UN: Quality Education For Girls Key To International Development


By Rachel Kohn

At one o’clock in the afternoon October 11, 16-year old Malala Yousafzai sat down for an intimate conversation about the importance of girls’ education with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim– and an international audience fielding questions in person and via social media as they watched the event live online. Since the attempt on her life by the Taliban in 2012, and even before her subsequent recovery in the UK, the story of a girl shot in the face and neck for going to school and advocating that other girls have the right to do the same pointed a glaring spotlight on obstacles to basic education facing girls around the world in the 21st century.

The significance of this problem is not to be underestimated. According to the UN, education for girls “is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.” In 2011, the UN adopted October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child to raise awareness and promote innovation to overcome systemic challenges facing girls around the world, and the theme of this year’s International Day of the Girl Child was “Innovating for Girl’s Education.”

In honor of the second year of International Day of the Girl Child and fearless young advocates like Malala all over the world, here are a few of the ways the UN recommends tackling the issue of education for girls in developing countries. Each tactic is accompanied by a brief description of an organization already putting these ideas into action.

“¢ Deploying mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls

The Mobile Girls’ School, a pilot program in Sri Lanka, aims to provide access to quality K-12 education in the local language using a network of solar powered mobile devices, a portable electronics lab with digital media equipment, and expert-trained local volunteers. To learn more, click here.

“¢ Science and technology courses targeting girls at all levels of education

The Information Communication and Technology Centre in Parwan, Afghanistan provides English lessons and computer training necessary for employment in the modern economy. The ICT Centre also provides job placement support for graduates as teachers in private schools or as workers with NGOs, local government or the Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs. To learn more about this UN-sponsored program, click here.

“¢ Corporate mentorship programs

In South Africa, the Techno Girls partnership boosts skills and job-readiness in non-traditional jobs, like water engineering, for teenage girls in underprivileged schools. To learn more about this program, a cooperative effort between UNICEF, the government of South Africa, and industry mentors, click here.

These recommendations do not address the attitudes that inspire attacks like the one Malala and her schoolmates experienced. Fear of and resistance to an educated female population must be overcome with more than secure transportation and scholarships. Nevertheless, the defiant ascension of a generation of educated young women like Malala can increase the odds of systemic change in favor of future generations.

“The first thing is I believe in the power of the voice of women,” Malala told her audience. “And then I believe that when we work together, that it’s really easy for us to achieve our goal. When I was in Swat, only a few of us were speaking but still our voice had an impact. And now, not only I, but millions of girls are raising their voice and they are speaking.”

“I believe that through our voice, through raising our books and our pens, we can achieve our goals, and as soon as possible.”

A native Michigander, Rachel Kohn is completing her Masters in International Media at American University. Before moving to the DC area, she ran her own small business as a public relations consultant and freelance writer in Jerusalem, Israel. She graduated from Brandeis University in 2007 with a Bachelors degrees in Political Science and Environmental Studies, two of her passions. While attending a religious studies program in the West Bank town of Elkana from 2002-2003, she volunteered as a foreign correspondent for her hometown paper, reporting on the Second Intifada and life in the shadow of the U.S.-Iraq War. Rachel thinks that knowledge through contact is the key to understanding and coexistence. She also tends to dance in her chair if music is playing.

Photo by Marvin Joseph: The Washington Post