Statement of Support for Keeping Girls in School Initiative By Ato Tarmirat Daba Head, Westem Shewa Zone of Oromia Region Education Bureau At the Community Town Hall Meeting Held @ AMBO, August 2021 On the theme
Ethiopian Interfaith Forum for Development, Dialogue and Action (EIFDDA) has been implementing a project entitled “Keeping Girls in School (KGIS)” in Western Shewa Zone of the Oromia Region. The project has basically aims at making the various community representatives; religious leaders, traditional/ community elders, youth and women groups as prime advocate and champions of girt’s education in the cornmunity. In the life of the projects period hundreds and thousands of community members have been mobilized on the importance of girls’ education. Our office recognized that through the various capaciW building activities all the projects actors’ especially religious leaders/ community elders have acquired knowledge and skills on the importance of girrs education, advocacy skills, community mobilization and gender issue. This statement of support is issued for the recognition the progress and the impact this initiative for improving girl’s school enrollment and completion Of secondary school.
At the outset, it is vital to affrm the right of all children to education that is free from discrimination and of a sufficient quality to enable their full participation in society is enshrined in major international human rights treaties. In particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), has made the promotion of free primary education and quality education for children and youth up to the age of 18 years an obligation for every country.
Education represents one of the most strategic investments that governments can make in the children of their countries. Schools and other educational institutions have an immense potential to transmit knowledge, develop critical thinking and teach girls and boys essential life aed livelihoods skills. Education promotes equal start in girls and boys, chance to grow and develop according to their potential and contribute to and access the benefits of development.
Indeed, education is critical for empowering women and girls. Extensive evidence shows that educated women become more effective agents of change, able to improve both their own well-being and the welfare of their families. These empowering effects of education for women and girls are manifested in a variety of ways including increased income earning potential, ability to bargain for resources within the household, decision-making autonomy and participation in public life. It is also well documented that improvement in education of girls is a critical factor in ensuring positive health outcomes, lowering age at marriage, and increasing control over fertility, preventing violence including female genital mutilation/cutting, and reducing the risks of HIV infection.
Despite the recognition of education as a fundamental right for all children and the clear evidence of the benefits of education for women and girls, there remains significant discrimination against girls in education in many parts of the world. As the various statistics indicated, it is estimated that 85 per cent of all girls out of school live in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.
In the country Ethiopia, Girls have relatively lower Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) and completion rate than boys in the first cycle of primary education (grades I to 4). Even for the repetition and dropout rate, girls are higher than boys in recent years. Besides, looking at urban and rural differences, the access to secondary education in rural area is very limited whereas most (85-95%) of enrollment of secondary education are from urban area.
Considerable efforts have been made in the country context to increase the access to and benefits of education for girls. The country has undertaken many measures at different levels to improve girls’ access to education, such as legislation, policy development, gender-sensitive curriculum development and teacher training and infrastructure provision. Despite these efforts, many serious challenges remain.
Experience shows that despite successful efforts to enroll more girls in primary school, girls in many settings are more likely than boys to repeat classes or drop out of school altogether. Among others, when school enrollment is free of charge, education carries hidden costs, which may lead families to take the decision to reduce education options for girls. These hidden costs, which include school uniforms, textbooks, and transportation to and from school, are often substantial and can prevent poor families from sending their girls to school. Security is a key issue in relation to access and retention of girls in school. Many girls experience harassment and violence on their way to and from school, as well as in the school environment itself. Policies of zero tolerance for violence against girls, provision of appropriate sanitation and recreational facilities, and securing of safe routes to and from school are critical. In creating a girl friendly environment in schools, it is important to engage boys (as students) and men (as fathers) in questioning traditional gender norms and holding men and boys accountable for discrimination and violence against girls in the school setting.
The heavy burden of household work borne by girls has been highlighted as a serious obstacle to both access to and achievement levels in education. The lack of sanitation facilities in the school is an important factor in the hesitancy of some parents to send their girls to school, especially once they reach adolescence. Unfortunately this serious constraint is not always given adequate attention in the country. Many schools have no separate facilities at all for girls or very poor or unsafe facilities. This contributes to absenteeism and the high drop-out rates of girls.
In creating a girl friendly environment in schools it is also important to increase the recruitment of women teachers.
Education alone, without changes to values, attitudes, stereotypes in society, will not bring about positive change for girls. Societal attitudes, particularly those which question the value of education for girls, can significantly detract from the empowering potential of education. Advocacy efforts must be focused on families, communities and leadership at all levels, including in informal institutions. Both mothers and fathers should be actively engaged in supporting education for girls. There are positive examples of efforts to engage parents, community leaders, and religious leaders in support of girls’ education. One critical group in this work is senior government officials. Greater efforts should be made to inform and engage them in work on girls’ education.
Perhaps what has been missing most in the past has been the explicit acknowledgement that the inequalities girls face in education are human rights violations and unacceptable discrimination as well as the real political commitment to change, reflected in clear strategies and action plans backed by adequate resources and accountability mechanisms. The role of all stakeholders is critical in monitoring progress in implementation of global commitments to girls’ education at national level and advocating for accelerated change processes.
For this reason, the Keeping Girls in School project is instrumental for improving girl’s school participation. Throughout implementation chores, I have noted that this project was unique as it is designed and implemented through mobilizing the local community representatives such as Religious Leaders, Community Elders, youths, women, from government representatives, various social association- by making them prime advocate and champions of girls education. Among the projects actors who have been deployed, in my understanding the role of religious leaders was worth to mention. In the country where almost all the population is a believer of one religion or the other, working wi based organizations is wise investment. Religious leaders and faith the community and they have got large grass root presence and they have easily heard by the community thus they are found to bring societal change towards improving girls education
It is therefore, as oromiya region, Western Shewa Zone Education office Head, since the inception of this project, I witnessed and noted effective collaboration which is emanated from the zonal/woreda Education Bureaus. By doing so, these sector government bureaus have created fertile ground for the smooth running of the project. Currently, I can say that we are deeply planted the projects achievement inside the community. Thus hoping to continue our collaboration and networking with all the projects stakeholders I would like to conclude my statement that this KGIS project as it was innovative since the beginning deserves further scale-up and able to reach additional member of the community. To this regard, I would like to call all the relevant donor organizations to come to Western Shewa Zone/Oromia Region and extend their unreserved support and continue such noble cause like the KGIS project. Together, we can make girls complete secondary schools and make them full flagged citizens of the country