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

Women Empowerment

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

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

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

Students Speak Out

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

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

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

Life Success Paired With Legislation

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

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

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

Girls’ Education in Costa Rica

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

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

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in Costa Rica
Costa Rica was ranked 32nd out of 144 on the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report. With a score of two representing maximum gender equality, Costa Rica scored 0.736, moving up six positions since the 2015 report. While this report evaluates the gap between women and men in economics, political empowerment, education, health and life expectancy, from an economic standpoint Costa Rica is making great leaps toward equality. With traditional family roles shifting and more Costa Rican women working outside of the home, opportunities have had to be available over the last decade to accommodate this change and growth. While conditions are far from perfect and equal pay is still a hot topic, women occupy more leadership roles in business, politics, education and agriculture, creating a significant influx of female empowerment in this Latin American country.

Female Leadership
Costa Rica is one of five Latin American countries that have adopted gender parity policies, aimed at increasing the number of women in national parliaments.

In 2011, Costa Rica elected its first female president. Laura Chinchilla Miranda won the presidential election and was more than 20 percentage points ahead of the runner-up. Her term ended in 2014, but her presence in a position of power marks the great strides being made toward gender equality and women’s empowerment in Costa Rica. With the 2018 election approaching, the representation of women has significantly increased, with women in Parliament exceeding 40 percent. These are historic numbers.

Among government leadership, there has also been an increase of female representation in the police force. Over the past three years, Costa Rica’s police force has gone from 3 percent to 17 percent female officers in the agency. With leadership in Parliament and on the streets, Costa Rican women are being represented more and more.

The Gender Equality Seal
Costa Rica has created a seal to verify and certify gender equality in the workplace. The Gender Equality Seal is a recognition given to public and private organizations. Its goal is to implement a system that will guarantee gender equality in each organization’s internal processes and labor relations. Existing gaps between women and men must be identified and a work plan to close those gaps must be created. The system is implemented in four areas: human resources, integral health, social co-responsibility in care and workplace environment. The seal seeks to empower women by offering them more opportunities in the workplace with equal pay as well as opportunities for high-level executive positions.

In 2016, 45 organizations participated in The Gender Equality Seal and signed a letter of commitment towards gender equality.

More than 500 million people around the world are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods. Costa Rican coffee has been considered among the best in the world. As one of the country’s top three exports, coffee is a major source of revenue and a staple in the economy. Although coffee farmers can be paid extremely low wages for their work, there has been an influx of female-centered organizations seeking to remove the gender gap and allow women to make a living through coffee farming.

The International Women Coffee Alliance Costa Rican chapter, Women in Coffee Alliance of Costa Rica (WCACR), provides women in coffee a voice and vote in political decisions regarding the commodity. Formed in 2005, WCACR seeks to create sustainable developments in each community that are environmentally, economically and socially viable. They also offer opportunities for women in the coffee industry to learn more about the production of coffee and the marketplace.

Organizations like ASOMOBI, the Association of Organized Women of Biolley, make a point to advertise that their coffee is produced by women in an effort to strengthen gender equity and empower the women of this cooperative.

Today, with more than 30 associate members of the chapter including millers, producers, exporters and roasters, they represent 17 companies and organizations from Costa Rica’s seven coffee-producing regions.

Although Costa Rica is moving in the right direction, with equality in the workplace and gender salary as a topic of discussion among leaders and influencers, they still have a long way to go. But as politics change and leaders invest more energy into promoting an equal and thriving country, there is hope that women’s empowerment in Costa Rica will continue to be on the rise.

Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr