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10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

Yemen is located in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula between Oman and Saudi Arabia. Getting access to education has been one of the major challenges children in Yemen face in recent years, especially girls. Here are eight facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

8 facts about girls’ education in Yemen

  1. In Yemen, about 32 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 with 9 percent being married before turning 15. Due to poverty, girls in Yemen are being married off as a source of income. Marriage will reduce the cost of looking after girls and is believed to offer girls the safety a husband can provide. However, Girls Not Brides is an organization dedicated to ending child marriage. This organization aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of child marriages through open discussions with communities. It mobilizes policy to bring child marriages to an end and works to empower girls and offer them a support network.
  2. According to UNICEF, there is a significant gender gap in education in Yemen’s youth with males enrolled in primary school at 79 percent and females at 66 percent. However, UNICEF is working with the government of Yemen on decreasing this gap and improving the quality of education. The goal is to increase the number of girls enrolled in school. It is also working with other organizations to improve conditions for teachers in Yemen, which will increase access to education overall.
  3. The goal of the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project is to improve gender equity and quality of secondary education with a specific focus on girls in rural areas. This project works on improving and furnishing school facilities, providing learning equipment and resources and offering schools community grants. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning practices in classrooms and increasing girls’ participation. The project helped increase enrollment from 0.43 to 0.63 and increased the retention rate of 10 to 12-year-old girls to 85 percent from 78 percent.
  4. In Yemen, public schools are co-ed until grade four though girls and boys are usually seated apart from each other. Due to cultural and traditional beliefs, co-ed classrooms are not acceptable. Some families decide not to enroll their daughters in school because of the lack of separate classrooms.
  5. In Yemen, about 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. In rural areas, school accessibility is a challenge. Some students must walk for more than an hour to get to the nearest school. The distance becomes longer in higher grade levels because some schools do not offer both primary and secondary education. For girls, schools must be at a culturally acceptable distance and location in order to attend classes.
  6. Due to violence and closed schools that began in 2015, more than 350,000 children couldn’t go to school that first year. A total of about 2.2 million children have been left out of school. However, in 2016, UNICEF was able to provide about 575,000 children with educational resources and psychological encouragement.
  7. Save the Children is an organization that protects children’s rights. It has programs such as education, protection, health and more. Save the Children was the first worldwide aid group in Yemen. This organization has set up temporary learning spaces for children, trained teachers and provided equipment. It runs learning programs for children who did not attend school to help them catch up. In addition, the organization runs educational programs for displaced children in camps.
  8. USAID is working with the government of Yemen to improve school attendance by make schools cleaner and safer. USAID is working to rebuild schools, improve curriculum and provide “safe and equitable access to education” through Yemen’s Transition Education Plan. USAID is dedicating $36 million to education in Yemen.

Education for girls still remains an unsettled issue today. However, through the efforts and determination of the government of Yemen and organizations such as USAID and Save the children, there is hope that all girls may get an education in the near future.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

The Elders' Advocacy in Africa
Created in 2007 by former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders that work together for social justice and human rights. The organization promotes advocacy through several different avenues including supporting ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation, assisting conflict countries and regions, enacting interventions for global health coverage and working with governmental leaders to enact justice for citizens. For its current activities, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa is particularly notable.

Girls Not Brides Organization

In 2011, The Elders created the Girls Not Brides organization, dedicated to ending child marriage practices. The organization is based in 100 countries and became an independent charity in 2013. The Elders member, Graca Machel, is co-founder and champion for Girls Not Brides. The organization’s efforts to improve the lives of women extends through the Elders’ advocacy work in Africa.

The African Union joined Girls Not Brides to support ending child marriages and initiated a campaign in 2014 that extended to 2017. The African Union’s and Girls Not Brides’ comradery resulted in 22 countries supporting their initiatives. By December 2017, these countries included Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, The Gambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. 

Advocacy in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe became part of the African Union’s campaign towards ending child marriages in Africa in 2015. Through its efforts, the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court banned marriages under the age of 18. Prior to the impact of Girl Not Brides in 2016, one in three girls or 31 percent married before the age of 18. In addition, 4 percent of girls married before the age of 15.

The Zimbabwean government held to its new principles, recognizing 18 as the minimum age for marriage. The Customary Marriages Act in Zimbabwe, which previously had no minimum age requirement, restricted legal marriage to 18 years of age in 2016. In 2016, the Zimbabwean courts also revoked provisions that permitted teenage girls to marry with their parents’ consent. According to a study by the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health survey in 2015, 77 percent of women between ages 15 and 19 were unmarried in Zimbabwe versus the 17 percent that were married. Through Girls Not Brides, the Elders’ advocacy in Africa helped extend to specifically benefiting girls in Zimbabwe.

