“Most girls drop out of school and lose out on life opportunities”
To mark International Women’s Day 2017, Donor Development Manager Caroline McKay details how Link is improving life for adolescent girls in rural Ethiopia.
Its 4am. You must rise to collect water and tend to your three younger siblings before making the arduous commute along rugged roads to an ill-equipped secondary school. Here, your voice is seldom heard; boys are favoured for academic support and there are 90 students crammed into the classroom. You’ve missed classes recently due to menstruation and poor sanitary protection and are struggling to keep up.
This is the reality for millions of girls in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ethiopia, 66% of people live below the poverty line. Access to quality education is low, with just 11% of girls from rural areas going to secondary school. Most secondary schools are in urban areas, are severely overcrowded and provide low quality teaching, exacerbated by a lack of learning resources like textbooks. Girls face many barriers to education; from intensive domestic work and excessive commutes, to inadequate sanitary protection and early marriage, which is unfortunately commonplace.
Child brides have little access to health support, are at greater risk of disease and often suffer terrible complications from early childbearing. In many rural districts, marrying girls young is deemed a smart economic transaction for poor parents, who then have one less child to support. But the practice ultimately perpetuates the poverty cycle and inequalities in families and communities. Most girls drop out of school and lose out on life opportunities out with the domestic sphere.
In Ethiopia, we’re currently developing a project in Wolaita Zone, a region 330km southwest of Addis Ababa, to transform girls’ access to secondary school and improve vital support systems. Together with schools, district authorities and communities, we’ll encourage sustainable change by developing four new secondary schools. We will aim to; transform teacher training, provide essential educational supplies and reusable sanitary pads to girls; improve school sanitation and help communities understand the value of education for girls.
There are huge swathes of research which tell us that access to good quality education can improve lives and communities. A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of five, every additional year spent in school can increase a woman’s earnings by 20% and investing in girls’ education could boost agricultural output by 25%. This is why Link is working so hard to improve education for girls in rural Africa.
Donor Development Manager
Link Community Development International
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