GIRLS & WOMENS RIGHTS
“To educate girls is to reduce poverty.” ~ Kofi Annan
Educating girls and women leads to an empowerment in both themselves and their abilities. It also nurtures a better future for us all. If all girls went to school for 12 years, low and middle income countries could add $92 billion per year to their economies. We believe this is an investment in the future of our planet.
Significant improvements to primary school enrollment rates across sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade hide the persistently low rates of completion and transition to secondary education, especially for girls. Cultural barriers such as FGM and child-marriage signal an end to school for many girls. Aidlink is working towards ending these harmful practices and ensuring all women have the education and opportunities they deserve.
Of the illiterate people in the world are women
More than 200 million girls and women are estimated to have undergone FGM worldwide and 3 million are at risk each year.- World Health Organisation
FGM comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and is largely associated with cultural ideals of femininity. Many people believe it is a necessary practice when raising a girl and preparing her for marriage. It is intended to ensure pre-marital virginity and after marriage it is intended to reduce a woman’s libido, therefore reducing marital infidelity.
There are absolutely no health benefits to FGM and it can lead to the women experiencing health issues such as excessive bleeding, infections, urinary problems, an increased risk in childbirth complications and more.
Aidlink and VAD have been training students in Menstrual Hygiene Management. For some, like Teopista, 15, this has made a big difference in their lives:
“I got my first period at 9, when I woke up with a stomach ache to find myself lying in blood. I was so afraid and as the oldest in my family, I didn’t have anybody to ask for help. Eventually, I found the courage to tell my grandmother, and she got me some old cloths to stop the bleeding; I’ve been doing this ever since. The training has taught me about my menstrual cycle, how to manage it and where I can go for support. It is now my job to educate younger girls in the community so that will not be afraid”.
The training aims to change attitudes amongst boys to create a supportive environment for young women. As Teopista’s classmate Conrad said: “I now understand that menstruation is normal. I will never laugh at the girls again”.
Photo: Buwanuka Primary School, Wakiso District, Uganda. Voluntary Action for Development.
“The rights we want:
We want to choose our husband,
We want to own the land,
We want to go to school,
We don’t want to be cut anymore,
We want also to make decisions,
We want respect in politics,
To be leaders,
We want to be equal.”- Rebecca Lolosoli
Child marriage is another injustice effecting woman in the regions where Aidlink works. Child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties is under the age of eighteen.Child marriage is fueled by gender inequality and cultural traditions with climate change increasingly acting as an additional motivating factor in recent times. With many livelihoods destroyed by droughts or flooding. UNICEF reports that in 2017, 40% of children in Uganda were married before the age of eighteen, 10% were married by the age of fifteen. In Kenya, 23% were married by the age of eighteen and 4% married by the age of fifteen.
Esther Koyiai, from Kajiado, Kenya, has 5 girls. When 2 daughters sat their primary school exams in 2013, she asked her husband, a powerful man in the Masai community, to sell some livestock to pay their fees but he refused, marrying the girls off instead.
Last year, Esther attended a community conversation on education, led by the Girl Child Network (GCN). For the first time, she learnt that it was her responsibility to ensure her children went to school.
After the forum, Esther determined that all her children would receive an education. To pay their fees, she started to deliver milk to the local dairy for her neighbours, earning enough to also buy books and uniforms. By challenging community attitudes to the girl child and education, Aidlink and GCN are working to ensure all children will attend school, free from the fear of early marriage and FGM.
Photo: Peris Mootian