Advocacy in South Africa

Beyond Girls Not Brides, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa also extends to supporting South African health reforms. On September 6, 2019, The Elders’ chair, Grace Machel, backed health reforms in South Africa on behalf of the organization. The National Health Insurance (NHI) reforms are being proposed by the current President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, to “improve publicly funded health care and build social solidarity.” The Washington Post cites that 84 percent of South Africa’s 59 million people lack medical insurance, further highlighting the need for reforms.

The South African news source, News24, describes that under NHI reforms, the government will implement a package of health services. The package includes health services for free at both private and public medical facilities. Health care could then be more accessible with state control.

The Impact of Personal Experience

The Elders supports these reforms as a chance for South Africa to create equality in its health care systems and reduce the corruption of private insurance schemes. The promotion of universal health coverage from The Elders comes from a place of experience in its home countries. Richard Lagos, former President of Chile, and Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, spoke out about universal health coverage reforms and the benefits to their respective countries after periods of dictatorship. Lagos and Brundtland commented, while giving speeches in South Africa, that universal health coverage is key in rebuilding civic life. The advising of the South African government comes from personal experience, hoping to better the lives of South African citizens.  News24 cites that the NH1 reforms plan to go into effect by March 2020.

Overall, The Elders’ advocacy in Africa highlights the improvements made for citizens through the creation of Girls Not Brides. However, meetings and support for African governments bring positive change. This highlights the effectiveness and reasoning of why its meetings with African leaders are vital. Through The Elders’ efforts, Africa gains both concrete developments to help girls and provide support from a place of wisdom.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Pixabay

Sonita Alizadeh’s Feminist Advocacy
Sonita Alizadeh is a 22-year-old rapper from Herat, Afghanistan. She became an advocate for humanitarian issues such as child marriage in 2014 after winning $1,000 in a U.S. music competition where she wrote a song encouraging Afgan people to vote. Sonita’s music video “Brides for Sale” also premiered in 2014 on YouTube, kickstarting her career and garnering over one million views as of 2019. This article will focus on Afghanistan’s policies on child marriage, Sonita’s history and how Sonita’s advocacy is making an impact. All of these aspects highlight the importance of Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Afganistan and Child Marriage

In 1997, the Republic of Afghanistan permitted girls under the age of 16 to marry with the consent of their father or a judge under a civil code. In 1994, the Afghanistan government set the minimum age of marriage to 18, and in 2009 passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law; yet people often do not implement protections. The advocacy organization against child marriage, Girls Not Brides, cites UNICEF’s statistics for child marriage in Afganistan as of 2017: 9 percent of girls marry by 15 and 35 percent marry by 18.

Child marriages that still happen in Afghanistan often occur for several reasons including a lack of female education, displacement, dispute settlements for rival families and traditional family values and practices.

Afghanistan has made progress such as making ending child marriage a sustainable development (SDG) goal by 2030. Afghan women, such as Sonita Alizadeh, are speaking out when the government is not helping them effectively. That is why Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy is vital; it gives the people that child marriage affects a chance to speak for themselves.

Sonita Alizadeh’s History

Sonita Alizadeh and members of her family escaped Taliban rule in Afghanistan and journeyed to Tehran, Iran. There, Sonita began creating music, although it is illegal for women to sing a solo in the country. Her music was about the hardships she had seen her friends endure in Afghanistan when their parents encouraged them to marry as young as 12.

Sonita had to advocate for herself at 16 when her mother visited her from Afghanistan. Sonita received the opportunity to return to her home country if agreed to marry. Her mother planned to have a dowry set with a man for $9,000 for Sonita as a bride. This prompted Sonita to make her first YouTube video in response to her predicament, the video “Brides for Sale.” The video got the attention of the Strongheart organization in the U.S. The group sponsored 17-year-old Sonita in 2014 with a student visa to attend Wasatch Academy in Utah on a full scholarship. Sonita’s first concert in America was in May 2015, and she began sending money home to her mother living in Afghanistan.

Sonita’s Activism

After moving to the U.S., Sonita Alizadeh used her platform to speak about child marriage. Her YouTube channel has 12 videos that range from her music to interviews to Sonita’s graduation speech from Wasatch Academy in 2018. Sonita uses her platform to educate the 11.1 thousand subscribers she had as of 2019. BBC listed Sonita as one of its 100 women people should recognize in 2015 and inspired a European documentary based on her life that premiered in 2016 and won a NETPAC Award.

