Female Empowerment in Rwanda
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 sparked the beginning of female empowerment in Rwanda. After this tragedy, much of the population left in this East African country was made up of women. This enabled them to have a voice in the public sector of Rwanda, empowering all Rwandan women to take a stand for their nation.

Four Examples of Female Empowerment in Rwanda

  1. President Paul Kagame led the call for female empowerment in Rwanda. President Kagame realized that women would need to play a large role in Rwanda’s restoration. A new constitution was passed in 2003 which stated that 30 percent of parliamentary seats would be reserved for women. Girls’ education was also very much encouraged as well as women being appointed to leadership roles.The president’s policies were welcomed by all Rwandans and quotas were met and surpassed extraordinarily. In the country’s 2003 election, 48 percent of parliamentary seats went to women; in the next election, 64 percent of seats went to women.
  2. Rwanda leads the world by having the most women in its national legislature. On this same scale, the U.S. ranks ninety-sixth with only 19 percent of its governmental seats held by women.
  3. Abishyizehamwe, in collaboration with the ActionAid Fund Leadership Opportunities for Women (FLOW), is a women’s smallholder farmers’ group formed in 2013 in order to mobilize women to learn and adopt sustainable agriculture practices. The organization opened an early childhood care center to provide women with the opportunity to spend less time caring for children and more time generating income for their families. FLOW and Abishyizehamwe have allowed Rwandan women to help support their families financially instead of just being an unpaid caretaker.
  4. Since 1997, Women for Women International has helped more than 76,000 Rwandan women become economically autonomous. The organization’s one-year program has allowed women to strengthen themselves as well as their country by gaining economic and social self-sufficieny. Through this program, women are able to succeed in anything from yogurt-making to brick-making to hospitality management. Women for Women International has allowed Rwandan women to go from being poverty-stricken to having voices in their country and making a real difference in rebuilding Rwanda.

Female empowerment in Rwanda has come a long way since the genocide in 1994, but it still has a long way to go. Women are now very prominent in the public sector, but it is important that they also gain autonomy in their private lives. Nations around the world should look to Rwanda as a prime example of how much women can accomplish when they are given the chance.

– Megan Maxwell
Photo: Google

girls’ education in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country known for its dedication to its diverse environment. But less known is its dedication to educating its youth, predominantly girls. The range of resources offered throughout the country, whether institutional or grassroots oriented, are just as diverse as its environment. The following are ten facts that help illuminate the successes and improvements of girls’ education in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

  1. As of 2018, four percent of the country’s total GNP, one-fourth of the national government budget, was given to education. More money is spent on education in Costa Rica than any other Latin American country.
  2. In 1869, the country made education free and compulsory for all citizens. After this mandate, the number of schools in the educational system have risen to more than 4,000. The World Bank reports as of 2016 that girls’ educational participation at the primary school level is 96.6 percent, with secondary school enrollment at 84.5 percent.
  3. Girls’ enrollment at the tertiary level of education in Costa Rica is 60.9 percent, which is much higher than the male enrollment at the same level who have a participation of 46.6 percent. This participation in higher education is substantial. The world’s average percentage of girls enrolled at the tertiary level of education is only 38.9 percent.
  4. UNICEF reports as of 2012 that girls ages 15 to 24 years old have a literacy rate of 98.7 percent in Costa Rica. This rate exceeds the literacy rate for males, which is 97.9 percent.
  5. There are several programs for girls’ education in Costa Rica that include sustainable development. Sulá Batsú is a local organization that targets young women, specifically in low-income communities, and provides education on technology. By integrating the arts and cultural practices into the process, girls learn more than just technical skills. They also learn how to incorporate their unique identities into the work they produce. The organization has seen the success of 250 students in their technology camps in 2018 alone.
  6. February 15, 2017, marked the inaugural event of the first International Day of Women and Girls in Science in the country. Along with the U.N., this celebration aimed to encourage girls’ education in Costa Rica in science-related fields. Positions in these fields have been traditionally held by men; only 28 percent of researchers are women. Science is viewed not only as the main component of creating a sustainable society aimed at protecting the planet but is also seen as a path to eradicating poverty.
  7. Young girls engaged in STEM are reaching unprecedented rates in Costa Rica. In 2014, at the Twenty-sixth Math Olympiad, 66 medals were given to 132 high school students who had achieved success in the final events of the academic competition. Of these 132 students, a high number of finalists were girl students. This trend was also seen at the Fifth Robotics Olympiad in Costa Rica, where many of the teams had girl participants and some groups being formed solely of females.
  8. The World Bank estimates that of the 4.85 million people living in the country, 1.1 million live in poverty. The Women’s Empowerment Coalition in the country is aimed at helping impoverished girls and women to ensure that they reach a higher standard of living through education. The Coalition works by educating socially vulnerable girls, ensuring they achieve a high school education and job placement assistance. The organization’s model is “collaborative, reciprocal and relational.” The classes are self-paced and mentoring, educational materials and resources are provided to students to assist them in achieving U.S. high school diploma equivalencies. The Coalition has reached over 4,000 women and girls thus far.
  9. Mujeres en Tecnología en Acción (Women in Technology in Action) was launched in January of 2015 and is an organization aimed at promoting the participation of girls in science and technology-related fields in Costa Rica. The group identifies girls aged 15 to 19 living in communities at social risk and invites them to take part in the program. Participating girls learn skills that will better serve them in technology-based careers, such as leadership, entrepreneurship and female empowerment.
  10. UNESCO has worked with the government to identify a list of goals to be reached by 2030. Several of the goals center on educational standards, which will be implemented throughout the country. UNESCO identifies girls as being vulnerable to poverty if not properly educated at an early age. As of 2016, less than 6,000 girls had dropped out of school, a significant decrease from the 2011 record of 10,000. This progress illustrates the dedication to girls’ education in Costa Rica as a means of eradicating poverty country-wide.

Costa Rica has taken strides to ensure that its population consists of well-educated, globally-minded citizens. These 10 facts about girls’ education in Costa Rica exemplify how an already progressive state will continue to work hard to maintain this standard well into the future.

 – Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr

Victories Against FGM in Africa
Today, there are an estimated 200 million women and girls living with female genital mutilation, or FGM. FGM is widely practiced in 30 countries around the world.  At least 65 to 70 percent of FGM victims live in Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, FGM is a broad term including “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Traditionally, it is used to control female sexuality, but it often leaves a myriad of health and social problems for survivors. Despite the ingrained nature of this practice, in recent years there have been several victories against FGM in Africa.

Seven Victories Against FGM in Africa

  1. Liberian Abolishment: After years of political negotiation, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fulfilled her 2015 vow to abolish FGM. FGM affects more than 50 percent of Liberian girls and is used as a ritual in the Sande secret society’s coming-of-age ceremony.Many traditional organizations have threatened death toward activists who expose their rituals. Despite these challenges, Africa’s first female executive leader executed one of the largest victories against FGM in Africa.
  2. The Girl Generation: This NGO works to connect girls from across the continent to “end Female Genital Mutilation in this generation.” It has given over $1.6 million in grants to grassroots organizations in eight African countries from Nigeria to Mali. It focuses mainly on changing social attitudes about the practice in rural areas where it is common.Regarding the organization’s work, one woman said, “I am now a changed person. When I came here yesterday, I never thought anyone will convince me FGM is bad, but now I’m convinced, and will stand up for my younger sisters and cousins not to be subjected to the cut.”
  3. The American Doctor: Dr. Marci Bower, a San Francisco native, spent two weeks in Nairobi surgically repairing the scars left by FGM. Victims of FGM often experience complications in childbirth and infections in the cut area.In Kenya, about five million women are living with FGM, though the practicing rate of 27 percent is much lower than that of the countries in northern Africa. Dr. Bower operated on 44 local women and trained others to do the same when she returned to the United States.
  4. Kembatta Women Stand Together: One Ethiopian woman, Bogaletch Gebre, has worked for decades to eliminate FGM in her native country. After a traumatic cutting at the age of 12 and an education as a Fullbright scholar, Gebre founded Kembatti Mentti Gezzina or Kembatta Women Stand Together to fight FGM. Her organization has been lauded for reducing FGM rates in parts of Ethiopia from 100 percent to three percent through community outreach and information campaigns.
  5. Kenyan Girls App: Five teenage girls from the Luo ethnic group in Kenya invented an app to help their peers escape FGM. The girls were the only African team to compete in  2017’s Technovation contest, sponsored by Verizon, Google and the U.N.Their entry, called “I-cut,” includes options for users to seek medical treatment, report FGM in their local communities, donate to the cause, escape the ritual and learn more about FGM. One team member, Synthia Otieno, said their goal for the app was to “restore hope to hopeless girls.”
  6. Masaai Women: In the nomadic Masaai community, FGM is commonly practiced as an initiation ceremony. However, after witnessing her sister undergo FGM and an abusive child marriage, Nice Leng’ete decided to use her high school education to make a difference.After years of bargaining and dialogue, Leng’ete has saved over 15,000 girls from cutting, winning one of the largest victories against FGM in Africa. Leng’ete became the first woman to speak before the highest Masaai elder council, which formally abolished FGM for all 1.5 million Masaii people.
  7. African Men Against FGM: It is not only women who are achieving victories against FGM in Africa. Male activists, such as Kelechukwu Nwachukwu from Nigeria and Tony Mwebia from Kenya, are working to inform African men about the realities of FGM.Despite the prevalence of FGM in their communities because of the secretive nature of the practice, many African men are unaware of the pain FGM causes. Nwachukwu commented, “I’ve seen girls who have died [from FGM] but the parents don’t make the link. Many will tell that it’s just God’s will.” Despite the challenges, male activists have become an essential part of the movement to end FGM in a generation.

Female genital mutilation contributes to poverty in areas where it is practiced. Girls are cut at young ages to prepare them for child marriage, a practice linked to lower development. As the British NGO ActionAid put it, “Girls who marry young are more likely to be poor and stay poor.” Each victory against FGM in Africa is a victory against extreme poverty and the violation of women’s human rights.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in Uganda

Girls’ education in Uganda varies from region to region. The gender gap has become smaller; however, there are serious issues holding back the progress of the development of girls’ education. Below are 10 facts about girls’ education in Uganda that highlight the obstacles as well as the benefits proven to be derived from the continuation of a girls’ education.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Uganda

  1. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) reported that more than 700,000 girls in Uganda between the ages of six to 12 have never attended school. In fact, around half of girls between the ages of 15 to 24 are illiterate and four in five girls do not attend high school.
  2. A large contributor to low female literacy rates and school attendance rates is that up to 40 percent of girls in Uganda are married before the age of 18. Around 10 percent of these girls are married before the age of 15. Around 35 percent of girls drop out due to marriage and 23 percent drop out due to pregnancy. In contrast, allowing girls to continue through secondary education significantly reduces the chances of early marriage and childbearing.
  3. In Uganda, teenage pregnancy rates are some of the highest in the world. The national average is 24 percent; however, statistics change from region to region. The poorest regions have the highest percentage of teenage pregnancy.
  4. Poverty is the largest contributor to low standards in girls’ education in Uganda. Though education is free, school supplies and uniforms are not. Because of this, when faced with either sending a son or a daughter to school, a son’s education will usually be prioritized.
  5. Because of the high poverty rates, girls are usually expected to work as a way to increase the family’s income. The Global Partnership for Education reported that especially in rural areas, local traditions dictate that girls can be married in exchange for a dowry, a sum of money given to the daughter’s family as payment.
  6. Uneducated girls are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases as well as other health complications. Health issues put girls at a risk of not continuing their education. In 2015, around 567 young people between the ages of 15 to 24 contracted HIV/AIDS on a weekly basis. A staggering 363 of these young adults were female.
  7. Girls are less likely to attend school during their menstrual cycle which creates gaps in a girl’s education. This is caused by inadequate infrastructure and resources for good hygiene in schools, especially for girls. Furthermore, girls often feel ashamed and embarrassed about their cycle because women’s health education is not a priority.
  8. Statistics show that educated mothers are more than twice as likely to ensure the education of their children. They are also more likely to earn higher wages than an uneducated person. A World Bank report shows that there would be a 14 percent rise in a girl’s wage if she would continue her education rather than get married.
  9. Educating girls would see a reduction in child marriage and births. This is closely linked to lower mortality rates as well. It would also greatly improve the standard of living across Uganda and reduce poverty rates.
  10. Educated women are more likely to invest back into their families. Roughly 90 percent of an income will usually go back to the family.

