Today, October 11, 2017 marks the International Day Of The Girl Child. This is a day to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. The theme of this day will focus on empowering girls before, during and after conflict. Young girls face a lot of struggles not limited to forced marriages, sexual abuse,gender-based violence and other vices like trafficking.
Adolescent girls in conflict zones are 90 per cent more likely to be out of school when compared to girls in conflict-free countries, compromising their future prospects for work and financial independence as adults. On this day, i’d like to focus on the importance of having girls get educated, mainly looking at the challenges they face in the quest to get an affordable and quality education.
We are in the 21st century and expectations of having the number of girls out of school to be low is pretty tremendous. According to statistics the majority of the children in Africa and even global who are not going to school is the girl child. In Africa alone the number of girls not going to school is at 16.1 million. This number has actually reduced compared to the previous years but not according to the stand it is supposed to be at. About 137 million children began school in 2011 and 34 million children are set out to leave school before the last grade. This shows a 25% rate of school drop out just like that of 2000.
Even though most African countries have tried to ensure access to education is free, it is not really free to some extent. This is due to the cost associated with taking children to school including cost of buying uniforms, textbooks, bus fare and even cost of buying or preparing lunch for the children while in school. Apparently, girls’ needs need more attention compared to boys. Due to the poverty levels, the parents decide to take the boy child to school and let the girl remain at home and take care of the house.
There was a time when I was conducting a research in the Eastern part of Kenya. And Just like most developing African countries, the nearest school in the interior parts of the community is usually a 1 or 2-hour walk. This presents a big threat to the girl child because it creates room for her to get attacked or even violated while on her way to or from school. Some parents therefore opt to keep these girls at home. I have recently noticed the same scenario in some remote parts of the Nyanza region.
Another major factor is early marriage and pregnancy, when girls are forced to marry young there are always pulled out of school at a very critical stage. That is the stage where the girl transitions from primary to secondary, and this is point where the girl can gain life skills to escape the cycle of poverty. When a girl gets pregnant she is always stigmatized against going to school or even joining after giving birth. This is due to the girls being considered as the primary care givers and there main work is to take care of the home.
As an African girl, seeing another African girl child empowered and educated is something that is close to my heart and therefore advocate for suitable measures to be put in place to ensure more girls get an education. On this Day Of The Girl Child, I’ve pondered about a few measures that could be taken to promote equal access to education. The government and NGos should support and promote community initiatives for creating positive attitude for equal access and creating awareness on the importance of both the girl and boy child to get education. This includes creating a suitable gender sensitive environment for both boys and girls to ensure they learn in a comfortable environment. Another measure would be to educate the boy child about the importance of gender equality in any civil or non-civil society. Engaging boys helps in finding a solution to achieve gender equality and gender norms. Lastly, I think setting out of bursaries and encouraging women on savings and loan association would allow them to invest in their education and secure their financial freedom.
Educate Her so that she doesn’t miss opportunities.
Happy International Day Of The Girl Child .