Recently, Sonita debuted a new song at the 2018 Social Good Summit concert in New York City. As of 2019, Sonita attends Bard College in New York where she represented her school in the Women Warriors: The Voices of Change concert event at the Lincoln Center in September 2019. Organizations such as the Strongheart Group, Global Citizen and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization support Sonita’s Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy.

Conclusion

The voices of Afghan women are vital in battling injustice. Sonita Alizadeh’s feminist advocacy highlights the determination of one woman to empower women forced into child marriages. The light Sonita sheds on the hardships Afghan women are also valuable as a form of advocacy, making those who did not grow up with her background understand the needs of women in dire situations.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesChild marriage is one of the biggest problems affecting young women in third world countries. Roughly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year. That translates to around 41,000 girls every day. Child marriage affects young girls throughout third world countries by cutting off their access to education, harming their health and making them more susceptible to cases of domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage also puts a strain on a country’s economy and will end up costing them trillions of dollars over the next 10 years. Though the statistics appear devastating, several organizations are dedicated to ending child marriages in third world countries.

Africa, Asia and the Middle East have the highest percentages of child marriage. Research done by CARE, an organization fighting global poverty, provided the top 26 countries where girls under the age of 18 are more likely to get married rather than enroll in secondary school. The country with the lowest percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is Niger with only 10 percent. However, 76 percent of girls in Niger are married before age 18. Other countries with significantly low enrollment rates include Somalia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides became an independent charity in 2013. It is an organization committed to ending child marriages. There are 1,300 civil organizations from 100 countries involved in the organization. The sole intention of Girls Not Brides is to end child marriage so girls can live a fulfilling and healthy life. Its main goal is to bring global attention to child marriage and support laws or programs that will protect girls worldwide from the dangers of child marriage.

Girls Not Brides also offers support to those who were already married all over the world. They believe that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years old for both boys and girls. This is in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Girls Not Brides aims to encourage an open dialogue about the dangers of child marriage, work with other organizations to end child marriage and help to introduce different policies and funding to end child marriage.

In 2016, Girls Not Brides published a strategy set on their plan to tackle child marriage from 2017 until 2020. The plan is an overarching blueprint of what the organization wants to do that is based on their successes in its 2014-2016 plan. Its number one goal is to work with governments to get child marriage legislation passed as well as bring it to the attention of lawmakers. Other goals include globalizing, engaging communities, increasing their funding and donations, using facts and evidence to further their claims about child marriage and setting up partnerships with other organizations.

Other Organizations Fighting Child Marriages

Even though Girls Not Brides is one of the only organization that is dedicated specifically to fighting child marriage, there are other organizations that have made ending child marriages a part of their mission. CARE focuses on ending global poverty through women’s empowerment. Breakthrough uses more artistic and creative means to fight for social justice, which includes children’s rights. Humanim is an NGO fighting for children’s rights and protections.

On a more local level, some organizations focus nationally. In Egypt, the Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions works under the Childs Rights International Network to protect the basic human rights of children. Seya, in Yemen, is a children’s rights organization that puts protecting children as its most important mission. Vasavya Mahila Mandali, which is one of two organizations based in India that believes in empowering women and children.

Child marriage is a huge issue for girls and young women globally. It is one of the top three things holding girls back from obtaining an education and living their lives to the fullest potential. Child marriage violates a young girl’s autonomy and puts her in danger of being seriously injured or, at worst, killed. The existence of Girls Not Brides and the other organizations that are dedicated to ending child marriages and working to educate the public about it are making the world a better place for those who are at risk of becoming a child bride.

Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

terminating child marriage
Child marriage and its confining consequences affect 650 million women across the world and violate human rights. Some of these are access to health care and economic opportunity. While UNICEF databases indicate that the prevalence of child marriage has considerably decreased by at least 6 percent since 1995, child marriage rates remain urgent and concerning; 12 million girls under 18 enter a marriage or early union globally each year.

