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reusable sanitary padsIt is estimated that one in 10 girls in African countries miss school monthly due to a lack of supplies and education related to menstruation. The negative connotations of “becoming a woman” and the mystery surrounding these changes can not only create girls’ unhealthy perceptions of themselves and their bodies but can affect more concrete aspects of their lives, including their education.

Effects of Lack of Education on Menstruation

Many girls will skip school to avoid the potential embarrassment and shame associated with having one’s period show. Due to its monthly recurrence, many young women are unable to catch up on the material they have missed and will eventually drop out of school altogether.

In Uganda, 70 percent of girls leave school between the ages of 13 and 18. Low enrollment for both genders is common due to a variety of circumstances in many African countries.

However, with menstruation typically beginning around 13 years old and girls’ limited access to sexual health education and supplies, dropout rates increase for young women at a rate 10 percent higher than boys of the same age. Access to reproductive health education and cost effective menstruation supplies such as reusable sanitary pads can be powerful tools in keeping young women in school.

Benefits of Reusable Sanitary Pads

Disposable menstruation supplies are often too expensive for families to afford, forcing many young women to use unsanitary alternatives such as old clothes or to go without sanitary pads altogether. Reusable sanitary pads are a cheap, effective and empowering tool for young African women.

NGOs such as Girls2Women and Mums for Mums have assisted in teaching girls how to sew their own reusable sanitary pads for less than $1 from basic patterns and locally sourced materials that attach easily to undergarments with velcro. The Peace Corp has also been an important player in educating and empowering young women through Girls Leading Our World, or GLOW, camps.

Started in Romania in 1995, GLOW camps have since opened in over 60 countries around the world. Each camp is focused on empowering young women and combating local issues such as malaria and HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive health, stress tolerance and healthy living through education and training.

Positive Effects of GLOW Camps

In African countries with GLOW camps, learning to make reusable sanitary pads often features in the education of the young women. In countries such as Tanzania and Uganda, the creation of reusable sanitary pads begun by GLOW camp educations has been picked up by local charities and community organizations, helping normalize menstruation for girls and boys in the community alike and ultimately keep more young women in school.  

By making the reusable sanitary pads themselves, girls are able to move forward in their lives with more knowledge and confidence in themselves and their bodies, and menstruation becomes less of an unknown force to be feared. The inclusion of parents, teachers and boys is also valuable to the program’s effectiveness and longevity as well as the confidence and empowerment of the young women.

In Uganda, the charity Mountains of Hope offers educational programs on reproductive health and teen pregnancy and training in making reusable sanitary pads. These include men and boys so as to better educate and support young women of the community.

With this vital education and training in making reusable sanitary pads, as well as other aspects of reproductive health, girls in many African countries are better able to pursue their education without compromising their wellbeing. Organizations such as the Peace Corp, Girls2Women and Mountains of Hope have created opportunities for communities to feel empowered and create change with their young women, giving them the chance to achieve the education all children deserve.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Free Sanitary Pads as School Supplies

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

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

Women in STEM 

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

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

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

Educating Girls on HIV Risks

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

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

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

Benefits of Girls’ Education in Botswana

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

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

– Anne-Marie Maher
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Bangladesh
For many developing countries, gender inequality is a massive issue, with most biases about women’s “roles” starting at birth. These prejudices affect the economy, sustainability and education. Girls’ education in Bangladesh is severely devalued, creating a limited amount of roles for girls later in life. Since the 1990s, Bangladesh has seen a steady improvement in enrollment, but there is still work to be done to ensure girls and boys alike have equal access to education.

The Quality of Education

UNICEF reports that there has been a rise in enrollment for girls within primary and lower-secondary schools since the 1990s. For boys and girls, this included a 20 percent enrollment and completion rate and a 30 percent enrollment rate specifically for girls. In 2003, the enrollment rate elevated significantly to 84 percent. Still, in secondary (teenage) years, dropout rates tended to heavily increase.

A great deal of this statistic can be attributed to the weak quality of education. When education is of low quality, it causes poor participation and attendance, higher dropout rates and lower standards of achievement. On average, about 1.5 million girls drop out of school or never attend.