While the Ugandan education system has progressed and policies have been adopted, the lack of enforcement is the real issue. There must be further investment in the future of girls and their education; as these facts about girls’ education in Uganda illustrate, investing in girls would benefit the country in immeasurable ways.

– Trelawny Robinson
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in ChinaGirls’ education in China has come a long way in recent decades. The amount of girls at all levels of education is on the rise, slowly but surely closing the gender gap in schools. In some arenas, girls’ enrolment is even passing that of boys. Girls in rural areas of China, however, are still struggling with a lack of opportunity compared to their male peers. Here are 10 important facts about girls’ education in China.

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in China

  1. Girls are beginning to outnumber boys. As of 2009, girls exceed boys in quantity in junior college and undergraduate programs. Women in higher education have higher enrolment levels, accounting for 51.4 percent of total enrollments. About 50 percent of postgraduates in China in 2012 were women.These numbers speak strongly about how far girls’ education in China has come. In 1985, only 25 percent of those enrolled in secondary school were female. Now, women’s attendance is starting to prevail over men’s. With higher enrollment levels comes a more empowered and intelligent female population.
  2. Women are dominating across academic fields. The amount of women in science and math fields such as engineering and automation is growing annually. In China. there are now over 20 million women working in the fields of science and technology. This is considerable progress in mitigating gender stereotypes and in allowing women to fill high-power jobs, showing why this is one of the most important facts about girls’ education in China.
  3. Women in China have the help of numerous organizations. China Women’s Development Foundation (CWDF) has been instrumental in uplifting the lives of women. For example, in 2017 CWDF hosted a charity competition in which female entrepreneurs enter their ideas for the chance to win investment funding.Although this is not academic education in the traditional sense, organizations like CWDF are promoting women’s creativity and innovation through programs like this. CWDF is just one of many groups that work to educate China’s female population outside of school.
  4. These organizations have made a tangible difference. Women’s Federations in China in the past five years have trained almost five million rural women and engaged one million women in entrepreneurial activities. Having access to these resources allows women to expand their minds outside of the classroom.
  5. Women are quickly closing the gender gap in illiteracy rates. In 1982 across China, the female illiteracy rate was 48.88 percent, whereas men’s was 20.78. While the current rates have improved significantly (about two percent for men and six percent for women), females are still behind men in literacy. However, women’s illiteracy rates have been falling at a faster rate than those of men. It will not be long until literacy rates between men and women are equivalent.
  6. Women are most disadvantaged in rural areas of China. As far as illiteracy goes, women living in rural areas have the highest rates. This is in great part due to the lack of access to good education in rural regions, specifically for young girls. If a family in a rural area can only afford to send one child to school, the boys are much more likely to be chosen than girls.
  7. Female teachers continue to face restricted career development opportunities. Women dominate the teaching profession in China, and most schools look to balance this out by hiring more men. A less qualified man will often get hired in the place of a well-qualified woman. Thanks to this, female teachers in China have a much harder time getting hired than men do in the same profession.
  8. Women have to get higher test scores than men to gain entry into university. In 2005, Chinese universities began responding to a growing number of female applicants by raising the standards for women in order to keep gender balances in schools equal. At the China University of Political Science and Law, the bar for men is 588 and the bar for women is 632. Unfair practices such as these get in the way of true progress.
  9. The average length of a woman’s education in China has increased. As of 2012, the length of the average girl’s education in China increased to 8.6 years. This is only 0.7 years less than the average man’s education in China. This means girls are getting more encouragement and support to stay in school longer than they have in the past.
  10. Progress in China’s education system for girls has led to many successful Chinese women. Of the 88 female self-made billionaires in the world, 56 of them are Chinese. Chinese women dominate the entrepreneurial world. This amount of success would not have been possible without the great strides that have been made in closing China’s educational gender gap.