The persistence of child marriage in a globalized age remains a barrier that obstructs the world from achieving international social justice. Aims to discover the key to terminating child marriage is only a modern development, as child marriage had been the norm virtually everywhere up until the 20th century. In the 21st century, the practice conflicts with a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the U.N. in 2015, such as gender equality, no poverty and decent work and economic growth.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Gender equality: Women make up the vast majority of child marriage victims, largely lacking the necessary empowerment from their communities to escape such conditions. Often feeling as though they lack any other choice, they enter the immobilizing hands of long-held social norms and thus continuing gender inequalities. Subsequently, they are unable to escape their impoverished conditions.
  2. No poverty: Just as poverty is a consequence of child marriage, it too serves as a driving cause. In rural regions where large family sizes and poverty commonly go hand in hand, families send off young daughters in arranged marriages as an attempt to reduce their financial burden. The attempt largely fails, however, and the cycle of poverty for these families and girls continues.
  3. Decent work and economic growth: Barred from freedom and choice in major life decisions, it is no surprise that these 15 million child victims entering marriage each year lack economic independence. Not only do these conditions mean the disabling of girls from unlocking their potential, but according to Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, it also restrains countries, where child marriage is most prominent, from achieving significant and otherwise attainable economic growth.

Other SDGs that clash with child marriage include quality education and reduced inequalities. Given the prevalence and urgency of this human rights issue, to make true progress within the variety of goals, the U.N. set Target 5.3 of the SDGs to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

The UN’s Inter-Agency Program

Latin America and the Caribbean are regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage, following Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As such, the U.N. made it a priority to target this region to accomplish SDG target 5.3. Specifically, it intended to accomplish this with an inter-agency program covering five countries.

  1. The Dominican Republic, where 36 percent of girls married before 18 in 2017.
  2. Guatemala, where 30 percent of girls married before 18.
  3. Colombia, where 23 percent of girls married before 18.
  4. El Salvador, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.
  5. Mexico, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.

This program involved the uniting of the UNPF, UNICEF and U.N. Women in October 2017 to discuss their shared experiences alongside Latin American inter-institutional actors. Moreover, it was “to identify common challenges and strategies and develop national and regional roadmaps to contribute to compliance with the SDGs” according to UNICEF’s official file.

Those involved included members of civil society and international organizations, government officials and even adolescent girls serving as the program’s youth network representatives. The U.N. uses the power of diversity to effectively analyze, evaluate and prescribe for the pressing matter at hand.

Four Main Program Outcomes

The program ultimately proved that communication and cooperation among these diverse parties are key to terminating child marriage. The first step to progress is to discover and discuss the root causes of the critical issue. Through mutual respect for one another and collective discussion, key causes that participants agreed upon during the program included poverty and inequalities, as well as gender-based violence. With their first-hand experiences, the adolescent representatives disclosed the majority of the drivers discussed. Key causes they shared included school dropout, social harassment and the lack of resources available for pregnant and/or married girls.

Four main outcomes came out of the program, agreed upon by all involved parties as key to terminating child marriage. They were as follows:

  1. Create legal reforms to raise the legal age of marriage in all countries with no exceptions. Participants thoroughly discussed challenges in doing so and in promoting awareness of such legal changes. Since the program, a legislation change that occurred was the Mexico Senate’s approval of a total ban on underage marriage.
  2. Promote policies and services in the areas of health, education and gender equality, among others, and make them far more accessible in all regions. Involved parties agreed that a key means of doing so would require working at the community level and from among civil society, such as teaching males the good of gender equality.
  3. Empower girls in all Latin American and Caribbean countries. This would be accomplished by teaching adolescent girls their sexual rights as well as using social networks to reach and further educate them. This method would be particularly effective since there is a rising amount of internet usage in Latin America.
  4. Create a multilateral platform to maximize efficiency in the fight against child marriage within Latin America and beyond. The collaboration innate to this program would optimistically enter the future with cooperative methods such as pooling resources and advocating for girls’ rights internationally.

Countries should consider each of the four outcomes when implementing future national and international developments and projects meant to end underage marriage. The evident prioritizing of international cooperation is key to terminating child marriage. While the battle in doing so is far from over, the future appears bright as endeavors for correspondence and correlating declines in child marriage rates represent the necessary effort— and potential— for change.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in IndiaChild marriage is any formal or informal marriage of one or both individuals under the age of 18. Not only a human rights violation, child marriage also negatively affects a child’s health, physical growth, mental and emotional development and education opportunities. Some reasons for child marriage are poverty, lack of education, political and financial reasons, gender inequalities and improper implementation of the law. Both girls and boys are affected by child marriages; however, girls are affected at a much higher rate. Of 223 million child brides, 102 million are married before they turn 15. One in three of the world’s child marriages are located in India. Fortunately, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India are dedicated to making a change.