According to UNICEF, 10 percent of girls never enroll, 34 percent dropout and 28 percent complete school, but they do not pass or they lack the necessary skills to find a job or go onto higher education. However, 28 percent of girls in Bangladesh complete school with acceptable achievement.

Rise in Madrasas’ Schools

One of the most efficient ways to ensure girls’ education in Bangladesh has been through the implementation of madrasas’ schools. In a madrasas school, children have access to civil and religious education, allowing parents to feel safe in sending their daughters to school without feeling like their religious beliefs are being compromised. With the rise of madrasas school catering to the more religious families and communities, more girls have been able to enroll in school.

The TSER Program

In 2017, The World Bank authorized $510 million in funding to help boost the secondary education system and student performance in Bangladesh. This project is called The Transforming Secondary Education for Results (TSER) Program and is set to assist 13 million students in grades six through 12. The TSER Program will further advance teaching quality and learning while improving access to education, paying special attention to girls and poorer households by providing grants and stipends to increase enrollment for minorities.

In addition, the TSER Program will implement an adolescent program to increase motivation to remain in school. It includes financial inducements for female students in grades nine through 12, while helping girls to feel more included by building women’s bathrooms.

Although there is still quite a bit of work to do in improving girls’ education in Bangladesh, the country is on the right track to successful educational standards. By ensuring girls are educated and not being forced to become a minority or be oppressed, Bangladesh’s future is sure to flourish with equality.

– Rebecca Lee
Photo: Flickr

girls’ education in Angola
Young women in Angola are becoming more empowered than ever due to the nation’s efforts to increase child education. This rise in female independence and enfranchisement is also due to significant efforts to change the nation’s culture regarding gender roles.

Improvements in Girls’ Education in Angola

Primary education is free in nearly every African country, including Angola. This has caused a drastic increase in the number of children enrolled in school, with Angola having one of the highest improvement rates.

Particularly, the number of young girls enrolled in schools has soared to a number that more than doubles the total of 10 years ago. Between the years 2000 and 2011, there was an increase in girls’ education in Angola from 35 percent to 78 percent.

Additionally, the overall literacy rate for girls in Angola from the ages of 15 to 24 rose from 63 percent to 71 percent from 2001 to 2014. The primary school completion rate for girls in Angola has increased from 40 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2014.

Improving Gender Issues in Education

One of the ways in which girls’ education in Angola has been able to see such dramatic improvements is through the efforts of the nation to address gender issues in the classroom. This is also done by reaching out to those with authority and influence over families, who can thus help end restrictive ideas about women’s rights.

Since 2002, a total of 20,000 teachers in Angola have taken part in the “Back to School” campaign, a movement supported by UNICEF. This movement aims to train teachers in how to make their classrooms more sensitive to gender-based disparities. Teachers enroll in a five-year training program that educates them on the causes and solutions for inequalities in female versus male education rates.

One of the issues this movement faces is that oftentimes, when girls attend school, they will soon after drop out due to pressures from members of their communities. The traditional gender role for women in Angola is to be domestic wives and mothers and these pressures often prevent families from allowing their daughters to be educated.

It is common for parents to feel that educating their daughters is a waste of time and resources. There is a societal perspective that if a daughter’s fate is to marry, become a mother and run a household, why send her away to school when she could be learning domestic skills?

Changing the Role of Women

In order to change this perspective, Angolan teachers aim to mobilize those members of the community that parents trust, namely religious leaders and members of the traditional and various ethnic communities. By gaining the support of those that parents view as authority figures, the culture around girls’ education in Angola begins to shift from one of wastefulness to one of independence and progress.

The “Back to School” campaign, along with various independent advocacy efforts, work toward teaching young girls that there is no shame in breaking away from the gender roles that they have been taught to accept. Angolan teachers are shown how to make the classroom a place where young girls not only feel invited but encouraged to participate and learn.

Through the efforts of organizations and communities around the nation, young Angolan girls are no longer left with only one option for their lives and futures. Rather, they can become empowered to cultivate new, intellectual skills that will allow them to forge their own path in life based on their own personal choices.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Yemen
Located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is considered one of the least developed countries in the Middle East, according to the Human Development Index. While poverty and political turmoil are some of the key factors that contribute to this categorization, one of the major issues that hinder Yemen’s socioeconomic progress is a gender disparity in the education sector.

In the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, Yemen ranked 141st out of 144 countries in terms of gender disparity in educational attainment. The lack of economic participation, political representation, educational parity, healthcare access and liberty that demonstrate this gap can all be to a great extent traced to the condition of girls’ education in Yemen. There are several factors that influence girls’ education in Yemen, and they can be grouped into two main categories.

Economic and Political Factors in Yemen

Yemen has been suffering from political instability and civil wars since 2014, thus impacting an economy that is continuously shrinking. The collapse of the banking system, lack of employment, the depreciating value of the rial and inflation have led to an appalling economic situation in the country. Amid such economic uncertainty and poverty, most families are discouraged from sending their children, especially girls, to school. Some families also marry off their daughters early to alleviate the extra financial burden. This, in turn, leads to no education or extremely high dropout rates among female students. The other result of these economic and political factors that also affects girls’ education in Yemen is the scarcity of proper classrooms and educational infrastructure.

Sociocultural Factors Impact Girls’ Education

Conservative social and religious customs in Yemen discourage girls from attending mixed-gender classrooms or being taught by male teachers. Families generally prefer female teachers for their daughters. However, with 24 percent of the female population illiterate, it becomes challenging to find a female teaching staff. The shortage of female teachers in rural areas is much more pronounced than in urban areas. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find girls dropping out of school at the primary or secondary level.

Another important sociocultural factor that affects girls’ education in Yemen is underage marriage. The United Nations Population Fund has observed that the rate of child marriage in Yemen has risen from 52 percent of girls marrying under age 18 in 2016 to 66 percent in 2017. Patriarchal customs, child marriage and household chores prevent many girls from attending or completing school.

Despite these challenges to girls’ education in Yemen, significant attempts are being made by the Yemeni government and international bodies to educate more girls in Yemen and bridge the gender disparity in the education sector.

Ministry of Education Works to Improve Girls’ Education in Yemen

In 2007, the Yemeni government, with the aid of IDA (The World Bank’s Fund for the Poorest Countries), trained 550 female teachers, 525 of whom received certification. Other projects like the Basic Development Project for Yemen (2004-2012) attempted to increase enrollment of children in basic education and enhance the quality of teaching in schools.

From 2013 to 2017, the Second Basic Education Development Project for Yemen worked towards improving the quality of basic education and the enrollment rates of girl students in schools, while simultaneously assisting the Ministry of Education in carrying out educational improvements.

The provision for conditional cash transfers (or stipends) to disadvantaged families in certain governorates from 2004 to 2012 encouraged many families to send their daughters to school. At present, Yemen receives financial grants from the Global Partnership for Education to develop its basic education sector.

The IDA, in partnership with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany, has funded the Basic and Secondary Education Development Project and the Girls Access Project. USAID has also been working in Yemen to create safe educational infrastructure for females students, renovating and refurbishing schools and helping the government improve teaching methods in primary schools.

The educational gender disparity in Yemen has not yet been resolved, but through consistent efforts in improving educational infrastructure and quality, female educational campaigns, increasing the number of female educators, lowering costs of education and providing stipends, Yemen can significantly improve its social, cultural and economic status and remove many of the barriers that prevent girls from getting an education.

 – Jayendrina Singha Ray
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ education in Costa Rica
Education in Costa Rica is an important part of the region. Since the late 1800s, the government has made education mandatory and free. The government is now attempting to improve girls’ education in Costa Rica through various ways like the Women’s Empowerment Coalition and offering free schooling.

Women Empowerment

The Women’s Empowerment Coalition is an organization that is combating gender inequality. Its goal is to work with organizations for women’s rights since “of its 4.85 million population, 65 percent of girls in Costa Rica do not finish high school.” This coalition focuses on helping empower women to obtain their education.