As these facts about girls’ education in China demonstrate, it is a complex topic, but overall there have been massive improvements made in the system. This has led to a more prosperous female population in China and a more equal society for all.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Justice for WomenThe United Nations estimates that there are currently four billion people excluded from the rule of law, with over 150 countries that have one or more laws that discriminate against women. To address this inequality and bring more women access to justice, the High-level Group on Justice for Women (HLG) had its inaugural meeting at the Hague from May 28-29, 2018.

What is the High-level Group on Justice for Women?

This group was started by U.N. Women along with the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Its members include experts on human rights, gender and justice from civil society organizations, governments, academics and intergovernmental organizations.

The main purpose of this group is to act as advocates for women’s access to justice during the High-level Political Forum in 2019 where the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be reviewed. In particular, the HLG is focused on SDG 16 with its stated goal being to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

One of the HLG’s main purposes is to ensure the implementation, monitoring and reporting of SDG 16 in the years to come. The group wishes to highlight the justice gaps that women and girls face around the world, ways to improve global access to justice and why this is a necessary cause to invest in. To address these issues, the HLG is focused on these approaches:

  • Reforming the legal and policy framework
  • Reforming justice institutions
  • Legally empowering women to access justice and claim rights
  • Addressing customary and informal justice

Why Justice for Women Matters

The HLG argues that ensuring justice for women is at the heart of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals because, without this measure, other SDGs such as education, equality, health and employment will not be realized. The SDGs are key to fighting global poverty, with the first goal being to end poverty in all its form everywhere. Equal justice is a means to recognizing and respecting women’s rights as it allows women to function as equal members of society who can contribute to development and ending poverty.

Beyond equality and respect for human rights, the HLG strongly believes that women’s access to justice is both a requirement and enabler of development. There has been more and more evidence that with greater gender equality comes greater economic development. For instance, when women are permitted to work and contribute to household incomes, studies have shown that more money is allocated for health, education, food and children. Improving justice for women gives social, economic and environmental benefits instead of continuing poverty, social exclusion, bad health, violence and crime.

Closing the Justice Gap

All of this work highlights the contrasts between what is promised in SDG 16 and what women are really experiencing and the contrasts between what women need and want when seeking justice and what they actually receive. In other words, this is known as the justice gap.

Around the world, 104 economies have laws preventing women from working specific jobs like manufacturing, construction, agriculture, water and transportation. Equally shocking, 45 countries have no laws on domestic violence and 59 economies have no laws about sexual harassment in the workplace.

This unequal justice and lack of respect for women’s rights is a hindrance to development and ending global poverty. The HLG is an important ally in the fight to end global poverty and its work to combat the justice gap will hopefully see great results in the years to come.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Global Prevalence of Femicide
Femicide is defined as the killing of women. It has also been called gendercide and it is the most severe form of violence against women. The global prevalence of femicide is evident within all regions and cultures.

The Current Situation

Four of the five regions with the highest levels of femicide also have the highest rates of overall homicides, but in Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation, femicide rates are disproportionately high in respect to general homicide rates. In India, 8,093 cases of dowry femicide were reported in 2007. In China, female children are twice as likely to die in their first year of life compared to male children and the risk of death is three times higher for second born female children than first born.

Furthermore, in Guatemala, two women are murdered on average every single day. In Mexico, an estimated seven women were murdered every day in 2016. In South Africa, the rate of femicide for 2015 was 9.6 per 100,000 women, 4 times more than the global average that same year.

