Earlier this May, feature reports discussed the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the “No Teen Shame” movement. The first encourages adults and to talk to teens about sex and advocates for better sex education in and outside of schools. The No Teen Shame movement works to counteract stereotypical images of young parents and their children, to support young parents and their rights, especially for education.
Today’s report also focuses on issues involving education and motherhood, this time with an international focus. According to the Education for All Global Monitoring Report, a child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five years. Education of girls is linked to significant drops in child marriage and early births.
The good news is that we are seeing major gains in access to education for girls worldwide. (See Global Monitoring Reports. More about how education transforms.)
<<<Link to “empowerment” infographic from Education For All.
The bad news is twofold:
First – pockets of educational inequality persist. Second – increasing access to schooling for girls is resulting in extremist responses in some parts of the world.
In Nigeria, to take an example much in the news lately, some areas of the country have school access rates of 80% or more for boys and girls, while other areas see only 5% of girls attending school. More than 40 percent of 10-year-old girls in the Nigeria’s state of Borno – where 276 girls were kidnapped several weeks ago – had never been to school, according to the Global Monitoring Report. Manos Antoninis, the organization’s acting director, wrote yesterday:
“This attack, just as with every attack on a school or a teacher, is an attack on the very institution which could reduce the inequalities that are fuelling the unrest.”
Targeting Female Students
The attack in Borno is only one of many perpetrated in recent years on girls seeking an education:
Last June, female university students were the target of a bombing in Pakistan, injuring 22 and killing 11.
The previous year, 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai was shot for advocating for women’s education.
In May of 2012, 160 Afghani school girls were poisoned.
Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn write about the struggle for women’s education worldwide in their book Half the Sky. A project inspired by the book, just released a video called “What’s So Scary About Smart Girls?”
The answer: Smart girls understand their value, know their rights, and cannot be intimidated. Smart girls challenge the status quo. Smart girls change the world.
The video is part of an effort to raise awareness about the need for, and benefits of, educating girls and to focus resources on addressing the root causes around the Borno kidnapping and other incidents.
Meanwhile, however, nearly 300 Nigerian girls paid a terrible price for daring to improve their lives and the lives of their communities through education. While the education community worldwide continues to seek improvements in access and quality, more generally, let us not lose sight of the danger faced by individuals struggling for education for themselves and others.
“Change is possible, and you can be part of the solution,” say Half the Sky founders.