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Girls' Education in Sri LankaGirls’ education in Sri Lanka has significantly improved over the last two decades. Boys and girls have equal enrollment in primary schools, and girls outnumber boys in secondary schools. Additionally, in 2011 girls consistently scored higher than boys in key subjects in the National Assessments of Learning Outcomes.

The Successes of Girls’ Education in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is the only South Asian country that has already achieved the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal for gender equality at all levels of education. This is a great achievement for the small island nation, and it can be used as a model for other countries.

These achievements have been possible because the government has been committed to ensuring gender equality and improving girls’ education in Sri Lanka. In 1945, the government introduced free primary, secondary and university education for all children, regardless of gender. Additionally, the constitution provides for equal rights irrespective of sex and forms of affirmative action to ensure equality for women.

Continued Work Towards Complete Gender Equality

However, Sri Lanka does still have things to work on. While girls in the nation have access to the same education as boys and tend to do better than them in school, the statistics for adults do not quite mirror these trends. Women’s adult literacy is lower than that of men and the unemployment rate for women is two times higher than the rate for men.

This has been the case for the last three decades, indicating that while women have been given the same access to education, that education is not translating into equal employment later on in life. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by the government to ensure that girls’ access to education is really benefiting them in the long run.

NGOs Focus on Education

Of course, the Sri Lankan government does not have to face these challenges alone. There are numerous nonprofit organizations, such as the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank, that have partnered with the government to implement projects regarding gender equality and education. Additionally, there are a variety of independent organizations that focus on education in the nation.

Room to Read is one such organization that runs literacy and girls’ education programs in Sri Lanka, but there are also many others. The Sri Lankan government can utilize these resources and work with them to create equal opportunities for men and women both during and after their attendance at educational institutions.

Ultimately, girls’ education in Sri Lanka has been on the right track for many years. The country has shown a commitment to providing equal access to education regardless of gender, and this is a very commendable effort. While these accomplishments should not be forgotten, the government also needs to be aware of other issues of gender inequality, such as unequal employment and disparities in adult literacy. These are concerns that should be addressed through the development of new policies and collaboration with NGOs that work in the region.

– Liyanga De Silva
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in Sri LankaOn November 2, the World Economic Forum released the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report. The report did not reflect well on the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka.

The Global Gender Gap Report grades 144 countries on their progress toward attaining gender equality in four areas: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Sri Lanka has been declining from its position in the top 20 since 2010. The country slipped from closing 74.6 percent of the gender gap in 2010 to 66.9 percent this year.

The country’s gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity increased because it failed to improve conditions of wage inequality for similar work. Additionally, Sri Lanka now ranks 86th among 144 countries in the gender gap in Educational Attainment.

In Political Empowerment, Sri Lanka ranked 65th. The country compensated for low scores on the Women in Parliament and Women in Ministerial Positions indicators with high marks on the Years with a Female Head of State indicator. Sri Lanka has had a female head of state for 21 out of the last 50 years.

Despite these discouraging statistics, efforts to advance the state of women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka persist. Aitken Spence PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., MAS Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. and the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (Pvt.) Ltd. have signed on as partners of Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Developed through a partnership between U.N. Women and the United Nations Global Compact, the two organizations designed the principles to help companies review existing policies and practices and establish new strategies to promote women’s empowerment.

The principles include:

  • Establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Treating all women and men equitably at work by respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination
  • Securing the health, safety and well-being of all female and male workers
  • Promoting education, training and professional development for women
  • Implementing enterprise development and employing supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Nurturing equality through community initiatives and advocacy

Participating companies must measure and publicly report their progress toward achieving gender parity.

In addition to economic measures, non-government organizations are implementing social programs to enhance women’s empowerment in Sri Lanka. Emerge Centre for Reintegration is the newest program sponsored by the Emerge Lanka Foundation, which supports survivors of sexual abuse aged 10-18. For 12 years, the foundation has helped countless exploited young women by providing training in life, financial and professional skills. Now, through the Centre for Reintegration, it offers assistance to young women who are over 18 as they face the challenging transition stage from living in shelters to thriving on their own.

Enabling women to participate fully in communities builds stronger economies, helps attain internationally agreed upon objectives for development and sustainability and improves the quality of life for women, men, families and communities. The work being done in Sri Lanka can help counter its decreasing rankings and ensure empowerment for all women.

– Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr