Friday, October 11, 2013

Educate girls for a better world

Today, October 11, marks the second International Day of the Girl Child.

The United Nations declared October 11, 2012, the first Day of the Girl to focus attention on girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year's observation targets their education.

Some decades ago, aged eight or nine, I was given the choice of either doing well at school or being a housemaid. My mom took me out of school for three days to show me how it would compare. I was back at school after the second.

Although my dreams and ambitions of higher education were quashed by the Lebanon civil war, I have since been a strong supporter of education in general, but especially girls’ education. Having worked since age 12, I am also a firm believer in the woman’s role in the workplace and global economy.

Girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl Child – designated on December 19, 2011 in UN General Assembly Resolution 66/170 -- focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.

The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative.

There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves. It is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.

While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls -- particularly the most marginalized -- continue to be deprived of this basic right, according to the United Nations.

Girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers. Even when girls are in school, perceived low returns from the poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending school or from achieving adequate learning outcomes. The transformative potential for girls and societies promised through girls’ education is yet to be realized.

Recognizing the need for fresh and creative perspectives to propel girls’ education, the 2013 International Day of the Girl Child will address the importance of new technology as well as innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves.

Examples of possible steps include:
  • Improved public and private means of transportation for girls to get to school -- from roads, buses, mopeds, bicycles to boats and canoes;
  • Collaboration between school systems and the banking industry to facilitate secure and convenient pay delivery to female teachers and scholarship delivery to girls;
  • Provision of science and technology courses targeted at girls in schools, universities and vocational education programs;
  • Corporate mentorship programs to help girls acquire critical work and leadership skills and facilitate their transition from school to work;
  • Revisions of school curricula to integrate positive messages on gender norms related to violence, child marriage, sexual and reproductive health, and male and female family roles;
  • Deploying mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls, especially in remote areas.
Raise your hand

To mark International Day of the Girl Child today, a UK charity calls on nations to urgently prioritize quality education for girls as an essential factor in tackling crippling poverty.

Malala Yousafzai and actress Frida Pinto raise their hands

Plan UK, a global children’s charity founded 75 years ago, has a petition running to call on the United Nations to make girls’ education a priority in its new development agenda. The “Raise Your Hand” petition has reached over one million hands raised and is now aiming for four million.

Plan works with the world’s poorest children so they can move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity.

Globally, it is estimated 65 million girls are out of school, with one in five adolescent girls around denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, discrimination and violence. Disasters and emergencies can make these problems worse.

Supporting girls’ education is one of the single best investments a government can make to help end poverty and give hope to girls, otherwise denied their rights and aspirations, Plan says.

Plan UK is celebrating the worldwide support shown for the petition on the first anniversary of the shooting of Malala Yousafzai who has become a global spokesperson on the subject since she was shot by the Taliban in October 2012 for going to school.

Malala is just one of the many people around the globe to have raised her hand for our Because I Am A Girl campaign. The petition has now reached 1.5 million signatures and will be presented to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign aims to support four million girls to stay in education and fulfill their potential.

Plan’s campaign will be in London’s Trafalgar Square today from 10.30 a.m to unveil a giant “erasable” billboard to remind the world that every girl has a right to go to school.

Plan will also be “pinkifying” monuments around the world for the second year running on International Day of the Girl. Monuments including the Empire State Building will be glowing pink in support of girls’ education.

It believes girls hold the power to help break the cycle of poverty. With education, skills and the right support, girls can make choices over their own future and be a huge part of creating lasting change. An educated girl is...
  • less likely to marry and to have children whilst she is still a child.
  • more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children.
  • more likely to reinvest her income back into her family, community and country.
Child marriage

Last year’s Day focused on child marriage, which is a fundamental human rights violation and impacts all aspects of a girl’s life. Child marriage denies a girl of her childhood, disrupts her education, limits her opportunities, increases her risk to be a victim of violence and abuse and jeopardizes her health.

Globally, around one in three young women aged 20-24 years were first married before they reached age 18. One third of them entered into marriage before they turned 15. Child marriage results in early and unwanted pregnancies, posing life-threatening risks for girls. In developing countries, 90 per cent of births to adolescents aged 15-19 are to married girls, and pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death for girls in this age group.

Girls with low levels of schooling are more likely to be married early, and child marriage has been shown to virtually end a girl’s education. Conversely, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as children, making education one of the best strategies for protecting girls and combating child marriage.

Preventing child marriage will protect girls’ rights and help reduce their risks of violence, early pregnancy, HIV infection, and maternal death and disability, including obstetric fistula. When girls are able to stay in school and avoid being married early, they can build a foundation for a better life for themselves and their families and participate in the progress of their nations.

Related posts:

March 8: Education can win the future -- March 06, 2012