Theme for 2013: Innovating for Girls’ Education
We have heard much about Malala recently to illustrate the strength and capacity of girls -what we need to do is to ensure that all girls have opportunities to develop their skills and abilities without prejudice and stereotyping which has limited their opportunities in the past. As far as education goes we also know that improving the quality of education for girls means improving the quality of education for all.
Of course we do not need an International Day but if it focuses attention and resources and reduces some barriers to inclusion then we can go with that.
Photo © UNICEF/UGDA2011-00104/YANNICK TYLLE
A young Ugandan woman uses UNICEF’s unique innovation the solar powered Digital Drum, a rugged computer kiosk built into an oil drum and pre-loaded with dynamic multimedia content on health, job training, education opportunities, and other services (Bosco Youth Centre in Gulu, Uganda).
On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. For its second observance, this year’s Day will focus on “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.
The fulfilment 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. 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 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 forward, the 2013 International Day of the Girl Child will address the importance of new technology, but also innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves.
All UN agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and private sector actors have potential tools to innovate for and with girls to advance their education. 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 programmes;
- Corporate mentorship programmes 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.
The Techno girl is conducting an inspection of the pipe connections. Techno Girl programmeteaches essential skills to young women in South Africa .
“Innovate Your Future: Empower Young Women through Technology” Google + Hangout with Geena Davis, Academy Award-winning actor and ITU Special Envoy for Women and Girls in the field of information and communication :
To celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF has published a series of stories highlighting innovations for girls’ education around the globe.
Smart and creative use of technology is one route to overcoming gender barriers to girls’ learning and achievement. But innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of girls and young people themselves, can be important catalyzing forces.
UNICEF and its partners in all regions of the world are leading the way in innovative projects to accelerate progress for girls, particularly the most marginalized. Countries are exploring new education delivery systems and infrastructures, transforming curriculum to promote gender-sensitive pedagogy, and finding new ways to engage both traditional and non-traditional partners.
Youth mobilization and activism empowers girls to speak out and attend school
Education is one of the most critical areas of youth empowerment and mobilization, especially for girls, who consistently face exclusion and discrimination over the course of their lives.
‘Speak out’ clubs in Rwanda
UNICEF, together with partners, is empowering girls to speak out. In Rwanda, UNICEF partnered with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) to conduct Tuseme, or ‘speak out,’ clubs in 54 schools across the country. These clubs comprise boys and girls from all grades and provide an opportunity for students to come together to discuss challenges they face at school.
TUSEME clubs are also being used by UNESCO in their Girls’ Education projects in Tanzania
© UNICEF Rwanda
“Theatre is an important tool for addressing social issues and raising awareness among school children. It is a fun way to engage children and build confidence. Children really enjoy theatre but at the same time it plays an important role in passing on important messages,” said Pacifique Jean Claude Ingabire, Program Office at FAWE.In June, at Murama School in Bugesera District, over 100 students gathered to watch a theatre performance by the school’s Tuseme club. The play tackled issues that might prevent girls from completing their education: early pregnancy, self-esteem and transactional relationships between young girls and older men.“The Tuseme club has helped me build my confidence and speak out against issues such as teacher harassment and teenage pregnancies,” said Priscole Cyuzuzo, an 18 year-old girl.
Solange Uwamahoro, Head Teacher of Murama School, added, “The clubs have helped empower young girls. When they have problems they are able to talk about how they might overcome these challenges.”
Young Champions stand up for girls’ education in Nepal and Pakistan
In South Asia, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative’s (UNGEI) Young Champion (YC) programme identifies and trains young volunteers dedicated to the promotion of girls’ education. YCs work together with other activists to convince parents to send their children to school, keeping records and monitoring out-of-school children.
In Nepal, Mr. Kalara Ram, 30 years-old from Lahan Municipality, exemplifies the success of the YC model. After completing his training, Mr. Ram identified 52 children in his community not going to school and counselled these children and their parents on the importance of quality education. He continues to raise the voice for children’s rights among social and governmental organizations and inspires children from the most disadvantaged communities to enrol and stay in school.