Women are slowly attaining their education, but when it comes to the economy, women aren’t really present in making those decisions.

María Isabel Chamorro, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, stated that “women here are reaching higher levels of education, but we have yet to advance in transferring that to women achieving high-level, decision-making positions in the economy.” According to the World Bank, Costa Rica spent about 7 percent of its GDP on education in 2016.

Students Speak Out

In September of 2017, students of the University of Costa Rica and the National University took to the streets to demonstrate their unhappiness with the amount of spending on education. They protested for a higher percentage on education spending for the 2018 national budget.

TeleSur TV reported that students also “urged Legislative Assembly members to approve a law that would allocate 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP for higher education in the 2018 national budget, instead of the 1.37 percent proposed by the incumbent government.” In addition, STEM education lacks women — the gender makes up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce.

It’s especially important for girls’ education in Costa Rica to have a foundation where they are able to follow their desired career path, especially if it’s a STEM-related career.

Life Success Paired With Legislation

Sandra Cauffman came from a poor family from Costa Rica. At an early age, she vocalized that she wanted to go to the moon after she had seen the Apollo 11 landing in 1969. Today, she serves as the Deputy Director of the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA. Her mother and an elementary school teacher were the encouragement she needed in her early years for her to follow her dreams.

Girls’ education in Costa Rica is becoming even more important because the government is also pushing to help girls utilize education to for success in life. As a step in this direction, the country raised the marriage age to 18 without parental consent in January 2017 to protect young individuals from marrying too young.

According to Their World, the law was put in place to hopefully “prevent teen pregnancy and girls dropping out of school – but enforcement could be a challenge among indigenous communities where child marriage is prevalent.” Under this law, the individual could face a maximum three-year imprisonment for having sex with a minor under the age of 15 if the age difference is more than five years.

Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

In conclusion, Costa Rica is attempting to help girls get an education through free schooling and protection from societal pressures such as child marriage. Students from Costa Rica are also fighting to have more money invested in their education so they’re able to continue pursuing their passions.

Organizations like The Women’s Empowerment Coalition help women acquire their education by actively working with women seeking an education, and hopefully their actions will be repeated by other groups across the globe.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ education in Malaysia
Girls’ education and access to education have been improving around the world, particularly because of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals which set access to education as a major focus. In particular, girls’ education in Malaysia has been on an upward trend for the past few years.

Enrollment levels for girls are equal to or higher than enrollment for boys across the nation, and a higher number of girls complete advanced education than boys. Enrollment trends are a major way of assessing access to education and inclusion in the education system.

Malaysian Female Participation in STEM

However, while these statistics show real progress and effective attempts at change by the government and other organizations, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed. For example, the number of girls participating in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in Malaysia is significantly lower than that of boys.

Girls in Malaysia need to be encouraged to pursue STEM fields and teachers and programs need to be more gender inclusive and sensitive. As STEM fields continue to grow in the nation, gender disparities will continue to increase unless they are targeted by policy and programs.

Gender Inequality in Girls’ Education in Malaysia

Another issue is that girls’ education in Malaysia is not translating into equal opportunities and empowerment once they finish school. In 2016, the World Economic Forum produced the Global Gender Gap Report which scored and ranked nations on the Global Gender Gap Index. It focused on five main aspects of equality: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. Malaysia ranked 106 in the world, with a score of 0.666, where 1.00 indicates gender parity and 0.00 indicates the worst inequality.

While Malaysia scored a .985 for educational attainment, girls still do not have equal economic opportunities or political empowerment. This is an area that the government must focus on by implementing programs to target these issues and ensuring that education translates into tangible advantages once girls have left the school system and entered the workforce.

Working to Improve Education in Malaysia

There are a number of organizations that have committed to working on girls’ education in Malaysia, such as UNICEF Malaysia and the All Women’s Action Society Malaysia. These organizations can be an asset to the government and can further the progress that has already been made.

While these are not the only issues challenging gender parity, using a more targeted approach will be beneficial in the long run. With this approach to education and strong planning for the future, Malaysia may be on its way to a more well-rounded society.

