Skip to main content

Breaking the Barriers to Girls’ Education in the Developing World

Shakila. A student at Taufiq Islamic Primary School, Uganda.
Whenever I have written about time I’ve spent in East Africa, I often talk about the fact that geography plays such a big role in how different my life is compared to someone there. What I hadn’t realised until much more recently is that not only does somebody’s physical location in the world play a massive part in the opportunities available to them, but so does their gender.

One question that begs to be asked is: why is it that girls in particular are less likely to get access to education in poorer countries?

According to Plan UK, women earn 30-60% of men’s earnings for similar jobs and women are more likely to be in low-paid employment, yet an extra year of secondary school boosts a girl’s eventual future wage by 15-25%. Many don't even have the opportunity to get this far.

There are obvious cultural and economic pressures dictating that boys, as historical breadwinners, should be pushed to the fore and afforded the greater opportunities to be educated.

After all, imagine you are family living on a five thousand Ugandan shillings a day. You will make a few thousand shillings for selling bananas you’ve been growing. You have two children; a boy and a girl. You can’t afford to send them both to school, but understand it would be good for one of them to go. Who do you choose? Someone who your culture dictates is traditionally the breadwinner? Or someone who your culture considers as being more of a homemaker? And remember, you still have to feed your family today.

Obviously I am generalising and using rural Uganda as a simplified example, but when I look into the eyes of Shakila, a young Ugandan girl surrounded by a couple of cheeky looking boys, I see a great sense of satisfaction and pride that she is able to hold her own as the only girl in her class. The lack of other female pupils in her form class is telling.

For every Shakila, how many girls are restricted from getting access to education by either financial or cultural restrictions? For every Shakila, glowing with pride and full of ambition for the future, how many girls are deprived of the opportunity to show the world their true potential? For every Shakila, breaking the stereotypes that dictate that all females must be homemakers, how many intelligent girls are gearing up for a life of basic domesticity?

Fighting for girls to get access to a proper education could ensure that more females become literate. Literacy can act to facilitate greater intelligence. Greater intelligence means a greater likelihood that girls will remain healthy as a result of being able to access and understand a wider pool of information. They would also be more likely to get married and have children later in life.

Cultural attitudes will take a lot longer to overcome, but in the meantime, humanity could be doing a whole lot more to ensure that girls are given the chance to access education. Plan UK are demanding that the British Government support girls in the developing world in order to get them a better deal and are asking for the public to pressure their local Members of Parliament to push for this.

Ultimately, an education for a girl could result in benefits, culturally, financially and educationally, for an entire community and for many future generations. Plan UK's projects are already having an impact, but now it is time for the wider global community to pitch in.

For more information about Plan UK's campaign 'Because I am a Girl' visit their website: www.plan-uk.org/what-we-do/campaigns/because-i-am-a-girl/ 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

Cover image. © Penguin Books. I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English. From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together). She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing. In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the w

The Bakiga Window: Taufiq Islamic Primary School: Part II

In a manner so typically Ugandan, Yasim approaches silently and politely asks whether he can have a word with me – it is one of those ironies that a word has to be had in order to have a word with someone. Irony aside, he has heard back from the Sheikh and arranged an appointment for me. It is Wednesday 20 th April and once more I find myself en route to Taufiq Islamic Primary School. The morning started in the usual way: waking up sleepy students, ensuring that everyone had 'taken' breakfast and had a supply of bottled water, and then walking with the group down the hill, into the town. At the foot of the hill, the group scattered into many fragments, with everyone off in search of their own adventures. I head straight on, past the noise of the metal workers, over to Taufiq. After having had to beat a hasty retreat last week , I was unsure of who would be in my reception committee. Teacher Bright was the first to greet me, before taking me inside to m

Beach Huts, Southwold, Suffolk

Sleeping beach huts on Southwold Beach, Suffolk. Safely back from my annual visit to Rotterdam, my parents invited me to spend a few days with them in a small holiday cottage in Southwold, Suffolk. Give or take driving through Newmarket a few years back when studying at Anglia Ruskin University, I'd never really seen much of the county. Southwold itself is a beautiful seaside resort which happens to be the home of Adnams , a well known brewery, which means that for a small place there are a healthy number of pubs - suddenly Dad's choice of location made sense . On the early afternoon of Wednesday 20th February  I took a walk to the Harbour Inn to meet my parents for lunch. The pub was just under two miles away from Grace Cottage , where we were staying. This gave me the opportunity to take some pictures of the sea. On our way towards the see we also spotted  Georgie Glen  from Waterloo Road humming happily to herself on the High Street. Southwold is lovely,