MONDAY JUNE 26 2017, Daily Nation — Kenya
In every city and in every country around the world, little girls are eagerly waiting for their school day to start. They have their pencils lined up, books in order and are anxiously anticipating how their teachers are going to challenge them today.
Or at least, that is what we all hope happens.
The truth is far from the vision of what education should be for every girl. The truth is that 62 million girls are out of school globally.
COMPLETE STANDARD EIGHT
In East Africa, girls are more likely to become child brides than complete Standard Eight. There are 9 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa who will never learn to read or write. The gender education parity is due to many reasons. Girls may experience culture or gender norms that create barriers.
Gender violence in school is a key contributor to keeping girls from getting the education they deserve. No matter the reasons, non-profits and governmental organisations have tirelessly searched for the solutions to provide every girl with a quality education.
However, in the efforts to educate girls, a key forgotten group may have the answers that we are all looking for. That group is boys. A new study by Asante Africa Foundation shows that including boys in the conversation about gender-based violence and sexually transmitted diseases has led to girls performing better in schools in eastern Africa.
The ‘Wezesha Vijana’ study analysed the results from a two-year boys’ inclusion programme in 34 schools and three regions between Kenya and Tanzania.
The study showed that in schools where boys were taught about gender discrimination, girls’ attendance increased by 80 per cent, with the general drop-out rate overall decreasing by 74 per cent.
The ‘Wezesha Vijana’ study included lessons for more than 500 boys on relationships, HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy, female reproductive cycles, gender-based rights and female genital mutilation.
The objective was to provide boys with information that gives them a greater understanding and sensitivity to the challenges that girls face in their society.
It also aimed to build allies for girls and teach boys to play a critical role in the empowerment and independence of girls. In schools with the programme, boys showed a dramatic jump in understanding and preventing unplanned pregnancies. Boys demonstrated a higher increased understanding of the dangers involved in multiple sexual partners and unhealthy relationships. They also began to recognise problems that girls, who are sisters and friends, face.
By teaching boys how to support their female classmates, we are ensuring that the next generation of girls receive a quality education. This education will not only improve the life of each student, but educating a girl is one of the most cost-effective strategies for promoting development and economic growth.
Educated girls are less likely to experience sexual violence, be forced to marry against their will, and have unplanned pregnancies. In addition, our world won’t be able to fight poverty, prevent disease and solve problems if students lack the education to contribute.
The study involved two countries. Imagine the possibilities if we trained boys in every country, on every continent to understand that they can be champions for girls’ equality. No longer would boys be the adversaries, but they could be the reason that girls have a safe space to come to school.
By increasing awareness for boys about the challenges that girls face, we are opening the doors for girls to succeed in school and fulfill their dreams.
Ms Grasz is the founder of Asante Africa Foundation. This is a non-profit organisation educating East Africa’s youth to tackle life’s challenges. Learn more at www.asanteafrica.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org