© UNICEF Nepal
In urban slums on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, Mr. Syed Mohsin Raza volunteers in the YC initiative to get every child in school. Since September 2010, he has “managed to have more than 200 children enrolled. Initially, it is difficult to convince the parents.I tell about the advantages of educating their children and eventually they agree. I encourage them to keep their children in school for at least 10 years,” he said.
Most out-of-school children are marginalized and poor; some have been forced by circumstances to drop out and engage in child labour. Shirin Nayyar, 6 years-old, was enrolled due to the efforts of Mr. Raza, who convinced her parents to let her receive non-formal education. Within a few months, Shirin showed good progress and enrolled at the local Government Primary School Ahmedabad.
“I am a poor man and did not realize the importance of education my children,” said Abbas Nayyar, Shirin’s father. “Ever since Shirin started going to school, my thoughts have changed. Now I believe that parents who do not send their children to school commit a major sin. I will work hard to education all my children so that they could have a better life.”
In Ghana, UNICEF is equipping a group of Tech Girls to become young journalists and tell their stories via blogs and digital photography. They are also given skills to advocate for change in their communities. Gloria Seidu, 11, is one of the members of the group, said, “I am writing a story about the girls who sell sachets of water on the street. They are missing out on going to school.”
There are 100 Tech Girls in schools across the Northern Region of Ghana. For the past year, they met outside of class time for sessions in ICT. The girls had never touched a computer before so the lessons started with the basics. “Before, if you would go to class, only boys would raise their hands to talk. Now the Tech Girls stand tall and speak out. There is a difference in their general performance, and their grades have all improved,” Pong Tamale School headmaster, Tia Anthony. More of their stories can be found on www.voicesofyouth.org.
Through these youth empowerment and mobilization efforts, UNICEF and partners address issues of girls’ education at school and community levels. They are giving a voice to youth activists and ensuring that these voices are heard. Mr. Raza added, “I keep visiting their schools to check their progress, and see their families to know how they feel about their children being educated. In case a child stops coming to school, I follow up and try to find the reason. It is important that no child drops out once enrolled.”
Going mobile: An innovative approach to girls education
Around the world, UNICEF is setting up mobile schools to make education for girls a reality, even under extreme circumstances.
Mobile solutions for girls of nomadic communities in Mongolia
Six year old ‘Erka’ lives with a semi nomadic herder family in the remote Khuvsgul province of Mongolia, a very isolated area that is particularly difficult in winter when the days shorten, temperatures plunge and heavy snow plies up outside.
© UNICEF Mongolia/2012/Brown
Luckily, there is a mobile kindergarten nearby that she can attend. Supported by UNICEF, the mobile kindergartens are a unique solution to providing education to the children of nomadic communities in Mongolia.Here children can play, learn and socialise with each other while parents work with the livestock making a living for the family.
“I like to come to the kindergarten,” says Erka. “My favourite poem is about a baby chicken and my favourite song is about getting an excellent mark at school. Yesterday I got an excellent mark for my drawing.”
This is not a small achievement for Erka. At only four months old she contracted polio and was left with a damaged right arm and leg and difficulties \ communicating. She was abandoned by her mother and adopted by her current parents who now bring her to the kindergarten every day. They couldn’t be happier with her improvements. “Erka has learned to sing, dance and play. She says to me: Daddy please take me to the kindergarten in the morning and don’t forget to pick me up in the afternoon,” says Erka’s father.
The mobile learning facilities are built on UNICEF’s Child-friendly principles providing a safe, healthy, protective and inclusive school environment in which, amongst other essential skills, children learn the values of respect, tolerance and democracy through active learning mythologies. As a result, their presence is breaking harmful social norms and making education more accessible for girls in the communities where they operate.
Extreme weather conditions is no longer a barrier to education in Ethiopia
Hassena Ibrahim is a 13 old girl from Amibara Woreda of Afar, Ethiopia, who is determined to become a teacher and fight against child marriage. Hassena is a student at Sedehafage Full Level Primary School, a mobile school supported by UNICEF to provide education for children of the pastoralist communities who often move during the draught session.
In addition to everyday classes, Hassena is also attending Girls Mini Media Life skills Clubs supported by UNICEF. But so far, she is the only girl in her class level. “I think the main cause of female students drop outs is cultural influence. Parents force students to get married before the complete primary school,” said Hassana. “I wish to become a teacher and transform this harmful practice by advocating for girls education for pastoral girls.”
Innovative school structures offers hope in emergencies and remote areas in Pakistan
In Rajanpur district in Pakistan, the Transitional School Structures (TSS) built by UNICEF have attracted community support and are bringing more girls to school. The structures were initially built in 2010 to respond to the flooding emergency which paralyzed the already over-burdened education system. Two years later, when the floods again washed out many areas in Pakistan, the TSS were the only un-flooded schools in the affected area.
Farhat, 14, is one of the oldest students at the TSS in Basti Poly village. She is not only one of the brightest in her class but she is a strong activist of girls education. Single-handedly, Farhat recruited all of her friends to attend classes in their temporary school. “The elders have realised that girls should receive education. Thanks to the social mobilizers and members of the youth group, the number of girls in our school has increased,” said Farhat.
Gulnaz Jabeen Khan, education officer at UNICEF, explained that the TSS are highly supported by the community and many of them are constructed on the land donated by the villagers. “The enthusiasm and the will of people of Basti Poli to educate their children, especially girls, is exemplary. It is an indication that people of even such a far off, remote and under privileged area, are realising the urgent need of our time – education for their children,” said Mr. Khan.
Thinking Outside of the Box, through Film and Art
One of the greatest hurdles in guaranteeing every girl’s right to an education is to change the mindsets of policy makers, community leaders and family members. Film is an original and promising vehicle to transform attitudes and move people to act on behalf of girls’ education. Film is a powerful tool to amplify the voices of girls speaking out on their own behalf. Around the world UNICEF and its partners are using the power of film to highlight the importance of girls’ education.
To Education a Girl in Nepal and Uganda
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) supported the production of To Educate a Girl, which tells the inspiring story of young girls pursuing their education despite odds. Filmmakers Frederick Rendina and Oren Rudavsky traveled to Nepal and Uganda in 2010 to document the lives of girls determined to follow their dreams amid poverty and in the aftermath of conflict.
“I will go to school. I will take my notebook and pen,” says Mercy, a resolute and unforgettable six-year-old growing up in post-war Uganda. On the other side of the globe, in the hills of Nepal thirteen-year-old Sanju reminds viewers of the damaging effects of poverty on girls’ opportunities.
She also knows that if only given the chance, she could do great things: “If I were rich,” she says, “I’m sure I would become a scientist.” To Educate a Girl has been screened at numerous film festivals and at many colleges and universities.
UNGEI also teamed with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to create lesson plans to accompany the film, helping students to learn about the disparity in education for boys and girls and take action to eliminate these disparities.
A bright spot in darkness in Guinea
In Guinea, UNICEF supported the production of the Eva Weber’s acclaimed documentary Black Out. The film follows crowds of youth as they congregate around gas stations and the G’bessia International Airport at night – to study.
Extreme poverty dictates mandatory power outages in Guinea. So during exam season in Conakry, hundreds of students – boys and girls – make a nightly pilgrimage to find light.
One young woman featured in the film tells viewers: “I come from far away to study here [a gas station]. Sometimes I have to spend the night here. As a woman it can be dangerous to go back around 11pm. So sometimes we are forced to spend the night here, because of the lack of electricity.”
Teaming with UNICEF, the filmmaker returned to Guinea to screen the film for local officials, hoping to spark discussion about ways to improve conditions for these students, whose brave determination to pursue an education offers a bright spot in darkness.
“One minute” is more than enough in Romania!
In countries like Romania, UNICEF puts girls behind the camera through OneMinutesJr videos. OneMinutesJr, a partnership between UNICEF and the One Minutes Foundation, is an international initiative that gives marginalized youth an opportunity to create 60-second videos, affording them a chance not only share their views with the world.
In Romania, 14-year-old Alaxandra Dima produced A Part of Me to express her escape life in the slums: “Every day I take the same road to school and my tutoring classes. Everything I see makes me sick: addicts and prostitues…But I don’t blend in. I try to stand out from the crowd and avoid becoming a bad example. Even though it is hard, I put a lot of effort in everything I do, because I do it for my future! I want to graduate from school and high school, get a job and move out of this neighbourhood. It’s the only way.”
Film is an innovative advocacy tool for girls’ education, changing minds and inspiring action by allowing people to see and hear from girls themselves.