4 Nonprofit Organizations Fighting Child Marriage in India

  1. Saarthi Trust: Rehabilitation psychologist Kriti Bhartihe founded Saarthi Trust in 2011. This organization’s main focus is working on the establishment of rights for women and children, child marriage annulment and protection for women and children. Saarthi Trust is the first organization to annul a child marriage in India. Since then, they have successfully annulled 30 marriages and prevented 900. In addition, this organization has rehabilitated 6,000 children and 5,500 women. The Saarthi Trust also offers programs for mental support and education for women and children.  
  2. Aangan Trust: Suparna Gupta founded Aangan Trust in 2002. It works to ensure protection from trafficking, hazardous work, child marriages and violence. This organization trains women to work with child survivors to guarantee that there is no further harm. The women are trained in active listening skills, building empathy and linking children and families to existing services to help reduce risks. This will allow the children to heal, restore their dignity and get back into the community. In addition, these women also build connections with key government agencies, the police and Child Welfare Protection to go through with care plans and to monitor the children’s progress. 
  3. Girls Not Brides: Dedicated to ending child marriages, a group of independent global leaders called The Elders founded the global partnership of Girls Not Brides in 2011. There are members of this organization India, Kenya, Mexico and Senegal. The organization’s main goals are to raise awareness of the negative impact child marriages have through an open, informed and inclusive conversation with communities, facilitate learning with organizations ending child marriages and mobilize policy to end child marriages. The organization works directly with girls by helping them build skills, empowering them and developing support networks. 
  4. Institute of Health Management Pachod (IHMP): Two doctors started IHMP, a nonprofit organization that addresses public health concerns of marginalized groups in India, in 1986. Their main focus is to help vulnerable young girls in rural communities. The IHMP provides life skills and education to these girls in order to make positive life decisions and prevent child marriages. There are several programs offered that support and empower young girls. The institute’s community-based teachers conduct classes that help young girls learn how to negotiate to delay marriage so they can continue their education.

Although child marriages continue to exist, these four nonprofit organizations fighting child marriage in India not only have a positive impact but generate hope for many young boys and girls. 

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesEven in 2019, child marriage remains a global problem. Every year, 12 million girls from all around the world will get married before the age of 18. Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and poverty because in many communities’ girls are still seen as a burden on the family. Marriage is often considered the best way to assure their future. However, there are many organizations and individuals tackling the problem of gender inequality and child marriage. Below are

Five activists whose work is ending child marriages

  1. Nada Al-Ahdal defends children’s rights.
    Nada Al-Ahdal is a Yemeni activist with a personal connection to escaping child marriage. In 2013, at the age of 11, Nada Al-Ahdal ran away from her family’s home in order to prevent a forced marriage to a 26-year-old man. During her escape, Nada Al-Ahdal made a video explaining how, if the marriage had gone through, she would have lost her chance at an education and ruined her life. Furthermore, she would have lost her childhood.
    In the first month of the video being posted, it received more than 8 million views. Nada Al-Ahdal has appeared on Lebanese and Yemeni television, spreading her message for ending child marriages. In 2018, at just 15 years old, Nada founded the Nada Foundation to protect and defend children’s rights. The foundation offers to safe havens. Additionally, it has a number of awareness programs focused on protecting children.
  2. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete speaks out against child marriage.
    At eight years old, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete ran away from her home village in Kenya. She did this in order to avoid undergoing female genital mutilation. As an adult, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has become an activist that negotiates with village elders in Kenya to convince them to adopt alternative rites of passage for girls. She is an officer with Amref Health Africa. Additionally, it is estimated that her work has saved more than 15,000 girls in Kenya for genital mutilation and child marriage. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete now speaks out on a global stage against mutilation and child marriage in Africa. In 2018, she even was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
  3. Fatoumata Sabaly enacts change as an activist.
    Fatoumata Sabaly is from Senegal, where child marriage and female genital mutilation is still fairly common. She is a respected member of her community as a grandmother and mother. She leverages this position as an activist through the Grandmother Project. The Grandmother Project is an NGO that uses the status of elders in communities to enact change and improve the well-being of women and children.
    Fatoumata Sabaly has explained the important work she does in the project: “Sometimes, girls come to tell me their parents are marrying them off, even though they want to stay in school. When this happens, I go to their parents. Out of respect for me, the parents listen to my advice and let their daughters stay in school.” Her activism and authority are helping girls stay in school and out of unwanted marriages.
  4. Arvind Ojha leads an organization fighting child marriage and violence against females.
    Arvind Ojha is the head of URMUL Trust, an organization active in the Indian state of Rajasthan for more than 25 years. Rajasthan has one of the worst child marriage rates in all of India. URMUL Trust works hard in ending child marriage, female genital mutilation and female foeticide. Arvind Ojha has said that “[URMUL Trust doesn’t] just focus on engaging women and children in programs but also older people and even religious leaders. Change is happening. The average age of marriage for girls is increasing.”
    In 2005, URMUL Trust launched a program in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jaisalmer called “Dignity of the Girl Child”. The program was aimed at ending child marriages, domestic violence and female infanticide. In 2011, URMUL Trust became partners with Girls Not Brides in order to strengthen their work to ending child marriage.
  5. Isatou Jeng defends women through advocacy.
    At 15 years old, Isatou Jeng found herself pregnant and with enormous pressure to get married. What she did next broke many societal norms in her home country of Gambia. She demonstrated her passion in ending child marriages by saying, “I stood my ground, refused to marry, and saw education as the best chance for a better life for me and my child.”
    Presently, she leads The Girls Agenda, a nonprofit she founded. The purpose of the organization is to fight for other girls facing gender-based violence and child marriage. Throughout her career as an activist, she has also worked as the advocacy and campaign officer for the Network against Gender-Based Violence. This is a group of organizations that works to defend women and girls in Gambia.
    In 2018, at a conference for women who transform the world, Isatou Jeng said about her involvement with The Girls Agenda, “I did not become a feminist, I was born a feminist.”

