Progress on girls education has come to a stall, and world leaders are putting the future of a generation of girls at risk by not taking any action, according to a report by Plan International released this month.
The report, authored by Yasmin Sherif, director of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), and Stephen Twig, a member of the U.K. Parliament and Chair of the International Development Committee, broke down that currently, two out of three girls affected by humanitarian crises will not even begin their secondary education.
On Wednesday, Representatives Mike Quiqley, Brian Fitzpatrick, Lois Frankel and Susan Brooks hosted a congressional briefing on the issue of adolescent girls affected by humanitarian crises that are unable to attend school.
“A big piece of this puzzle is legislation. It’s also funding, but legislative architecture like the Keeping Girls in School Act,” explained Fitzpatrick.
Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of Kakenya’s Dream, an organization that empowers young girls to attend school, spoke at the briefing. She urged representatives to pass the Keeping Girls in Schools Act, which would establish a fund to provide foreign aid for the advancement of educational opportunities of girls affected by crises in their home countries.
Grace lives 15 km from her school in #Malawi. She used to walk two hours each way, every single day, to keep up her education. Oxfam has provided bicycles to girls in schools across Southern Malawi to give them better access to #education: https://t.co/B2ofFFrD7x #EducateGirls pic.twitter.com/RinsYBpK9V
— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) July 12, 2018
Ntaiya explained that she grew up in a village where most girls were already married by the time they were 12 years old. She also said child marriages, combined with the tradition of female genital cutting, played a major role in many girls’ inability to access secondary education around the world.
“You might call [child marriages and female genital cutting] traditions,” Ntaiya said. “But they are human rights violations, and we need to fight against them.”
Forced child marriages often mean that girls will be removed from school at young ages to raise children and work in the house. Additionally, the procedure of female genital cutting is often done in unsanitary methods that lead to serious health issues and sometimes death for young girls, according to the report from Plan International.
Adding to the challenges is the fact that teachers are often unequipped to deal with children affected by humanitarian crises, according to a report from the U.N. Educational, Science and Cultural Organization released in April.
— UN Development (@UNDP) January 12, 2017
The act would establish an “Adolescent Girls Education Challenge Fund” that would be accessible for the State Department as well as other U.S. agencies that focus on international development to partner with organizations to create more opportunities for girls affected by humanitarian crises to obtain their secondary education.
According to the bill’s description, the U.S. government can partner with institutions of other countries, higher education, NGOs and even the at risk adolescent girls themselves to combat conditions that have led to so many girls missing school worldwide, such as the effects that humanitarian crises have young girls.
The bill will be moved to the foreign affairs committee this fall, Frankel said.
“Why should we care? It’s simple. Research indicates that [educated women’s] communities are more prosperous and peaceful than communities that have uneducated girls,” she explained.