Cultures facilitate femicide through the normalization of violence against women. Dowry femicide, the murder of a woman by her in-laws over dowry-related conflicts, and honor killings, the murder of a woman by a member of her family for a behavioral transgression, can be considered “traditions” in the Middle East and South Asia. Intimate partner femicide is relabeled as a “crime of passion” in Latin America.

The pressure to desire male children for their dominant advantages over female children is a major cause of femicide in many nations. In societies such as China and India, girls are seen as burdens due to their inability to help support their families financially. The expense of dowries makes female infanticide a viable option for families seeking a more lucrative future.

Combatting the Global Prevalence of Femicide

Governments have a responsibility to protect women’s rights to life and liberty. By creating and enforcing laws that protect women from violence and discrimination, a precedent can be set and the complacency shown to the oppression of women can cease.

In Central America, femicide has been criminalized and prosecutors have been trained to take cases to trial. In Pakistan, sweeping new legislation has been passed to prevent the use of acid on attacks on women. Meanwhile, in Palestine, the first national strategy to combat violence against women in the Middle East was adopted with survivors of violence taking part in the legislation’s drafting. These are important positive steps toward legal recourse and representation in instances of femicide and violence against women.

Improving Female Representation in Government

As of June 2016, only 22.8 percent of all national parliamentarians were women, and as of June 2017, only two countries have 50 percent or more women in parliament. Room for women is slowly growing. 11 countries in Latin America and 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have applied for some form of gender quotas to open more space for women in governmental positions of power and influence.

Evidence has shown and continues to show that women’s leadership and inclusion in political decision-making processes improves governments. Female empowerment in government creates room for a discussion of many issues connected to gender equality and puts people with deep personal connections to these issues in positions with the power to fight the global prevalence of femicide.

The Causes of Femicide

Two of the largest risk factors for femicide and sexual violence are a lack of education and poverty which, in many cases, are intertwined afflictions. Education is a two-way street when seeking to end violence against women. It has been found that both men and women with higher levels of education are less likely to commit or experience violence.

By making education available to women, they have more opportunity for economic independence, are less likely to be forced into early marriage and learn skills that make them valuable members of society. In conjunction with educating women, educating men on the human rights of women can stunt the normalization of violence against women in the minds of young men and boys.

A perfect example of such an education can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya, where the nonprofit organization No Means No Worldwide implemented a program to prevent sexual assault on girls and women. The curriculum for males aimed to shift attitudes that lead to the acceptance of assault and rape of their female peers. Those male students in the experimental group who received the aforementioned curriculum were twice as likely as those in the control group to successfully halt instances of verbal harassment and physical or sexual violence against women.

Female empowerment and the re-education of both men and women to the equal rights of women and in culture and society are the keys to ending the abhorrent levels of violence against women and the global prevalence of femicide. Nina Simone once said, “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me. No fear.” Equal power and equal space are a route out from under the oppression of eternal fear, and released from that fear, women can find freedom.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
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 Iraq
Once regarded as having one of the best education systems in the region, Iraq has had a difficult history with its education. From 1970 to 1984, Iraq had achieved multiple accomplishments, such as lowering the rate of illiteracy in children ages six to 12 to less than 10 percent and having an equal inclusion of genders in the classroom. Since then, girls’ education in Iraq has faced significant setbacks. 

How Education in Iraq Fell

The war with Iran in 1980, the Gulf War in the 1990s and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq have greatly damaged the once inspiring education system. With one in five schools destroyed and unusable, teachers having to work double shifts for smaller pay and nearly 3.5 million children irregularly attending, Iraq’s education has hit a low point. Unfortunately, girls’ education in Iraq seems to have been affected the most.

Pushback Against Girls’ Education in Iraq

Many Iraqi families see education as a dangerous thing for their daughters. Through learning critical thinking skills and how to read and write, many families worry that their daughters will fall into an unhappy marriage. With 30 percent of Iraqi girls in rural areas never even attending primary school and illiteracy rates twice as high with women than with men, it is clear that girls’ education in Iraq is of high necessity.

