We are making strides in getting girls back in school, but our greatest challenge is keeping them there and protecting the continuity of their education.
The way we make education more accessible is by tackling the root cause of what’s keeping girls out of school and that is gender inequality. When boys and girls are valued equally, all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This is not yet the case and we will continue to advocate and educate on all levels until equality is a reality!
Here are a few inspiring examples of how we’re helping keep girls in school.
Isobel is from a rural village in southern Mozambique. At the age of six, she became an orphan and went to live with her grandmother; a woman who struggled financially and could not afford to provide school fees and supplies for Isobel. Neighbours and family friends pitched in enough funds for Isobel to complete grade 8 but their financial support was temporary and her academic future was uncertain.
In an effort to improve the transition of girls from primary to secondary school, Plan International has implemented a program with the objective to reach girls who face physical and financial barriers when trying to access secondary school. This is done through the provision of scholarships to disadvantaged girls. Recipients are identified and selected by community leaders and school management committee members across the fifteen schools and surrounding communities targeted by the project. Community members and leaders unanimously agreed that Isobel met the selection criteria and she was selected to receive a secondary school scholarship! The scholarship includes the payment of her school fees, supplies including a school bag, textbooks, exercise books, pens and a school uniform.
Isobel is excelling in school and has decided to take the exam for admission into a teacher training course. Isobel has dreamt of becoming a teacher since childhood and now she is on her way!
Mariana is 16 years old and the fourth daughter in a family of seven children. At the age of four, Mariana was sent to stay with a cousin, while her parents left in search of employment and financial opportunities to support their family. Unfortunately, they were met with more hardship, as they were unable to find jobs and spent a period of time living on the streets, with no family or friends to support them.
As Mariana grew up, she continued to face financial challenges in her cousin’s home. Many days, Mariana traveled to school with an empty stomach. After completing grade 7, Mariana had to transition to a new school for grade 8, which was 7KM from her home, and her cousin and parents were unable to afford the school fees and costs for her school supplies. Mariana increasingly felt that her ability to remain and complete school was uncertain.
Through our project, Mariana was identified and selected to receive a secondary school scholarship. And her uncertainty about entering Grade 8 was quelled. In February 2017, Mariana entered grade 10, and in June, she was selected to participate in a community advocacy event for the Day of the African Child, facilitated by Plan International. Mariana was the master of ceremonies and was able to share her experience of receiving a scholarship.
Lack of accessible or gender specific washrooms can pose a huge barrier to girls in school. While getting girls into the classroom may seem like our main objective, Plan International takes a holistic approach to making education more accessible and we work with local teachers, parents, community leaders and youth to make change happen. Our projects take into consideration the journey to school, access to washrooms, menstruation (education, stigma, lack of supplies), teacher training and more.
A few ways in which we are making a difference for school girls in the northern mountains of Vietnam:
- Girl Groups: clubs are helping girls build their confidence, learn about their rights and gain the skills they need for the future.
“Discussing the consequences of early marriage has shown us the harm it causes,” says 14-year-old Ly. “I’ll only get married when I finish high school and have a job and can support myself.”
- Clean water and washrooms: girls were going on an unsafe journey to one makeshift washroom and were missing classes because they drank unclean water. But we have improved access to clean water through a filtration system and built gender-separate washrooms.
“What my kid likes most is that at the new school there’s a separate toilet for girls, with clean water always ready. Now in recess, she doesn’t have to walk up the hill like before, and she can wash hands with soap too.”
- Parent engagement: Plan International works with everyone in the community to make an environment in which girls can thrive. Parents have been engaged in the importance of girls’ education in nearly 20 schools and the results are encouraging!
“Now I see that education is the only way to escape poverty,” says Sin Lao. “We are trying our best to let our children go to school and avoid early marriage for our daughter.”
At every stage of life, girls continue to face barriers in accessing education. You can help get girls back into school and keep them there by supporting our #EducateAGirl campaign!