To effectively empower women and girls, it is important to make commitments to invest in girls’ education especially at primary and secondary levels because education is a critical factor in achieving gender equality and eventually empowering girls’ to contribute to social change in their communities in addition to improving their well-being. The Convention on the Rights of Children and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women establish education as a basic human right. Gender inequality in education and other sectors affects both boys and girls however girls are at a bigger disadvantage than boys and this limits them from realizing their full potential.
Evidence gathered over the years shows that although the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in school has increased especially with the advent of universal primary education and universal secondary education, major gaps that prevent girls from completing school exist. Girls continue to miss out of school due to poverty, cultural barriers, early marriages, and teenage pregnancies, poor menstrual hygiene management facilities including separate latrines for girls, sexual harassment, and violence at school as well as overload of domestic work.
Investing in girls’ education not only benefits girls but has multiplier effects that benefit the community and nation at large. Girls who complete school are more likely to marry later in life, have fewer and healthier children. Statistics show that a girl who stays in school is six times more likely not to marry young. Additionally, girls’ stay in school decreases HIV infections and increases girls’ and women participation in decision making processes thereby increasing gender equality.
To ensure investment in girls’ education, there is urgent need to provide equal access to education by developing gender-sensitive learning environments for girls by prioritizing training teachers in gender-sensitive teaching approaches. Educating boys and men about gender equality and engaging them in promoting girls’ and women’s’ rights is an important strategy that has not been effectively taken into consideration yet it could contribute to lasting change in the fight for gender equality. The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports should monitor the implementation of the menstrual hygiene guidelines especially the provision of separate latrines for girls and availability of water. Additionally, the Ministry should eliminate all hidden education costs to ensure that all children especially girls attain free and quality education. Emphasis also needs to be put on supporting girls’ to develop life skills to be able to negotiate safer and healthier options and to speak confidently about the issues that concern them.
Not forgetting parents, they should be supported to take an upper hand in investing in girls’ education because they have a fundamental responsibility of ensuring that their children get knowledge, skills and opportunities to create a better, brighter future for themselves and everyone around them. They should also groom their boys to value girls’ contribution early in life.
The social, economic and political development of the country is largely dependent on the investment made in girls with particular emphasis on education. Therefore, a joint strategy engaging all key players in investing in girls’ education needs to be prioritized.
By Anne Nattembo