Education for Girls and Young Women
Around the world, girls and women continue to suffer from a lack of economic opportunity, inadequate health care, unequal access to education, early marriage, sexual violence, and discrimination. It is to tackle these problems that we have made education for girls and young women a priority.
We also know from numerous studies that educating women and girls brings with it a string of benefits – not just for the individual but for society and the economy generally. These include:
- Reduction of child and maternal mortality
- Improvement of child nutrition and health
- Enhancement of women's political participation
- Protection of girls from HIV/AIDS, abuse and exploitation
- Higher incomes: One more year of secondary school beyond the mean boosts future earnings with a generally higher increase for girls than for boys
- Faster economic growth: Education for men or women leads to economic growth.
- Food Security: expanded female education results in better farming practices, which can help to reduce malnutrition
- Lower birth rates
Despite the list of benefits and the quality of the evidence in support of expanding access to education for girls and young women, there are deeply held traditions that have prevented them from enjoying access to education. That is why some of our biggest projects are specifically focused on increasing access for them at all levels, from increasing enrollment at primary schools to enabling them to access higher education.
Increasing access to primary schooling
One of our biggest projects is to promote Girls’ Education in South Sudan, a six year programme that aims to transform a generation of South Sudanese girls by increasing access to primary education. With funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), we are working in two states, Western Equatoria and Unity State, to:
- raise awareness of the benefits of sending girls to school
- encourage girls to stay the course and not drop out early
- support schools to improve their buildings, facilities and teaching materials
In societies where it was highly unusual for a girl to complete primary school, this project is an ambitious and comprehensive attempt to create a new social norm, one where girls go to school as a matter of course.
One pupil said:
The capitation grant has helped to change this school – especially bringing electricity so that we can study at night… we were missing a science teacher since the beginning of the school year, but when the school got that money, a new science teacher was hired for us.
“A girl getting an education learns more than reading and arithmetic. She learns that she is important. She stands up for her rights. She goes after her dreams.” - Anon
Increasing access to tertiary education
If education is to be an effective means of promoting social justice and peaceful development, it is imperative that young women have the same opportunity to make the most of their potential by having access to tertiary education – whether that is an undergraduate course, a teacher training qualification or, for some, a Masters’ degree.
We believe that young women should have at least equal access to higher education. Given the relatively small number of young women who have had the opportunity to complete secondary school or to be awarded an undergraduate degree, increasing female access to tertiary education represents a long-term commitment on our part.
To achieve this and redress balance, 70% of of scholarships at universities in Sudan are awarded to girls through the undergraduate scholarship programme. In Sudan we support a hostels project to enable girls to continue their education. Through the UK postgraduate scholarship programme we are working towards gender parity despite the challenge of low number of women reaching higher education. By supporting women at all levels of the education chain we aim to create positive role models to inspire young girls and encourage families to support girls in education.
Hostels Project for Girls
Since 1998 WTI has supported a student hostels project for female students in partnership with the Gordon Memorial College Trust Fund and Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum, Sudan.
Each year accommodation is provided in four hostels in Omdurman, Khartoum, for around 80 girls so that they can live close to Ahfad University for Women in an environment suitable for study. Many of them have no family support in Khartoum or would otherwise have to live in settlements without electricity or running water on the outskirts of the city, up to two hours’ journey away. The project enables a significant number of girls to complete their degrees who might otherwise be forced to drop out.
The project supports the four hostels through contributing towards the rent and utilities, providing equipment and furniture, relevant training and supporting the student hostels committee to manage the hostels. Priority is given to students whose families have left Khartoum when selecting residents. Temporary residents are accommodated during exam periods.
Previous evaluations have shown that the hostel environment is helping students to become self-reliant and has enhanced understanding between students from different cultural backgrounds. This is particularly relevant in the context of the current conflict in South Sudan.
Due to an identified need, first aid kits and training has been provided by the Sudanese Red Crescent. This will not only benefit the girls in the hostels but more widely in the community as they put these skills to use.
Hear from the Students
A resident who had been staying with an uncle 70 km from the University following repatriation of her family to South Sudan said of her experience:
“I used to regularly miss my lectures because of the long distance and lack of transport…sometimes I did not have enough money to pay the cost of transportation, in addition to the time I used to spend on domestic work to help my uncles’ wife. All these factors have greatly affected my academic performance, as well as negatively impacted on my psychological condition. When I joined the Unity hostel I started to achieve better results in my academic activities. Now, I am living very joyfully with my hostel colleagues with a wonderful social life and excellent academic surroundings. Without this opportunity my right to complete my study, and attain a degree would have been deprived”.
Another hostels resident said:
The social life and educational environment at the hostel has helped me to become self-reliant in taking my own decisions and caring about myself.