn Miles, the president and CEO of the group Save the Children, and this is especially true of girls’ education in Vietnam. Save the Children works in more than 120 countries to improve the lives of children and young people.

In Lao Cai province, one of the poorest regions in Vietnam, a significant number of girls lack access to basic needs. These needs include clean drinking water, toilets and basic education. Moreover, many women in the province suffer heinous human rights violations and have the highest illiteracy rates in Vietnam. Data show at least half of children 10 years old and older in Vietnam are illiterate. In fact, the illiteracy rates for girls are higher when compared to boys.

In primary school, girls’ education in Vietnam sees a high enrollment rate. However, it also sees a low attendance rate. In addition, many girls ultimately drop out of school. In more rural areas of Vietnam, low attendance rates increase due to lack of transportation. Transportation faces challenges like distance and damaged roads from wars. Furthermore, costs prevent many girls from continuing education in Vietnam. These costs include tuition and fees, plus textbooks, which are not free at secondary and tertiary levels. Instead of sending girls to school, many families more them to work and help the family. As a result, the Vietnamese government has been prioritizing gender equality and strategizing to improve girls’ education in Vietnam.

Making Improvements

The government of Vietnam has shown commitment to prioritizing and promoting gender equality. Nevertheless, the improvement of girls’ education in Vietnam remains a work in progress. To improve this, the Vietnamese government partnered with UNESCO and other developmental organizations. In particular, the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training worked with UNESCO to establish the Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam under the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education.

The Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Vietnam gives girls and women a platform in Vietnam to fight for their human rights. For instance, the initiative provides education, raises awareness and teaches leadership training.

As listed on the UNESCO page, the objectives of the initiative are:

  1. “Reinforce gender equality in the Education Sector planning and management to empower girls and women.”

  2. “Enhance the capacity of education officials, teachers and experts to mainstream gender equality in curriculum and teaching practices.”

  3. “Raise awareness of students, parents, community members and the media to support the enabling environment for girls’ and women’s education and gender mainstreaming.”

UNESCO and other development organizations contribute to fostering a supportive environment for girls and women in Vietnam, especially within the educational setting. In Vietnam, UNESCO aims to create a fair environment where males and females both have a future and benefit from an equal-gender system of education.

Fifita Mesui
Photo: Flickr

Five Ways to Fight Gender InequalityThe struggle to attain global gender equality has been a centuries-long battle. Although the world has significantly progressed in women’s advancement and its goal of gender equality, women and girls disproportionately suffer from discrimination and violence. These injustices do, however, have a chance to be corrected through these five ways to fight gender inequality.

Five Ways to Fight Gender Inequality

    1. Give girls access to education.
      There are 130 million girls in the world who are not in school. Although there has been a significant boost in girls’ enrollment in schools, there is still much progress to be made. Girls are more likely than boys to never receive an education. There are 15 million girls in the world of primary-school age who will never enter a classroom, compared to about 10 million boys. Although there are countless boys and girls worldwide who face barriers when trying to receive an education, there are several specific forms of discrimination that only affect girls. These include forced marriages at a young age, gender-based violence in school settings and certain cultural or religious norms that restrict girls’ access to education.Education is an extremely valuable resource for girls. According to the World Bank, better-educated women tend to be healthier, participate in formal labor markets, earn higher incomes and marry at a later age. By receiving an education, girls can develop fundamental skills and gain invaluable knowledge that allows them to thrive in their careers and simply make decisions that will improve their lives.

      The Borgen Project is currently building support for the Keeping Girls in School Act (H.R.2153/ S.1071) which requires the Department of State and USAID to review and update the U.S. global strategy to empower adolescent girls. Click here to ask your Member of Congress to cosponsor the Keeping Girls in School Act: Email Congress

    2. Give women platforms to be in power and achieve economic success.
      Globally, women have less political representation than men. Around the world, 62 percent of countries have never had a female head of government or state for at least one year in the past half-century, including the United States. The number of women in political positions compared to men is alarmingly disproportionate. In global legislatures, women are outnumbered four to one. Gender equality in political positions is a rarity as only three countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses. By having an equal presence of women in politics or leadership positions, the interests and values of females will be better represented on the political level.For many women, it is hard to achieve economic success and move up the socioeconomic scale. Throughout the world, women work for long hours of unpaid domestic jobs. In some places, females do not have the right to own land, earn an income and progress their careers due to job discrimination.

      The Women’s Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment Act (S.2347) — signed into law in January 2019 — is one initiative that is aimed at removing several of these barriers through a number of policy objectives. One such policy change has to do with expanding support for small and medium-sized enterprises that are owned, managed and controlled by women.

