“We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.” – Malala Yousafzai
Today is International Day of the Girl, so a perfect time to discuss why we have to work hard to ensure girls are educated. COCO works to improve access to quality education for girls, which not only includes giving them the academic skills to succeed in life, but empowering them to be able to achieve their dreams and lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.
Discrimination against girls is an issue all around the world. COCO believes that being born female should not mean that you are paid less than men for doing the same job, are more likely to be sexually harassed, or less likely to be in school.
Educating girls empowers them to be able to achieve their dreams, by building confidence and breaking the cultural norms which are holding girls back. Our Schools for Life provide quality education to both girls and boys, empowering girls to achieve their dreams and giving them equal opportunities.
“I believe it is important for both boys and girls to be able to get an education as they both have much to offer. It may take a long time for attitudes to change across the country but I do as much as I can by teaching both boys and girls how powerful a woman can be and that we are all equal in our potential. I think many women find it difficult to take the first steps in pursuing their dreams but my advice to them would be that girls (and women) can!” – Malaika Milinga, Director of Kids are Kings Learning Centre, Songea, Tanzania.
Natasha recently wrote her undergraduate dissertation on how Hoja Secondary School is empowering female students. She found that educating girls was linked to the students’ political and economic sense of well being, and helps to build confidence and independence.
“When you educate a woman she begins to believe in herself more and she will become more confident. I feel that this has happened to me as a result of my secondary education. For example, before I came to secondary school I could not stand in front of people and voice my opinions. Now I like answering questions in class, I am confident enough to speak in front of people and share my opinions and I’ve even been chosen to be head girl.” – Hoja Secondary School student.
However, she found that there is still a long way to go. Some girls at the school felt discriminated against for having to do ‘feminine’ tasks such as household chores and feel that they may not be able to achieve their dreams because of their gender – however most did not mind that this was the case, accepting that this is just the way it is. These gendered social norms persist in society all over the world and will take time to break down, but slowly we can brighten the futures of girls around the world.
Aside from improving the futures of individual girls, according to the Malala Foundation, there are four key reasons how educating girls is good for society as a whole.
- It’s good for the economy – educating girls creates more jobs, growing the local, national and international economy.
- It’s healthier – educated girls are healthier themselves and raise healthier families. They are less likely tomarry young or contract HIV, cutting infant mortality and child marriage rates.
- It’s more peaceful – educating girls reduces the risk of war, and means that communities can recover faster from war.
- It’s good for the planet – educated girls have less children, so there are less people for the planet to sustain, and female leaders are more likely to prioritise conservation and work in green energy.