A charity has cautioned that governments and donors must increase their efforts to motivate girls in Africa to return to school, as a result of the economic hardships that have led many to reject education and instead pursue low-paying jobs or early marriage.
Camfed, a non-profit organization that works in five countries in Africa, stated that their collaborative approach has demonstrated the possibility of achieving this goal. They have proposed a six-year strategy to enroll 6 million girls in school.
The global health crisis caused by Covid-19 and the increasing expenses of food and energy in the last year and a half have hindered the ability of numerous children to attend school, significantly reducing their opportunities to secure a skilled profession and financial independence. Angeline Murimirwa, the leader of Camfed, aims to gather a proposed amount of $414 million (£342 million) to address this issue.
For 30 years, this organization has provided educational assistance in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. This support has directly benefited 1.8 million girls and 6.4 million through partnerships. Their goal is to continue their support and reach 5 million more girls by 2029. They also aim to assist women from previous cohorts in finding employment and taking on leadership positions.
The organization reported that collaborating with a group of 7,000 public schools resulted in a significant increase in the number of girls who successfully completed their education. This rate was three times higher than that of girls in non-partner schools. Additionally, there was a boost in girls’ self-confidence and a delay in the average age of marriage and first pregnancy.
According to Murimirwa, the presence of Camfed has helped prevent a significant increase in drop-out rates during the pandemic at schools where the organization is active.
From Malawi, the speaker shared that nearly half of the girls in the country are married before they turn 18. They also mentioned that after Covid restrictions were lifted, more than 90% of girls were able to resume their education with the support of monitoring, communication, and assistance.
Despite attempts to improve the situation, a large number of countries still have a low percentage of girls who finish their secondary education. For example, in Zambia, only 3% of girls complete their secondary schooling. Additionally, girls may encounter pressure from their communities to prioritize marriage over education.
Unicef reports that globally, 129 million girls are not attending school, with 32 million of them in primary school and 97 million in secondary school.
Governments in the West and organizations like the World Bank have acknowledged the significant positive outcomes of providing education to girls, not only in the five countries where Camfed works.
This past weekend, the Business Design Centre in London held the Festival of the Girl, a non-profit event that strives to motivate and involve girls ages 7 to 11. The event featured workshops on careers in software coding and medicine, as well as discussions on body positivity.
In Goa, India, this month, awards were given to young students for creating digital images as part of a movement to empower girls in Indian culture. The government expressed their goal to address the issue of sex-selective abortions, which has significantly decreased the female population in the nation.
Similar to those in developed countries, females with a greater education level in developing nations are more prone to engage in the official workforce and receive higher wages.
According to a 2018 report from the World Bank, countries lose between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in potential productivity and earnings due to restricted educational opportunities for girls and obstacles to completing 12 years of education.
The organization stated that women who have received higher education are typically more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children and get married later in life. As a result, their children are likely to be healthier if they decide to become mothers.
According to Murimirwa, over 600,000 girls have been aided by a program backed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), a long-time supporter.
Minister Andrew Mitchell of the FCDO expressed his satisfaction with the progress that has been made. He stated, “It is evident that educating girls is the most effective means of eradicating poverty.” Mitchell also praised Camfed’s 30 years of success as evidence of this, highlighting Angie Murimirwa’s journey to becoming chief executive as a prime example.