    3. End violence and sexual assault against women.
      An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence and sexual assault. However, these laws often go ignored, jeopardizing women and girls’ rights to their safety and justice. Every day, 137 women across the world are killed by a family member or intimate partner. This statistic is a disturbing example of the severity of violence toward women.Females are more likely to experience sexual violence than men.Approximately 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide have been raped at some point in their lives. Beyond sexual harassment, women and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking as they account for 71 percent of all human trafficking victims. In many cases, females are trafficked as child brides and/or sold as sex slaves. The extent of sexual violence toward women and young girls is an extreme violation of human rights.
    4. Assure girls and women have access to menstrual health facilities.
      Menstrual hygiene management is necessary for girls and young women to attend school and participate in their daily lives, however, this necessity is not always guaranteed. The women most affected by ineffective menstrual care live in poverty. Often, girls will stay home from school when on their periods because they do not have access to sanitary products and/or their schools lack the necessary facilities.Dangerous ignorance and societal judgments about menstruation exist worldwide. Some cultures believe a menstruating girl causes harm to everything she touches. For instance, in rural Nepal, girls on their periods are sometimes forced out of their homes, forbidden from being in contact with people, animals and even plants. These girls are forced to stay in “menstrual huts” which can be harmful and potentially fatal. These misleading cultural taboos lead to ostracism, early marriage and the endangerment of girls’ futures. Young women in refugee camps also have a difficult time accessing safe and security sanitary products.

      Fortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act (H.R.615) which “amends current standards of care for refugee women and children to include providing safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, especially for women, girls and vulnerable populations.”

    5. End child marriage.
      In some cultures, it is acceptable if not expected for girls to marry at a young age. Every year, 12 million girls marry before the age of 18 worldwide. Child marriage most affects girls and is mainly fueled by gender inequality and poverty. This practice is a violation of human rights as it prohibits women from making decisions about their own lives. It deprives young girls of a childhood and an education, but it also has other disturbing effects.Girls who are forced into marriage may be sexually harassed by their partner and have an increased risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, cervical cancer, malaria and death from childbirth. Girls Not Brides is one of the most prominent organizations working to raise awareness on these issues by partnering with more than 1,000 civil societies across the globe.

These five ways to fight gender inequality are crucial to help women and girls around the world reach their full potential and ultimately attain gender equality.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in Sudan
Facts about girls’ education in Sudan are startling as females are at a clear disadvantage. Girls in Sudan are more likely to be illiterate than their regional counterparts, which is concerning as the region around the nation is plagued with female educational suppression.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Sudan

  1. According to UNICEF, 49 percent of girls are missing out on primary education. As of 2017, a total of three million children have been left out of Sudan’s education system, half of them being girls.
  2. In general, Sudan has unegalitarian views towards women. Sudan’s legal system is a strict form of Sharia Law, which limits the rights of women in many respects. The nature of such laws has seeped into Sudanese culture, thus affecting the quality and quantity of girls education for the worse. These laws include punishment for not wearing religious garb in public and institutionalized discrimination against women. When the mantra of the government and its laws is anti-women, the educational system will most likely be anti-women as well.
  3. The laws in Sudan regarding education do not guarantee safety against discrimination. Educators can then easily implement their views on who they allow to enroll in schools. Such views are the norm in Sudan, as is the opinion that women should aspire to be a housewife for their ultimate goal. Sudanese culture follows a strict interpretation of Islam and is often a culture that allows female genital mutilation, honor killings and other violations against women. Such an environment would be hard pressed not to extend such discrimination to education.
  4. In Sudan, the enrollment rate for girls in primary school is lower than that of boys, and there is also a significant gap in literacy between boys and girls.
  5. The quality of  teachers is very low in Sudan in comparison to the rest of the world; there may be up to 110,000 unqualified teachers teaching in Sudan, as 48 percent of teachers in Sudan have only completed primary education. On average, children in Sudan experience either no education (as Sudan has one of the highest out-of-school-children rates in the world) or very poor education from unqualified teachers.
  6. A severe lack of female teachers in Sudanese schools often creates a learning environment much more hostile to girls, which can then deter girls enrolling in school. Only 12 percent of South Sudan’s instructors are female, and the data of female education rates across generations show less improvement over time.
  7. The average household in Sudan contains 5.7 people; contrastingly, an United States household holds an average of 2.58 people. The cost of education in Sudan is not direct tuition, but rather similar to western universities and religious schools charge aside from tuition: textbooks, uniforms, exam fees, and even teacher salaries. This is very costly for many families, especially as poverty is extremely high in Sudan — 44.8  percent of the population live below the poverty line, and there is a 17 percent unemployment rate.
  8. The large number of families who struggle with such costs generally have two options: (1) do not send their children to school (which is a partial explanation for why the educational enrollment rate in Sudan is very low) or (2) choose their favorite children to attend school. For the latter option, these favorites are almost unanimously boys which hurts girls educational opportunities.
  9. Given the fact that normal schooling in Sudan is explicitly anti-women, it’s very hard for girls in Sudan to receive an education, and the shortage of out-of-school alternatives really leaves Sudan’s girls in a difficult place.
  10. Fortunately, Sudan is not alone. The Global Partnership for Education Fund heavily funds the Sudanese government so as “to improve the learning environment in targeted areas; to increase the availability of textbooks; and to strengthen education planning and management mechanisms in the Sudan.” In fact, $76 million has gone into a project known as the Basic Education Recovery Project which significantly helps girls education in Sudan.