One girl relayed on an Iraqi radio show what her father had told her. “If a girl studies too much, it will just make people get divorced,” she claims he said. “If my daughter goes to university, she will become very stubborn. Her husband won’t like this, and will eventually divorce her.”

Potential for the Future of Education

However, with the battle over the city of Mosul finally coming to an end, education for Iraqi children, especially girls, might finally be improving. UNICEF has been supplying desks, chairs and other necessary supplies to schools where the teachers have long been the ones supplying these needs, even when those teachers have not been paid in three years.

One school receiving help is Saint Abdul Ahed School for Girls. Even though the school has no electricity or running water and only 17 teachers on staff, it manages more than 1,100 girls. Each and every one of the girls is eager and ready to come back to school, though.

Rawan, 11, explained just how important being able to come back to the classroom was for her. “We have to learn to develop our thinking so we can build our future, and our country,” she says.

One teacher at the school shared with UNICEF how enthusiastic her students are. “The kids are overjoyed to come back,” she says. “Education heals.” Saint Abdul Ahed is only one of many schools within Mosul that has been able to reopen thanks to UNICEF. 100 other schools have also been reopened, serving 75,000 children.

While many of these schools deal with overcrowding, lack of electricity and water and overworked teachers with little pay, the dedication to improve girls’ education in Iraq is inspirational. With continued work, young women will soon be able to receive the same rights to education as their male counterparts.

– Marissa Wandzel
Photo: Flickr

Women in Saudi Arabia
Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is known for human rights violations and women’s oppression, the Saudi government has made several changes in the past few years to change its reputation. These changes include giving women in Saudi Arabia the right to drive, vote and start their own business.

Saudi Arabia ranked 138 out of 144 on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Although this is a very low ranking, the report also acknowledges significant progress made over the past several years that is slowly moving the country toward gender equality. There is still room for improvement when it comes to the women’s dress code, male guardianship and sex segregation.

Women’s empowerment can help fight poverty when women become self-sufficient and turn into active contributors to the economy. Several steps have been taken by the government in order to increase the role of women in Saudi Arabia.

Women in Saudi Arabia in the Workplace

In 2011, King Abdullah announced the decision to allow women in Saudi Arabia to work in the retail sector in lingerie stores. This made many women financially independent and gave them the opportunity to participate in the economy. In the past few years, it has become more common for women to work in retail and hold other public jobs.

In 2018, several positions even opened for women to work at the country’s airports. According to a report released by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development in 2017, Saudi Arabia had a 130 percent increase in the number of Saudi women in the workplace. Additionally, women can now start their own businesses without permission from their male guardians.

Saudi Women in Government

In the past few years, steps have been taken to allow women in Saudi Arabia to be represented in government and even make several government jobs available to them. In 2011, women gained the right to vote under King Abdullah. Since elections do not happen often in Saudi Arabia, the first time they were able to exercise this right to vote was in 2015.

Additionally, women were also appointed to 30 seats of the Shura Council, a legislative advisory body, making up 20 percent of the council. In 2018, women also began working as investigators in the public prosecutor’s office for the first time.

Women’s Social Integration

In 2017, King Salman ordered that women be allowed access to government services such as education and healthcare without the need of consent from her guardian. However, the guardianship system still remains.

Most recently, in September of 2017, King Salman announced that women in Saudi Arabia would be able to drive starting in June 2018. Before this, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world restricting female driving. The change was a result of international pressure and many Saudi women’s efforts advocating for the right to drive. This is a huge step forward as women will now have the freedom to take their kids to school, drive themselves to work and transport themselves as they wish without the need of a man.

Saudi Women in the Military

Saudi Arabia opened up noncombat military jobs in Riyadh, Mecca, al-Qassim and Medina to women in February 2018. These jobs will allow women to work in security. There are several requirements to apply for these positions including Saudi citizenship and holding a high school diploma, but it is a major change to allow women to form part of the Saudi military for the first time in history.

Although change is slow, it is clear through recent government reforms that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is heading in the right direction when it comes to women’s rights.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr