Education for Girls in Developing Countries
The U.K. has recently pledged to put £100 million towards education for girls in developing countries.

The initiative was announced at the Girls Education Forum in London, with a particular focus on the role that technology will play in reducing the number of girls unable to attend schools around the world. According to the BBC, the initiative will be dispersed mainly across sub-Saharan Africa and will provide for smartcards (to monitor attendance and incentivize families) and satellite broadband (for internet connectivity in more rural areas).

Education’s Effects

The chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Julia Gillard, praised the initiative to the BBC and said, “When we educate girls, we see reduced child deaths, healthier children and mothers, fewer child marriages and faster economic growth.”

The pledge comes as a follow-up to Britain’s Girls Education Challenge. The challenge, launched in 2012, aims to give £300 million to 37 projects in 18 countries to ensure that girls in developing countries have access to the education they need to rise up out of poverty.

Education for girls in developing countries is important for a variety of reasons. Aside from the moral obligation to give girls the opportunity to take advantage of their right to an education, educating women and girls has proven economic and sociological impacts.

Female Empowerment

According to UNICEF, gross domestic product per capita increases with the enrollment of girls in primary school. Educated girls also learn the skills they need to make healthier life decisions, both for themselves and for their future families. Mothers are also much more likely to send their daughters to school if they too received an education, so providing girls with schooling increases the prospects of future generations.

This pledge comes on the heels of a similar initiative to increase access to education for girls: the iMlango program. Since its inception, the program has provided Android tablets, broadband internet, and interactive learning tools to 195 schools in Kenya.

IMlango has been touted as a success, increasing attendance in schools by 15%, and officials hope that the new initiative will create similar results. Girls across the world depend on organizations and programs such as these to boost not only their education, but their quality of life as well; thankfully, it seems that these females are in very capable hands.

Sabrina Santos

Photo: Pixabay

Right now, there are more than 800 million women and girls around the world who are menstruating. Many of them, thanks to modern day convinces such as easily accessible feminine products, are able to go about their day as they normally would.

However, girls and women living in poverty do not have this luxury. Thousands of them do not have access to a clean toilet with running water. Most of them are not able to afford menstrual hygiene supplies and some might not even know what is happening to them.

A study in India found that almost 70 percent of girls had never been educated on menstruation and were unaware of what was happening to their body the first time they menstruated.

Seeing as about half of the world’s population menstruates at some point in their life and the inability to effectively manage it has rippling effects, ensuring that girls and women have the proper tools and knowledge to manage their monthly cycle is imperative to allow them to prosper every day of every year.

In many developing countries, primary and secondary school dropout rates are higher for girls when compared to boys. Girls make up over 54 percent of the uneducated population of the world.

In many countries, girls are not culturally or legally allowed to attend school or they are needed to stay home and help generate an income for their families. However, at least a portion of this percentage have dropped out of school due to more subtle, but more easily addressable, reasons.

Girls in developing countries not only have to face intense discrimination in their pursuit of an education but also the fact that, in many poor countries, feminine hygiene products are unavailable or too expensive.

So, girls are left to make due with alternatives such as unsterilized cloths, newspaper, bark, banana leaves and even dung. Most of these alternatives are not only unhygienic and can lead to serious health issues, but are also ineffective.

This leads to many girls staying home from school while they are menstruating, thus causing them to miss nearly an entire month of school every year.

Most sanitary pads that are used during menstruation are made from pine-fiber, which is an expensive material to make and is generally imported from Norway or North America.

An organization in Kenya, ZanaAfrica, which is supported by Grand Challenges Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has been working to patent a new, inexpensive pad that is made using free agricultural byproducts. It is their hope that these new sanitary pads improve health for girls.

Megan Mukuria and Dr. Lawino Kagumba from the organization are the primary leaders of this effort and they have been experimenting with different formulas and designs on how to manufacture an effective, yet inexpensive sanitary pad for girls living in developing or poor nations.

They are hopeful that by addressing the need for cheaper, yet still effective, feminine hygiene products they can not only decrease health issues resulting from improper menstruation care, but also decrease school dropout rates for young girls.

Brittney Dimond

Sources: UNICEF, Impatient Optimists 1, Impatient Optimists 2
Photo: Pixabay

Girls in developing nations have been facing hardships like violent civil wars and survival in unfamiliar countries as refugees. Their gender and age makes them vulnerable to harassment, exploitation, violence and being bought and sold as child brides.

Many are prevented from attending school and receiving proper health care. Instead of being able to develop their own identity and pursue their personal dreams, they are urged to work for the benefit of their family.

A program by the International Rescue Committee called Vision Not Victim was started to supply girls with the skills and support they need in order to realize their potential and make their dreams a reality.

Meredith Hutchison traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the summer of 2010 to work with local girls. There, she saw the widespread dangers of domestic violence and sexual assault women face all too frequently.

Three years later, Hutchinson began the Vision Not Victim Project which uses photography to impact the lives of girls in poverty. Girls understand the difficulties associated with poor health care and corrupt leadership. Even more, they have their own ideas about how to make positive changes in their community.

“I believe that as much as photographs help us understand terrible truths about war and poverty, as in Congo, they can also help us see the world in a new light: they can showcase our triumphant moments, illuminate role models and create positive visions of the future.”

