COCO's belief is that every child should have access to good quality education, regardless of their race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor. Unfortunately, often people from certain groups are marginalised and are left behind by development.
COCO recently conducted a survey with our project partners in East Africa to gather information on how we, as an organisation, are working with marginalised groups to ensure that we are leaving no-one behind. This blog will focus on gender, providing evidence as to whether or not COCO is ensuring that girls have equal access to education. Blogs on effectiveness of targeting those with disabilities, different beliefs and different sexualities will follow. The results not only provide useful evidence for COCO, but also provide a valuable insight into the general views of people in the region.
From the results of this questionnaire, it is evident that COCO is already doing a lot to ensure that girls have equal access to education. 73% of respondents said that COCO is very effective at ensuring girls have equal access to education and all the respondents felt that girls’ having equal access to education is very important. However, there is still more that could be done to ensure girls have equal access to education and there are many challenges COCO may still face along the way.
What has already been achieved.
The results clearly show that COCO has made a big effort in ensuring that schools are equipped with toilets for girls with nearly half of the respondents mentioning this as an important step that has already been taken. Other things that were mentioned as what COCO has done to help girls into school are: building a girls boarding house at a school; mobilizing and sensitizing the community for girls education; giving out small loans to parents to help them fund girls education; training and empowering women and household members in sustainable agriculture training; and ensuring that the ‘Childs Rights’ policy was being enforced throughout a school. While all of this is excellent to help ensure girls have equal access to education, there is still more that could be done, according to the responses.
The next steps
Each with nearly 1/3 of the respondents mentioning them, there are two subjects that the respondents feel more needs to be done to ensure girls have equal access to education. The first is providing sanitary towels for girls in the schools so they don’t have to miss school for a few days each month. Another is working with families to teach them about the equal treatment of boys and girls so that girls are more likely to be sent to school to begin with and aren’t given too many extra household responsibilities. The idea of more facilities as a whole, such as girls’ schools and better toilets/classrooms were mentioned often, as well as providing a mentorship programme led by older women to encourage young girls to continue their education. There is quite a strong response regarding training women in enterprise and sustainable agriculture and giving more women small loans to be able to be more self-sufficient; one respondent also mentions a need for specific skills development for girls. Some of the respondents also felt that investing in more female teachers is very important, alongside training parents and teachers on girl child protection and completing gender audits. But ensuring all of this can be put in place will not come without its challenges, our respondents explain.
The biggest challenges that COCO may face when trying to ensure girls have equal access to education is school fees and the traditional mentality and beliefs many families and communities have about a girl’s role at home. For example, many families want their girls to help with looking after their other children, cooking and cleaning, which unfortunately doesn’t often leave much time for them to complete their homework, which agrees with the Natasha’s findings in her dissertation. The government is also known to quite often treat girls and boys differently and there are many cultural activities that can prevent a girl from completing education. We cannot forget the impact poverty, sickness and disease may have on girls having equal access to education as well.
With more work and education in the communities and families, COCO will strive to overcome these challenges to keep ensuring girls have equal access to education.