Every minute, 23 girls under the age of 18 are married around the world. Consequently, this is the reason that the work these activists and their organizations do is so important and urgent. Even in an era where child brides seem to be a relic of the past, ending child marriages is still a critical issue.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Seven Facts About Girls' Education in Paraguay
The Republic of Paraguay, one of the smaller South American countries, is in the center of the continent, landlocked by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. Although the country’s economy has improved in recent years, the poverty rate in Paraguay was 28.8 percent as of 2017. In rural areas, the figure increased to nearly 40 percent. The U.N. states that educating girls, helping them become empowered, enabling them to work and become community leaders are powerful ways to fight poverty. While girls’ access to education in Paraguay is better than in many other countries, the country still displays disparities in opportunity between male and female Paraguayans. These seven facts about girls’ education demonstrate the barriers to education access that girls in Paraguay face and some efforts to remove these barriers.

Seven Facts about Girls’ Education in Paraguay

  1. Girls’ and women’s literacy rates are rising. According to UNESCO, the literacy rate among the female population aged 15 years and older has risen from 75.85 percent in 1982 to 93.84 percent in 2016. The female literacy rate remains below the male rate, which was 81.83 percent in 2016, but the gap between them has narrowed over the past decade.
  2. Illiteracy rates are higher in rural areas than in urban areas. According to the Pan American Health Organization, the illiteracy rate in Paraguay differs between men and women as well as between people living in urban and rural areas. As of 2010, the illiteracy rate was three percent for urban men, 6.8 percent for rural men, 3.9 percent for urban women and 9.5 percent for rural women. While women’s illiteracy rates are higher than men’s in both areas, rural women are at a particular disadvantage.
  3. As of 2012, 42,490 school-aged girls did not attend school. Girls’ school attendance drops sharply from primary school to secondary school. For both male and female students, the percentage of eligible people who attend school is significantly lower for secondary school than for primary school. Based on survey data collected from 2008 to 2012, UNICEF reports that 83.9 percent of eligible girls enrolled in primary school compared with only 63.4 percent enrolled in secondary school.
  4. More girls than boys enrolled in secondary school. Despite the drop off in female school enrollment from primary to secondary school, a slightly larger percentage of eligible girls enroll in secondary school than eligible boys of the same age.
  5. Many girls stop attending school due to marriage and having children. According to UNICEF data from 2017, 18 percent of girls in Paraguay married by the age of 18 and two percent married by the age of 15. This is a particularly prevalent issue for girls living in poverty. According to Girls Not Brides, a global organization with the goal of ending child marriage, rural girls in Paraguay married before age 18 more than 35 percent of the time in 2017. In addition to high marriage rates for girls, UNICEF data from 2006 to 2010 show the adolescent birth rate to have been 63 births per 1,000 adolescent women and girls. In 2002, 12 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 were mothers.
  6. Despite girls having some access to education, Paraguay still has a long way to go in reaching equality for women. In 2018, only 10.4 percent of elected mayors in the country and 15 percent of legislators were women.
  7. The Paraguayan government has presented a plan to advance the cause of gender equality. The plan, called the National Equality Plan, calls for more women in government and a fight against gendered violence. Specifics of the plan include the elimination of gender discrimination in law and the establishment of a governmental body with the intention of preventing and monitoring gendered violence. The plan, which will be supervised by U.N. Women, aims to achieve its goals by 2030.

While these seven facts about girls’ education in Paraguay indicate that gender equality has advanced significantly, girls and women in the country do not yet have opportunities equal to those afforded to boys and men. Some people, however, have worked hard to put a plan in place to work toward a solution. These facts about girls’ education emphasize the work that will be necessary to make further strides toward gender equality in Paraguay.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in Togo
The Togolese Republic (Togo) is a small West African country on the Gulf of New Guinea that borders Ghana and Benin. With a GDP of $4.75 billion and a GNI per capita of $610, Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. Togo’s education system has faced development setbacks due to various political, monetary and societal reasons yet it remains one of the stronger education systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. These eight facts about education in Togo demonstrate the progress made in certain areas and the need for progress in others.

8 Facts About Education in Togo

  1. Primary Schooling is Compulsory and Free — Due to its history as the French colony of Togoland, education in Togo follows the French model of primary, secondary and higher schooling. Starting at age six, primary education is mandatory for six years. Prior to 2008, public school fees created barriers for impoverished families to send their children to school, but in 2008, UNICEF partnered with Togo’s government to abolish public primary school fees. Togo’s net primary school enrollment was 90 percent in 2017 which is high.
  2. Secondary Education Enrollment Rates are Low — In 2017, only 41 percent of the children eligible enrolled in secondary education. This is an improvement from 2000 when only 23.53 percent of children enrolled in secondary schooling; however, the large enrollment gap between primary and secondary education remains due to costly secondary education fees, poor quality of primary education and the lack of access to schooling in rural areas.
  3. Togo has had Recurring Teacher Strikes — Since 2013, teachers have gone on lengthy strikes numerous times because they were unsatisfied with their working conditions, large class sizes or pay. Teacher salaries in Togo range from $33 to $111 per month while the minimum wage is $64 per month. After months of strikes, the Togo government signed an agreement with trade unions in the spring of 2018, but the future will tell whether this will improve teaching conditions.
  4. Enrollment Rates Do Not Translate into Higher Student Success — Despite having more children enrolled in school, Togo has had increased amounts of students repeating school years and failing to graduate. Several students (37.6 percent) dropped out of primary school in 2012 and 32.42 percent of secondary school students dropped out in 2015.
  5. There is a Gender Disparity in Togo Schooling — In every level of schooling except pre-primary, there are 10 percent fewer girls enrolled than boys. The literacy rate for males in Togo is 77.26 percent and only 51.24 percent for women, which shows a large literacy gap between the sexes. Early or forced marriages force many girls to leave school. International NGO’s such as Girls Not Brides are working in Togo to meet its commitment to end child, early and forced marriages by 2030.
  6. Low Educational Equality for the Rural and Poor — Togo is made up of primarily rural areas and 69 percent of its rural households live under the poverty line as of 2015. Secondary schools tend to be sparse in rural areas with few resources while urban areas tend to have more clusters of secondary schools with more resources. Sixty-eight percent of eligible males and 54 percent of females in urban areas enroll in secondary education while only 45 percent of eligible males and 33 percent of females in rural areas attend secondary school.
  7. The Literacy Rate is Improving Among the Youth of Togo — Adult literacy is around 64 percent while the literacy of those aged 15-25 is 84 percent in Togo. This fact about education in Togo shows progress within creating basic and more widespread educational services such as free primary schooling.
  8. Togo’s Education Strategy for 2014-2025 has Four Important Objectives — The government objectives for improving education include developing quality universal primary education by 2022 and extending pre-primary coverage to rural and poorer areas. In addition, it plans to develop quality secondary, vocational and higher education and decrease the illiteracy rate.

These eight facts about education in Togo show that there is still much to improve in terms of greater educational equality, the availability of key educational resources, gender equality and creating a system of quality education levels. Progress, however, is still occurring as school enrollment and literacy rates increase substantially. The combined efforts of the Togo government and outside organizations are helping accomplish Togo’s education goals.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

 

Women Activists in Developing CountriesThere are many reasons for people around the world to use their voices and advocate for social equality. Here is a list of five women activists in developing countries.

Top 5 Women Activists in Developing Countries

  1. Kriti Bharti
    The founder of the Girls Not Brides movement in Rajasthan, northern India, Kriti Bharti prevented over 900 child marriages. Kriti established the Saarthi Trust in 2011 to pull girls from forced child marriages and to educate them on their societal rights. Bharti is both a social activist and a rehabilitation psychologist. She set up rehabilitation programs for the girls released from child marriage.The Girls Not Brides movement has forums that provide food, shelter and water for girls banished from their families. The forums also include educating girls on their societal rights and providing them with life skills such as sowing. Twenty-seven percent of girls in India marry before the age of 18 resulting in India being the highest country with child brides. The Saarthi Trust was the first organization in India to annul a marriage and annulled 31 other child marriages since 2012.

    Poverty is a leading cause that resolves itself in child marriage. Usually, families marry off their young daughter to help alleviate finances; the younger the bride, the lower the dowry (a form of payment). Gender norms also play a key factor in child marriages. A girl is of lower value in general. Typically, females are not able to contribute to society because of this, leading their value to be held in household chores and motherhood. Moreover, a woman’s value is upheld in her benefitting her marital family more than her blood family. Thus, the family will usually educate their sons rather than their daughters.

    The South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC) takes local action against abuse towards children by providing shelter with food and water and by educating girls in jobs. The Sustainable Development Goals stated that India is striving to end child marriages and forced labor by the year 2030.

  2. Malala Yousafzai
    Malala is now a household name across the world. The youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014; she now uses her voice and her story to speak for the women around the globe who could not. “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” Yousafzai said.After she spoke out against education oppression towards girls in 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Malala in the head in 2012. Then, she began the Malala Fund. The Malala Fund now reaches six different countries; Afghanistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria. In each country, it recruits female teachers and tries to bridge the gap between gender disparity in education. It also educates teachers and students on gender discrimination, teaches girls how to speak about their rights, gives free secondary schooling and campaigns for new policies advocating for girls’ education. The goal of Malala’s Fund is to give girls “12 years of free, safe, quality education.”
  3. Holida, Suci and Ria
    The Yes I Do project of Indonesia began with three girls advocating against child marriage in their village and country. Holida, Suci, both 18, and Ria, 16, advocated that the abuse’s of child marriage is everyone’s responsibility to end. The Yes I Do project strives to prevent child abuse and forced sexual acts due to the selling of young girls into marriage. The project exposes the effects that sexual abuse has and the ways it affects reproductive health.Through village forums and discussions, the girls highlighted with their fellow neighbors that they have the same rights as boys do. Through their voices, child marriage cannot go unnoticed. Now, when a girl is forced or marries young, people talk about it. This gives fire to Holida, Suci and Ria’s campaign. The girls plan on making a movie to take to other villages around their own. “We want everyone to know why child marriage is wrong so that girls everywhere can achieve their dreams,” Suci said.
  4. Manal al-Sharif
    Manal al-Sharif, an Iraqi woman, co-founded the Women to Drive movement bringing awareness to the oppression of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and bringing back the ability for women to drive. In 1957, Saudi Arabia decreed that women could no longer drive. In 1990, a large protest took place where 47 women drove around the country’s capital. Over 20 years later, in 2011, Manal al-Sharif started the Facebook campaign called Women to Drive to spread awareness of their oppression.Later that same year, al-Sharif and fellow co-founder, Wajeha al-Huwaider, recorded a video of themselves driving and speaking out against the difficulty of being a woman and commuting. In June 2018, King Salman issued a decree that Saudi women could obtain a driver’s license. Al-Sharif and the women advocating for years for freedom for their gender are making progress. Since the summer of 2018, women can take to the road, something they were not able to do for 62 years.
  5. Zahra’ Langhi
    The Lybian Women’s Platform for Peace (LWPP) is an organization that puts pressure on the government to give opportunities to women to uphold sociopolitical places within government and society. Zahra’ Langhi is a co-founder and feminist activist who started speaking out in 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi’s reign ended after decades of abusing his power over the country. The leading effects after the uprising resulted in 35 women joining together to form LWPP. The state of Libya is dangerous and unbalanced, especially for women advocating to eliminate corruption in politics. Langhi never gave up her voice and continues to speak for compassion and understanding to infiltrate her country. “We need to start acting as agents of compassion and mercy. We need to develop a feminine discourse that not only honors but also implements mercy instead of revenge, collaboration instead of competition, inclusion instead of exclusion,” Langhi said.

These five women activists in developing countries spread their knowledge to their fellow neighbors and friends. From halfway across the globe, people Western countries can stand next to these women activists in developing countries and let them know they have support.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr