The education of girls is central to development. It is critical because it improves not just the lives of individuals, but the lives of everyone around them too. Studies have shown that investing in the education of girls transforms communities, countries and the entire world.
Despite this, disparities between boys’ and girls’ education still exist. These imbalances are generally worse in lower-income countries, but most countries are affected – with only 49% of countries having reached gender parity in primary education to date. This gap widens to 42% when we consider lower secondary education and is even higher in upper secondary education (24%).
Poor families often favour investing in boys’ education over girls. If the family cannot afford the school fees or transportation costs to send all of their children to school, either the older children or the female children are forced to leave school. This is particularly true in patriarchal societies where men are considered breadwinners or ‘head of the household’.
Many schools in poverty-stricken countries, do not meet minimum safety standards or are actually dangerous. This is especially true for girl children who are even more vulnerable.
Menstruation is stigmatised in many societies. Girls feel embarrassed by this natural process which makes them less likely to attend school or fully participate in other activities. Practically too, many schools cannot meet girls’ needs in terms of hygiene and sanitation. And if the family is unable to access sanitary items for them during menstruation, girls may miss as much as 25% of schooling time. Families then decide that it would be better for them to drop out completely.
Child marriage immediately stops girls from attending school and occurs disproportionately in developing countries. For families experiencing financial hardship, child marriages reduce their economic burden as there is one less child to feed.
This includes domestic chores like looking after younger siblings, cooking, cleaning, fetching water or collecting fuel to make fires. In some cases, children are taken out of school to work on farmland or to take care of animals, etc. This work creates low self-esteem and a lack of interest in education which can lead to a higher dropout rate. Children take on adult responsibilities from a young age. Doing this instead of enjoying their childhood, negatively impacts children and their natural tendency to be curious and learn.
Physical or sexual abuse, harassment and bullying are other reasons why many girls drop out. Surviving rape, coercion, or other types of discrimination affects enrolments, lowers their participation and achievements and increases absenteeism and dropout rates.
Girls in conflict or crisis-affected areas face more obstacles which prevent them from attending schools than boys do. Approximately 39 million girls in countries affected by armed conflict or natural disasters do not attend school, while refugee girls are half as likely to attend school as refugee boys.
At World Care Foundation (WCF) we run education projects and work to support displaced families so that their children can go to school. This is one of the ways we’re working to tackle gender inequality in education, particularly among poor communities and those displaced by conflict and/or disaster.
Our Salam School in Barja, Lebanon, enrols 270 Syrian refugee children, allowing them to return to school and regain a semblance of normality through a routine. The Dar al Hikma Education Centre in Arsal Camp is one of the few schools for refugee children that is still operational in that area. Both schools only charge nominal fees to families who can afford them and are free for children whose families cannot afford fees.
Find out more about our education projects and see how you can support our work here.
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