What Works for Marginalized Girls’ Education?

Navli grew up in Rajasthan, India with her father who supported her to complete her schooling. Unfortunately, her father passed away a little after Navli completed her 12th grade and had to return to her native village where girls were discouraged to attend school. Navli was disheartened to know the situation in her village and she often used to wonder how her education could bring a change to her community. 

One day she came across a nonprofit that helps enroll girls in school. Navli decided to volunteer with them to help girls from her village get access to their Right to Education. Soon Navli started going door-to-door to convince families to educate their girls. Initially, her efforts were met with slammed doors and disappointments. Finally, after four years, her persistence paid off and she successfully enrolled 46 girls in school besides stopping two child marriages.

We salute Navli for her efforts and hope our world sees more Navlis make education possible for every girl. The dream of a gender-equitable world is not easy but very much achievable. In this blog, we will understand what can make education accessible to girls in the most underserved communities across the globe.  

1. Political Leadership Backed with Resources

A strong political leadership backed with financial resources is vital for the successful implementation of any intervention at scale. It helps to ensure that all the commitments are put into action. 

The progress for girls’ education requires action to support gender equality both within and beyond education. It is a transformative change that asks for motivated and committed leaders, who work individually and collectively to convert political commitment into meaningful action. If the leaders play fair, a lot of financial support can be provided for the girls to be able to access quality education in the future.

Hence, to ensure the undivided focus on gender equality in education in backward areas too, supportive government policies and programs are required. Governments across the globe have already initiated various programs for promoting gender equality and empowerment of women in backward communities. This includes Uganda’s National Development Plan, Udaan, and STEM Education as various gender-responsive strategies for improving retention and participation rates for girls in schools.

But there needs to be an increase in political advocacy and better utilization of resources for girls’ education. 

2. Eliminating Cost Barriers

Money is one of the biggest factors that decide if a girl child will go to school or not. School fees and other costs attached to it can highly discourage parents from sending their girl children to school. It can act as a big barrier, especially at the senior secondary level where according to The World Bank, annual school fees can be as much as one-third of the annual income of the parents.

Eliminating expensive school fees can lead to large education gains. If a supporting cost can be offered to the parents for school fees, uniforms,  stationery items, etc., it can help parents from underserved communities to make a favorable decision for their girls’ education.  

Giving scholarships to those who cannot afford school can mean more enrollments in school and better chances for girl children to complete their senior high school. It in turn can also lead to fewer child marriages and lower rates of teenage pregnancies.  

Numerous pieces of evidence suggest that small changes in costs can have a huge impact on girls’ education. Lifting the burdens from parents’ shoulders and paying for school uniforms in Kenya, providing meals at school in Burkina Faso and Uganda, and other such interventions have helped increase girls’ attendance and narrowed dropouts. This shows how eliminating cost barriers can prove to be a game-changer for girls’ education,  changing the trajectory of their lives.

3. Prioritizing Early Childhood Education

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A young child’s brain is full of potential. Also, the early years present an irreplaceable pool of opportunities to set a path toward success in life. Quality early childhood education creates a positive string of learning, while lack of access to pre-primary education broadens achievement gaps and restricts various opportunities. 

There is a lack of worldwide investment in pre-primary education that negatively impacts the quality of services, including a remarkable lack of trained pre-primary teachers. According to UNICEF, around 50% of pre-primary age children are not enrolled in schools during these crucial years of their learning. 

In low-wage countries, only one in ten girls have access to quality education. Girls in the economically weaker sections are less likely to attend early childhood education than the children of the wealthiest families and poverty is the single determining factor for it. It has been observed that the girls who fall behind at a young age due to any reason often never catch up with others, continuing cycles of under-achievement and high dropout rates that keep on harming the growth of the youth of a country.  

The vicious cycle of poverty can end only when we will provide a strong early childhood education base to all children including girls. Hence, there is an urgent need in the marginalized sections of the world to prioritize early childhood education.

4. Addressing Challenges Faced by Girls in Puberty

There is a very strong connection between poor sanitation in schools and low attendance rates amongst post-pubescent girls in underserved areas of the world. 

According to a report published by Dasra, across the world, on average, girls tend to miss school five days a month due to the inability to cope with their periods in school. This eventually contributes to 23% of girls dropping out of school upon reaching puberty. 

This critically threatens girls’ potential as individuals and the future workforce of a country. Therefore, it is suggested to normalize menstruation as a subject by working on different aspects including behavior, infrastructure, politics, and perception. All the challenges faced by girls in reaching poverty must be addressed properly at schools as girls’ education is arguably the best investment for the global economy. 

5. Gender-Sensitive Teaching Practices & Material

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The unequal enrollment of girls and boys in schools illustrates a disconnect between policy and practice in gender-inclusive education. There is a lot to understand about the gender-based challenges that exist in the classrooms before we aim at truly achieving gender equality in education. But the question is how do we get there? 

School teachers can play a big role in promoting gender disparities in school as kids start building habits and opinions from a younger age itself. As children enter the age of adolescence, they start taking note of the differences between themselves and their peers. During this stage, gender-sensitive teaching practices can play a very important role in constructing social expectations of gender roles.

Gender-based stereotyping like boys are strong and girls are polite, should be strictly avoided. Menstruation too should no longer stay taboo in marginalized areas. In fact, there should be age-appropriate teaching materials that should be shared with girls before they experience menstruation. 

The above points can help to highlight what adolescent girls in marginalized areas identify as the barriers preventing them from receiving their education. This is a mammoth task that the world has to achieve as one, and with strong will and intent it can be achieved. We all need to work together to design and execute a gender-responsive learning environment to get more and more girls to school. 
At Educate Girls, what we learned across the process is that it takes many partners to get the job done so let’s come together and help educate marginalized girls. Join our hands today and ensure education for every girl.

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