POSTED March 10, 2023
How we can help girls in Africa overcome obstacles to quality education
Watch this panel discussion about new challenges girls faced through the pandemic and what we can do to help
By Danielle Daley, digital community coordinator
Children have a right to an education. But for girls, in particular, there are more obstacles to quality education.
The Children Believe and Graça Machel Trust (GMT) virtual panel discussion below explains the challenges sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s a complex issue. Tanaka Chikati, GMT youth ambassador, gave one example of why.
“We could be educating girls and they’re going to school, however when they go back home parents might find it easier to let their child get married early so they can get a short-term solution to financial problems,” she explains.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director, United Nations Women says, “We know when it comes to education, that it is never a waste”. The pandemic added to the many other existing challenges there are for girls to get an education. However, it’s important to engage the entire community in making change so girls don’t have to face obstacles to quality education alone.
At Children Believe, we work with partners, school admin, community leaders, families and government agencies in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Ghana, to promote equality for girls. We also provide girls with the tools they need to advance and understand their right to live their dreams.
You can help girls overcome obstacles to quality education to help them reach their dreams. Advocate for gender equality, send a girl to school today.
How is girls’ education in Africa being put at risk during the pandemic?
Sarah Ormiston: Young girls in developing countries have always faced extraordinary challenges advancing their education, especially getting access to studies in STEM, which is science, technology, engineering and math. But the worldwide pandemic has increased this burden. Forty-seven percent of the world’s children out of school, due to COVID restrictions, live in Sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half of those are girls. In all of Africa, there’s a staggering 308-million girls under 18, a quarter of those are adolescents, and they are at a critical turning point in their lives. So part of our job here today is to help them.
Under our Feminist International Assistance Policy, we remain committed to dismantling the barriers to quality education for women and girls. Understanding this needs to be a key part of our commitment.
In this time of crisis, for which we don’t have and do not know solutions, but, we know when it comes to education, that it is never a waste. It is also important that public education is quality, accessible and affordable, because public education is an equalizer.
As a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic in April of 2020 last year, the trust conducted research on the social and economic impact of COVID on women and girls and implemented a campaign to amplify the voices and perspectives of women and children to help inform relevant responses to the pandemic. We wanted to give a face and a voice to the statistics that were quite abhorrent. We held numerous webinars and Instagram Live conversations with the intention to hear from girls themselves on the impact the pandemic was having. Our discussions gave colour and texture to the data. Many were taking on household chores well beyond their capacity. Many felt disconnected from friends and family. Many were struggling with the inequities caused by the digital divide, saddened by school closures, fearful of abusers in their own home and experiencing mental-health challenges.
Adolescent girls, particularly those living in vulnerable areas, have a unique set of barriers. Some are forced to marry while still a child, and as we know, this often leads to early pregnancy. That has a long-term, life-changing effect, including denial of education. We actively work with local schools, partners, social workers and government agencies in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Ghana to intervene and prevent child marriages from happening. Where we cannot convince a family to stop a child marriage, we provide safe havens for girls away from their familial home. Some girls are denied an education, because they live in families that simply can’t afford to send them to school, or they prioritize their son’s education over a daughter’s education.
I think this is, the girl’s education, is, from a development community, is also we need to learn it’s a nexus issue. It is a development issue, but it’s not strictly only a development issue. It’s also a governance issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s a diplomacy issue, and I guess it carries to the point that it’s about resources as an international partner as a department like Global Affairs but also like-minded. But it’s all. It’s not only about resources, it’s about influence; it’s about actually making sure that you take a stand on what you believe is right, and then you drive that point via multiple city channels through programming. And then you need to be able to demonstrate that you’re investing, and you’re supporting, but also that you’re trying to influence the direction.
I think an important factor would be to talk to parents. So, yes, we could be educating girls, and they’re going to school, however when they go back home, parents might find it better and easier to just let their child get married early so that they can get a short-term solution to financial problems that they find themselves in. However, if there are situations where parents are explained to, they’re taught, they are told that long-term benefits that come from educating your child, are going to be immeasurable.
One thing I have identified is that there is this gap between stakeholders and then the adolescent girl, and I believe that if we are able to bridge that gap then we can impart the adolescent girl.
Education, as was mentioned, is not just an issue of curriculum, or sort of brick-and-mortar schools, but it is a very multi-faceted complex issue, which needs to be addressed. And, again, once if we look at this — if we look at the recovery to COVID from the lens of the of the entire need of a child and a woman these issues will come to bear, and it will be impossible to ignore.
Children Believe has been working with our local partners to design and implement programs served related to the pandemic. This includes addressing the surge in gender-based violence. We work with local partners to strengthen law enforcement bodies to bring abusers to justice. We support the availability of psychosocial counselling services for victims. As a result, over 146,000 children and women benefited from various forms of services as a result of gender-based violence. I will end with this, I hope we leave today with a renewed spirit for this work. We have a huge challenge, but when we work together, seeing how we’re all committed to this work to make sure girls in Sub-Saharan Africa can get an education, that they can be protected and supported and reach their dreams — we understand that needs to be done. We know it can be done, but do we have the will to make it so.
ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE:
Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60+ years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.
About ChildFund Alliance:
A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.