During adolescence, a girl’s confidence drops dramatically. She has grown up with the stigma and stereotype that to do something “like a girl” is an insult and something that makes her weaker than the boys. But that just isn’t so. Always is looking to boost confidence among girls with the #LIKEAGIRL campaign, both for girls in the United States as well as those who are in poorer countries abroad.

Always says that 72 percent of girls feel that society limits what they are able to do. This limitation, especially during puberty, distorts a girl’s perception of herself and creates barriers to what she wants to achieve. The campaign wants girls to know that “girls everywhere can be unstoppable #LIKEAGIRL when they smash limitations.”

This campaign is another extension of the work Always has done for the last 30 years with their puberty education. In Ethiopia, Nepal and other developing countries, Always has provided classes that educate girls about what they are going through during puberty. Many girls miss school during their periods because of false information, shame and/or lack of resources. Confidence for these girls drop, but with Always’s puberty education, absenteeism due to periods is being reduced.

Always started telling people that to do things #LIKEAGIRL is amazing with their 2015 Super Bowl ad. Since then, they have created another ad showing girls and young women physically breaking down societal barriers in the form of boxes, such as the notion that “Girls are weak,” to represent that doing things #LIKEAGIRL is actually a show of strength. The girls that see these ads at home are given a confidence boost and the men that are presented with this idea are shown how they might be limiting the women in their lives.

This message is so important for every girl regardless of socioeconomic status, but it can have a powerful psychological message for those girls in poverty who have restricted education, financial freedom, job choice and even choice of a spouse because of cultural gender expectations that they face.

Studies have shown that expanding women’s education is one factor in reducing poverty. UNICEF says, “When all children have access to a quality education rooted in human rights and gender equality, it creates a ripple effect of opportunity that will influence generations to come.”

Always has already partnered with UNESCO in order to help women become literate. Their work directly supports literacy development in Africa; they cite that over 60,000 girls in Nigeria and Senegal have received benefits from the programs there. Literacy education is another way in which girls are given the confidence to be their “amazing, unstoppable selves.”

#LIKEAGIRL has already created a volume of commentary in the United States and has positively impacted girls that have previously suffered from lack of confidence. #LIKEAGIRL will be shown in action on their website coming soon.

Boosting a community out of poverty means boosting girls’ confidence and education. Showing girls that it takes strength to do things #LIKEAGIRL is a positive message that will bring great results.

Megan Ivy

Sources: Always, UNICEF
Photo: Always, Chymfm

There have been many successes for girl’s education in the developing world. Challenges remain, however, creating a puzzle for problem solvers around the world.

Girls face many more education struggles than boys do. This is especially the case during puberty. For one girl living in Uganda who wants to be a doctor, lack of proper toilets causes embarrassment and results in missed days at school. “Some toilets don’t have doors and so we fear to enter as people can see or enter the toilets at any time. At the toilets, they don’t have water to flush or wash, and so it’s complicated to attend school when I have my period.”

While some might think this is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO has found differently. One in 10 girls across Africa miss school during their period. Half of girls attending school in Ethiopia miss between one and four days of school a month because of menstruation.

In India, the problem is even worse. Sixty-six percent of schools there do not have functioning toilets. Without private toilets, girls’ health is put at risk. Coupled with the stigma and taboos associated with menstruation and periods, and the result is often that girls drop out of school in the developing world.

Another issue that also affects girls’ education in Africa is child marriage. Every year, 15 million girls 18 or under marry. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 40 percent are married before 18, and 12 percent before they are even 15. In Chad, the number of girls married under age 15 jumps to 29 percent. Even with minimum age laws, marriages still go ahead with parental consent.

This has implications for young women’s education. Once they are married, they are expected to fulfill duties at home which leaves them with them no time to pursue their studies. This begins a vicious circle: without education girls are not informed of their rights and are able to act on them.

Despite these challenges, there have been huge gains in education for girls around the developing world. By 2012, most countries had reached the Millennium Development Goal target of girls primary education parity with boys. For many countries this meant that for every 100 boys, 97 girls also attended primary school.

However, even in this victory lies a caveat – not all countries have actually reached full parity. Sub-Saharan Africa enrollment rate for primary school-aged girls was still languishing at 75 percent in 2010. “Three-quarters of the countries that have not achieved parity at the primary level enroll more boys than girls at the start of the school cycle.” To equalize enrollment at the beginnings of school years would be to achieve parity.

Afghanistan stands out as a beacon of success when it comes to girls’ education, especially with the Taliban influence in the area that discourages girls in school. Girls enrollment in 2014 reached 3.75 million girls. In 2002, only 191,000 were enrolled.

While there are still big problems girls face around the developing world when it comes to attending school, it is important to acknowledge the victories. More work is needed but if progress continues, more successes will come.

– Gregory Baker

Sources: The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The Guardian 3, The Guardian 4, The Guardian 5, UN Women
Photo: The Better India

What better way to give the girls and women of the world a voice than by giving them a worldwide platform on which to broadcast the issues that matter to them? That’s exactly the thinking behind ONE’s innovative new campaign called “Girls & Women.” The campaign seeks to “unleash the full potential of girls” by showcasing stories with women at their center.

Women have long been disproportionately affected by poverty; of the most impoverished people across the globe, more than 60 percent are female. Empowering women in developing countries to become full-fledged economic participants is crucial to eliminating poverty, but it begins by solving the social issues behind unequal access to education, employment and financial resources. Putting gender inequality in the spotlight is the first step to achieving equality.

ONE’s new “Girls & Women” initiative seeks to bring about equality by allowing different female “curators” from around the world to share their stories. The very first curator is Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan chess prodigy who has used her talent to help her family rise from poverty. On the same page that features stories about female entrepreneurs and resources for female empowerment, Phiona chose to share articles about how she personally escaped slum life, and some of the highlights of her life since then – specifically, challenging her chess hero and learning that Disney is preparing to produce a movie based on her life. Yes, Disney.

In conjunction with the “Girls & Women” initiative, ONE also offers its readers the chance to reach out to their Congressmen (at this time, to promote the Electrify Africa Act,) — an endeavor very much in line with The Borgen Project’s mission. In this way, ONE represents another agency using the power of advocacy to create measurable change. By shedding light on inspiring women and the issues that contribute to their poverty, ONE is working to make the world better for over half of its inhabitants.

– Elise L. Riley

Sources: ONE, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: NBC News