Stand with girls for gender equality in education
Education is extraordinary. It is the key that unlocks doors. Unleashes potential. Unlocks dreams. And when a girl is educated, she is given choices for her future and opportunities that can change her life.
But the pandemic has threatened to undo the years of progress and hard-won gains we’ve made for development, gender equality and girls’ access to twelve years of inclusive and quality education.
We can no longer afford to wait on getting adolescent girls back to school.
For our recent report, Smart, Successful, Strong: The Case for Investing in Adolescent Girls’ Education in Aid and COVID-19 Response and Recovery, we spoke to girls in Kiribati, Indonesia and Vietnam. They told us that they want gender equality in education, and they want schools to be able to ‘build back equal’.
The incredible news is that girls are already leading this change. In their homes, their classrooms, their communities and their countries, girls are taking on power structures, demanding an education, challenging harmful practices and proving that they can do anything.
If donors and governments support them, if they invest in dismantling the barriers to secondary education that have been magnified and exacerbated by COVID-19, then we can positively transform the lives of girls. We can power the economic growth and social cohesion that is needed for COVID-19 recovery in our region.
Will you ask the Australian Government to support girls’ education?
This report reveals the impact of COVID-19 on adolescent girls’ in South East Asia and the Pacific and their experiences of accessing secondary education over the last twelve months. Girls reported major barriers to their schooling that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
The report also set out girls’ views on how to rebuild after COVID-19. In support of their vision to ‘build back equal’ the report calls on donors and governments to act now, not only to stop the unravelling of decades of progress in education but to create a world where girls are supported by their families, their communities and their governments to fulfil their right to 12 years of education.
Join the movement for girls’ rights
Barriers to Education
- Stressful home environments: With children at home, job losses and other pressures, home environments were not always safe or supportive learning environments for adolescent girls. Girls felt unsupported in remote learning due to parents who were struggling to understand the technology, who themselves have low education levels or who were experiencing high levels of stress due to the pandemic and its consequences. This led to household conflict and a home environment not conducive to girls’ learning.
- Decline in mental and emotional well-being: The pandemic has had significant impacts on the well-being of adolescent girls, which in turn has made it difficult for girls to continue with their education. Girls said they struggled to learn due to the psychosocial impacts of the pandemic and the stress of learning from home. Girls spoke of the significant stress and pressure of preparing for exams despite the disrupted curriculum, their concerns about the future and their ability to finish schooling and find employment.
- Quality and delivery of remote learning: Remote learning has posed serious disruptions to adolescent girls’ ability to access and complete secondary education. Adolescent girls found that learning was made particularly difficult due to changes to the curriculum, inconsistency in teaching styles and abilities, the difficulty to maintain concentration and motivation, and a lack of access to on site facilities.
- Unequal access to technology and devices: Girls struggled to access the internet for online classes due to unstable internet connections, low connectivity (particularly outside of cities) and the high costs of data. Girls also experienced a lack of devices (such as laptops) available in the family home or limited access to devices that were shared between family members or that were used only by male family members.
- Increased risk of gender-based violence: With learning shifting from schools to adolescent girls’ homes and online over the last 12 months, girls expressed concerns regarding online and offline violence. The pandemic exposed the unique nature of online harassment and abuse that girls experience and the need to create safe spaces for them both online and offline for girls to enable girls to learn without fear.
- Adolescent girls’ education is not a priority: The disruptions of the last year has further entrenched the gendered norms and expectations that education is of limited value to girls. The research found that girls’ families and communities did not place value on girls’ education – instead considering marriage or work to be more financially viable options. In some instances girls themselves felt this way.
- Child, early and forced marriage and unions (CEFM): The research found that countries such as Indonesia are seeing an upward trend in CEFM both anecdotally and in some of the data, despite Indonesian law restricting marriage before the age of 19. If CEFM continues to increase in the region, it will pose serious barriers to girls being able to continue their education.
- Economic impacts: Loss of income as a result of the pandemic and the number of households that were predicted to drop below the poverty line in the Pacific made the financial impact of COVID-19 one of the most significant risks to a girl’s education.
Why Education is Important to Us
For our recent report, Smart, Successful, Strong: The Case for Investing in Adolescent Girls’ Education in Aid and COVID-19 Response and Recovery, we spoke to girls in Kiribati, Indonesia and Vietnam.
They told us that they want gender equality in education, and they want schools to be able to ‘build back equal’. In this video you can hear directly from them about why education is so important.
Education for a Better Normal
In August 2020, we launched A Better Normal: Girls call for a revolutionary reset, a report authored by 22 girls from Australia and Vietnam with engagement from more than 1300 girls across the globe.
The report envisioned how the world could be reimagined and transformed as we rebuild after COVID-19. The report found that secondary education is adolescent girls’ and young women’s number one priority for a better normal.
Smart, Successful, Strong builds on this recommendation, honouring and giving voice to adolescent girls and young women’s views to keep secondary education at the very forefront of aid and development and COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.