Global Issues that Affect Girls' Education
Face of HIV/AIDS: Asia Pacific Network of
People Living with HIV/AIDS
Excerpt from speech given by Frika Chia Iskandar on 25 October 2005 at the launch of the ‘Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS’ campaign.
No matter what you thought before, today you have heard that AIDS has a child’s face. And no matter what you thought before, today you have heard that the AIDS pandemic knows no borders.
I have an Asian face. And I, too, am the face of AIDS.
After Africa, children in South and East Asia are the second largest group of children living with AIDS and dying from the disease. The AIDS epidemic in Asia is growing very quickly. But there is still vast ignorance about AIDS throughout the region, including in Indonesia where I am from….
But to make a difference, we need more than education about AIDS. We need education in general.
If children do not attend school, and do not learn to read and write, they will have little chance of learning how to protect themselves from disease when they grow up. And if young people do not stay in school, they will not only lack important knowledge, but will not have a chance to develop the self-esteem and life skills to remain safe from HIV.
That’s why an important part of fighting AIDS is making sure that every child gets a proper education and every young person stays in school…
Integrated Early Childhood Development:
Remedy for Social Ills
Particular neither to Jamaica not to the region, child-rearing practices often border on child abuse disguised as discipline. Studies on child-rearing customs in Jamaica found that beatings, harsh reprimands and threats were widely practiced. Parents and guardians report a range of punishments from thrashings with an object, to threatening, humiliating or withholding love, to explaining and counseling. One study found that 47 per cent of parents or guardians admitted disciplining children with physical assaults and 25 per cent through psychological aggression. Only 28 per cent used what would be considered non-violent discipline – discussion, time-out or loss of privileges.
With the establishment of the National Early Childhood Commission, Jamaica coordinates the training and certification of early childhood practitioners and programme accreditation based on sound child-development principles. Child protection was given a boost by the passage of the 2004 Childcare and Protection Act, which for the first time mandates child abuse reporting. With a renewed focus on young children and parents, Jamaica has taken a leap forward in alleviating child abuse and strengthening families.
Child Participation: Child-to-Child Surveys
Child-to-child surveys, launched in Ethiopia on 16 June 2004 and spreading, first within Africa and now across the world, are part of an overall approach to have children shape the future they will inherit.
Young people take leadership roles by locating out-of-school children and proposing ways to get them into school. Before solutions can be generated, the reasons behind their absences must be understood. With questionnaires in hand, the young sleuths track down their peers to learn firsthand why so many children are not in school. Once they compile the answers, the students return to their classes to brainstorm ways to dismantle the barriers that keep children away. The beauty of this exercise is that the surveyors gain problem-solving skills while drawing attention to the plight of millions who are left out of school.
But the exercise does not end with the children. The surveys are meant to set off chain reactions where governments, donors and non-governmental and civil organizations take action. It may mean ending educational fees, providing nearby water sources, beefing up security or providing meals at school. Adults may be needed for interventions to take hold, but the energy and vision of young people are crucial for getting their peers to school.
African Girls’ Education Initiative: Partnership in Action
The African Girls’ Education Initiative, the precursor to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, was a model partnership among countries, donor governments and UN agencies. Begun in 1994 with initial funding from Canada and later from Norway, it allowed for the expansion of the Global Girls’ Education Programme in sub-Saharan Africa. The Initiative’s goal was to improve the enrolment, retention, achievement and school completion of girls.
Originally the Initiative focused on 18 countries and expanded to 34 by 2000. It emphasized local participation in project planning and implementation, resulting in country-specific activities rather than a one-size-fits-all model. The African Initiative countries reviewed programme interventions to identify what would work based on their circumstances. Chad, for instance, adapted Colombia’s ‘Escuela Nueva’ approach of multi-grade teaching. The results were impressive.
During the first two years of Chad’s involvement, the number of girls enrolled in first grade jumped fourfold, the drop-out rate decreased from 22 per cent to 9 per cent and the number of female teachers increased from 36 to 787. In the 10 participating areas, girls’ net enrolment was 18 percentage points higher than the national average.
In its six years, the Initiative reached more than 6,000 schools and literacy centres in West and Central Africa and some 60 districts and regions in 18 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa, demonstrating the power of partnerships.
Girls' Education: The Biggest Lesson
On 9 April 2003, over 1.3 million people in more than 100 countries were inscribed in the Guinness Book of Records as part of the largest lesson ever to take place. The class, organized by the Global Campaign for Education, occurred during the Global Week of Action for Girls’ Education. The simultaneous class was held in countries as far apart as Albania to Zimbabwe.
Some 350 children piled into a room at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where they were met by Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan, Nane Annan, Carol Bellamy, then UNICEF Executive Director, and their head teacher for the day, Angélique Kidjo, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The Secretary-General underscored the morning’s lesson: to ensure health, peace and equality, “classrooms of the world have to be full of girls as well as boys.”
Then, Ms. Kidjo asked, “Can you explain to me why so many women grow up unable to read and write?” The room reverberated with the children’s answers: “Because of poverty.” “Men have more rights than women in other countries.” “They’re not able to go to school because they didn’t have enough money.”
The 30-minute class encouraged candid discussion. It ended with students reciting the pledge from ‘Go Girls! Education for Every Child’. They called for every child to have the best start, the best schools, the best teachers, and protection, safety and fairness.
Sports: Playing Fair and Square
Sport serves many functions in children’s lives. It is a potent tool for promoting friendship, solidarity and fair play. Physical activity strengthens the body and improves learning and academic performance. Recreation, play and sport also can heal wounds of trauma. Participating in a team or club provides a sense of belonging and helps to bridge the divide that separates people. ‘Sport-in-a-box’, filled with balls, nets, pumps, drums, tambourines and games, goes hand in hand with ‘school-in-a-box’ when disaster strikes.
Sport is also an effective advocacy tool that speaks a universal language. International and national sports organizations have rallied support for girls’ education through global, regional and national campaigns.
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has heralded girls’ education in over 70 countries. In 2003, FIFA Women’s World Cup in the United States was dedicated to the ‘Go Girls! Education for Every Child’, the global initiative to get the 65 million out-of-school girls into the classroom. Jetix Kids (formerly Fox Kids) dedicated its 2003 and 2004 football finals to the ‘Go Girls!’ campaign. And the Asian Cricket Council joined UNICEF in Dhaka, Bangladesh to promote ‘Fair Play for Girls’, raising awareness and generating public support for girls’ education throughout the region.
Sports heroes have also stepped up to promote education. Athletes, such as Oliver Bierhoff (Germany), Francesco Totti (Italy), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Norway), Quinton Fortune (South Africa) and Johann Olav Koss (Norway), have used their celebrity to draw attention to the challenge to get all children into school.