– Liyanga de Silva
Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Venezuela
The people of Venezuela are currently suffering as a result of the economic and political crisis occurring in the nation, which has affected girls’ education in Venezuela severely. Public schools that used to be ranked among the top in South America are now rarely opened for class. The annual dropout rate has doubled and more than one-quarter of teenagers are not enrolled in school. Additionally, according to Foundation Bengoa, a quarter of Venezuelan children missed class in the 2017-2018 school year because of hunger.

The many protests and high crime rate put students at risk and disrupt the school day often. According to Business Insider, more than one-quarter of teenagers are not even enrolled in school due to fear and lack of resources. According to Tupac Amaru Rivas, the head of El Sistema school in Caracas, parents often prefer to keep their children at home and teachers often cannot attend school so the school is forced to cancel class.

How the Venezuelan Government is Reacting

Although there is proof of a decline in the quality of education, the government refuses to acknowledge this by insisting that 75 percent of the national budget goes to the social sector. President Maduro released a statement saying, “Amid the economic war, the fall of oil prices, international harassment and financial persecution, not a single school has closed.” Venezuela currently ranks last globally in the Rule of Law Index. The lack of transparency and press coverage means that some official information is inaccurate or unavailable.

Ever since former President Hugo Chavez came into power, delivering a high-quality education to the youth was a priority in Venezuela. However, due to the recent economic and political crisis, girls’ education in Venezuela and education, in general, has taken a hit.

Issues Affecting Girls’ Education in Venezuela

School in Venezuela is often canceled because of the lack of basic utilities and food. The Caracas Public High School has even had to close down for weeks at a time.  A group of parents has said that Venezuelan children have missed an average of 40 percent of class time because of canceled classes.

The schools have also been affected by crime and instability in the country. Teachers are among those who have been shot, murdered or are missing. Additionally, teachers even exchange a passing grade for food. It is also common for teachers not to show up to class because they are waiting in food lines for their families.

Issues Within the Venezuelan School System

Even when school is open, what is being taught in schools is often flawed. The Associated Press has reported that some schools even leave textbooks delivered by the government unopened because teachers see them as “too full of pro-socialist propaganda to use.” This not only affects girls’ education in Venezuela but also education in the nation as a whole.

Education itself it suffering enough and the gender gap continues to increase in the midst of the economic crisis. In 2017, Venezuela scored 0.71 on the Gender Gap Index compared to 0.69 for the three previous years, meaning that women are approximately 29 percent less likely than men to have equal opportunities.

Although this is concerning, Venezuela is known to have very little discrimination in educational and social institutions. Rates of school enrollment and years of education in Venezuela are about the same for girls and boys.

The issue of the educational decline in Venezuela needs to be addressed before it is too late. A spokeswomen from the Movement of Organized Parents in Venezuela told the Associated Press, “This country has abandoned its children. By the time we see the full consequences, there will be no way to put it right.” Education, specifically girls’ education in Venezuela, will continue to suffer until these issues are dealt with.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Chad
In 1960, Chad achieved independence from France. For close to half a century, Chad was embroiled in regional conflict and internal upheaval. As the conflict has begun to subside, the Chadian government is pursuing increased governance and development. Girls’ education in Chad is a salient point in development for the government.

As the Chadian government works to improve educational conditions for girls and the population at large, Chad continues to receive a large influx of refugees from Nigeria, Libya and the Central African Republic. For many of these refugees, the chances of returning to their countries seem unlikely. Therefore, the issue of providing education to girls becomes an even greater task. 

Statistics on Girls’ Education in Chad Show Inequality Compared to Boys

According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), the female literacy rate between the ages of 15 and 24 is roughly 41 percent. In contrast, the literacy rate for males in the same range sits at 53 percent. Furthermore, 49 percent of females have never attended primary school, compared to 42 percent of males. Furthermore, the Global Education Monitoring Report notes that the average number of years of education for females is 3.16 years.