Here’s how it works: girls ranging in ages 11 to 16, with the help of female leaders from their community, talk about their goals and design a vision for the future. Girls then sketch a tangible picture that represents these goals and the program gets to work recreating it in a photoshoot.

During each session, Hutchinson has noticed the confidence that builds for girls when they see their goals play out before them. Just by providing some props and an appropriate location, participants ‘try on their future’ with courage and grace.

This is promising. As young women, these girls play a very important part in the future of their community and their own lives. True, a photograph is not a final solution, but it does work to propel them in the right direction. Seeing pictures of themselves achieving their goals is very motivating.

Once the photographs are printed, girls share them with their families and community. It can inspire others to envision their own goals as well as realize the potential of young women.

These photographs also have the ability to motivate people in developed countries. It puts faces to the disasters. People are reminded that when they donate to aid groups, they are improving the lives of real people working towards a brighter future for the whole world.

The Vision Not Victim program has worked with girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo and girls in Jordan as Syrian refugees. It is being spread to other developing countries and even for refugee girls resettled in the United States.

– Lilian Sickler

Sources: International Rescue Committee, USAID, The Daily Beast, Women in Foreign Policy
Photo: The Daily Beast

How the SHEVA Company is Helping Girls Stay in School
In developing countries, girls often miss school or drop out entirely when they begin menstruating. Many are reluctant to tackle this issue because of the taboo that still surrounds menstruation, but it is a widespread problem that affects the education of millions of girls worldwide. In India, girls’ schools often lack functioning toilets, and in Burkina Faso and Niger, there are usually no places at schools for girls to change sanitary pads or dispose of waste. In Ghana, inadequate sanitation facilities, lack of access to sanitary products and physical discomforts related to menstruation, such as cramps, cause girls to miss an average of five days of school over the course of any given month.

Girls who drop out of school continue to struggle throughout their lives. They are more likely to marry and engage in sexual activity earlier. Because they are also less likely to use contraception, they typically have more children than girls who complete their schooling. This can trap them in the cycle of poverty. When girls miss school because of menstruation, they are held back from many opportunities by a completely natural physical process that should never have to interfere with their education.

That’s why SHEVA, a company launched in October 2014 by Marisabel Ruiz, is currently working in Guatemala to provide girls with sanitary hygiene products. Ruiz, who was born in Guatemala, decided to start these efforts in her native country because she already had connections there that could help SHEVA to reach more girls. Women can go to SHEVA’s website to purchase a variety of products, such as pads from familiar brands like Kotex and Playtex, or other items related to sexual health like condoms and pregnancy tests. With every purchase, SHEVA donates a month’s supply of sanitary pads to a girl in need.

SHEVA has also partnered with the organization Abriendo Oportunidades to provide health education to girls. They have created a two-year program that primarily focuses on what menstruation is, personal hygiene and women’s rights.

So far, SHEVA has provided sanitary pads to 300 girls, and 25 girls have enrolled in the educational program. A total of 5 million people have accessed free educational information on their website. Their next goal is to teach girls to make sanitary pads on their own, using biodegradable, locally available materials such as banana fibers.

Currently, only people in the U.S. can order from SHEVA’s website, but they plan to expand both their shipping and on-the-ground services to other countries in order to help as many girls as possible. SHEVA’s support for girls has helped them continue pursuing their education and has taught many that menstruation is nothing to be ashamed of.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: Girl Effect, Mashable, Menstrual Hygiene Day, SHEVA

Women face challenges everyday across the globe, from discrimination to sexual harassment. However, their biggest obstacle comes once a month from their own bodies. Women and girls in developing countries find it hard to feel confident and practice proper hygiene. When girls are menstruating, they choose to stay home to prevent embarrassment from leaking. The Huffington Post found that some girls would go days without food or water sitting on cardboard until their period was over.

Women and girls in poor countries do not have easy access to sanitary pads, therefore the impact menstruation has on them affects their everyday lives. Indra, from Nepal says “I asked the neighbors to borrow some cloth, and I had to use it for five days without any chance to wash it,” according to Water Aid. In developing countries clean water and private bathroom facilities are another challenge girls face. When girls do not feel comfortable attending school and women refrain working in fields, it sets them back from achieving their full potential.

An important aspect of feminine hygiene is education. “One study found that nearly 70 percent of girls had no idea what was happening to them the first time they menstruated,” according to the Gates Foundation. This means their mothers lacked in educating their daughters on their bodies. With proper sexual education STD’s can be prevented and early pregnancy can be avoided. Girls can also learn to keep track of their cycle and prepare for their period.

Although women and girls face challenges with their bodies, the organization Days for Girls International is fighting to improve the lives of women across the world. Days for Girls sells affordable sanitary kits with reusable pads, travel soaps, panties, and a Ziploc bag for soiled items. The social business Ruby Cup, has innovated a reusable silicon menstrual cup lasting up to 10 years and can be used up to 12 hours.

Every day girls get their period and the struggles girls face in poor countries are sometimes over looked. Businesses making this issue a primary focus will create better lives for girls who are losing a chance at education or income. By 2022, Days for Girls wishes to see every girl around the world access hygiene and education. If women and girls can continue to work in school and on the fields, the world can come closer to ending poverty with their constant efforts.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: Huffington Post, Water Aid, Impatient Optimists, Days For Girls
Photo: Too Little Children