Steps to Empowerment

These facts about girls’ education in Sudan leave the international community with a daunting task — making change a reality in Sudan. Thankfully, such outcomes are occurring, but help is always needed and desired. Donating to organizations such as The Borgen Project that work to provide international aid is one of the best ways to help make change a reality.

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of EducationAccess to education is an ongoing civil rights struggle. Education is not only the accumulation of knowledge but also a chance for students to go beyond their current limitations. The following is a list of 10 of the most important benefits of education.

10 Major Benefits of Education

  1. Improved Health: In developing countries, students are forced to miss school for about 500 million days per year because of sickness. Furthermore, one of the benefits of education for mothers is increasing the survival of her child; a child is 50 percent more likely to live past five years old, 50 percent more likely to be immunized and twice as likely to attend school than children of uneducated mothers.
  1. Individual Economic Growth: With education comes opportunities to advance in life. One extra year spent at school increases an individual’s earnings by up to 10 percent. There is a positive correlation between literacy rates and high per capita income; education can give someone the chance to increase personal wealth. These benefits of education give people the skillset and knowledge to improve their lives.
  1. National Economic Growth: Educated civilians would also contribute to the economic growth of their entire country. For example, each additional year of schooling raising the average annual GDP growth by 0.37 percent. Also, providing education for children has a greater benefit than initial cost. The cost of 250 million children not attending school and not learning the basics of education is equivalent to a loss of $129 billion per year. Therefore, education not only advances the country’s economy but also saves the country from major losses.
  1. Reduction of Poverty: Poverty is a major reason why people in rural communities are unable to attend school. However, education is extremely important in reducing poverty. For instance, if adults had two more years of schooling, a total of 60 million adults would be able to take advantage of more opportunities and escape poverty. Also, if more children were given secondary education, about 20 million people would be lifted out of poverty. This would mean that the number of impoverished people worldwide would reduce by at least 50 percent.
  1. Gender Equality: Sending daughters to school can be quite expensive for impoverished families, so many choose not to. This leads to women being paid less for their work which prevents them from being able to sustain themselves independently. However, one additional year spent at school can increase a woman’s earnings by 10 to 20 percent.
  1. Reduction of Child Marriage: In rural communities, the value of a male child can be greater than that of a female child. As a result, if a family has to choose between financing the education of their son or their daughter, the son often gets priority while daughters are left to focus on domestic life. This leads to an increase of child marriage. Over 60 percent of uneducated girls marry before the age of 18.
  1. Reduction of Child Mortality: One of the benefits of education is having educated parents as it reduces the probability of child mortality. For example, UNICEF found that babies born to young mothers under 18 years old have a 60 percent increased risk of infant mortality than other babies. In 2008, an estimated 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in sub-Saharan Africa if their mothers had secondary education or more.
  1. Self-Dependency: Through education, girls all over the globe are able to build self-reliance and independence through education. Receiving an education allows girls to become empowered women who can fight against poverty. Furthermore, education provides individuals with a promising and secure future for better opportunities and lives. In rural areas, education allows people to overcome poverty by expanding their knowledge and using them to lead better and healthier lives.
  1. Better Community: An educated individual has a greater chance of contributing to the community. Literate people are more likely to participate in the democratic process and exercise their civil rights while uneducated people may turn to crime and violence to sustain themselves. This can lead to an increase of conflict in the community because impoverished people do not see any other way to survive. Thus, an important benefit of education is educated people working together toward a better and safer community.

Places with fewer resources and fewer guarantees of survival are often stuck in an endless cycle of poverty throughout generations. Restricting education can lead to stunted economic growth and unstable social and political conditions. By ensuring that access to education is uncontested to all communities, society can benefit from an educated population.

– Jenny S Park
Photo: Flickr