Although the Chadian government has made primary and secondary education compulsory, girls are disproportionately less educated. One major contributor to this was the now-defunct legal marriage age. According to Chadian law, girls were allowed to marry at the age of 15, and 72.3 percent of girls married before the age of 18. At face value, this may not appear to be a major reason why girls have less access to school. However, it becomes evident when studying secondary school statistics. The transition from primary to secondary education for girls is 82 percent, which remains relatively close to male transition rates. But only 9 percent of these females manage to complete their secondary education, presumably because many girls married and left school.

Government Projects and New Marriage Age Minimum Help Girls

Chad has received large amounts of support from UNICEF through various education initiatives. One initiative, the Revitalizing Basic Education in Chad project, aims to provide quality education to impoverished children and adolescents in Chad. The project’s major goals are to provide quality education for 34,760 children who are currently out of school. Supporting the Chadian government’s efforts, this initiative plans to raise primary school completion rates to 80 percent by 2020. This project has the potential to greatly improve girls’ education in Chad. 

In 2015, Chad’s president launched a campaign to end child marriage and raise the legal marriage age to 18. This initiative was entered as a bill in Chad’s parliament and was successfully passed in 2016. Strict penalties were introduced; an individual who marries a female under the age of 18 can face up to 10 years in prison and a substantial fine. This legislative success will play a major role in girls’ education in Chad. 

Girls’ education in Chad still presents major challenges to the government and NGOs. However, great strides have been made to improve girls’ education in the country. With the support of UNGEI and continued educational reforms passed by the Chadian government, as well as raising the legal age of marriage, the future of girls’ education in Chad is improving. For these successes to continue, it is imperative that Chad continues to receive aid and guidance in developing a robust educational system. The ultimate goal is equal opportunity for all. 

– Colby McCoy
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Belize
In Belize, the gender gap between men and women has been prevalent and consistent. However, in 1990, a bill was signed into law prohibiting discrimination against women based on their gender. Since then, the country has promoted women’s rights and has specifically focused on girls’ education. There are three major ways the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee has promoted a better life and has improved girls’ education in Belize.

Increased Literacy a Result of Girls’ Education in Belize

More young women are literate than ever before, leading to a more balanced workforce. Literacy, a strong indicator of equality, has increased in younger women. When literacy increases, nationwide productivity is enhanced and the reduced gender imbalance allows for a more equitable work environment between the sexes. As such, women are being given a chance to obtain degrees and higher positions in the workforce.

Not only is it statistically proven that a nation’s economy benefits from girls’ education, the social impact of girls’ education in Belize allows for cohesive collaboration for well-being in Belize. A country such as Belize that is working towards progressive goals can only benefit from closing the gender gap between those in the workforce.

While the gender gap is not wholly solved by the presence of more young girls in school, there is a significant increase in women both in post-secondary education and in the workforce. There are discrepancies in pay, but the step of promoting literacy to young girls is an important step in building a stronger Belize.

Women Gaining Access to More Diverse Career Options

The more women there are attending schools, the more the gender-career divide disappears. Without initial education, there would not be a basis upon which to form the beginnings of a woman’s career. Historically, the church-state setup of the Belizean government has promoted that women, specifically women who do not conform to the ideal standards set by the church, should remain at home and fulfill tasks for the family rather than for the economy.

While there is no shame in a woman being at home for her family, the promotion of girls’ education in Belize is making that scenario just one option of many for women. In addition to the classic educational materials, women are now being given the option to study for previously male-dominated careers via hands-on skills in carpentry, mechanics and other areas. By addressing the traditions of separating men and women into categories of whom should perform what action in society, Belize is well on the way to developing a strong nation with a multifaceted and talented workforce.

Emphasis on Women’s Equality Reduces Domestic Violence

A focus on education promotes health and independence, which are important for a developing country. Historically, there has been a connection between women with lower education levels and higher levels of domestic violence experienced by those women. In promoting gender equality in schools for girls between ages three and five, a sense of pride, autonomy and strength develops.

In providing an alternative to learning domestic tasks, the Belizean government may begin to reduce the pressing issue of domestic violence. The efforts being made in Belize show that there will likely be more progress in a country that needs both men and women to contribute to its economic growth.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr