SEATTLE, Washington — Millions of girls do not attend school or receive a full education for a multitude of reasons. Women’s empowerment is growing, and it starts with keeping girls in school. Here are four major reasons why girls are not in school along with how the Keeping Girls in School Act can change the futures of girls around the world.
Four Reasons Why Girls are Not in School
- Child Marriage: Child marriage refers to the formal marriage or informal union between two parties where at least one person is under the age of 18. Around the globe, one in five girls is married before the age of 18. Child marriage is linked to both poverty and lack of education. Families that live in poverty may be eager to marry their daughters off to ensure they have someone to take care of them. Once married, girls often leave school. However, each year a girl spends in school may increase her potential income by 20 percent. Thus, not only is early marriage keeping girls out of school but it is also keeping them from reaching their full economic potential. Most cases of child marriage occur in India and Sub-Saharan Africa. One in three instances of child marriage occurs in India. The United Nations Population Fund classifies child marriage as a human rights violation.
- Adolescence: Upon reaching adolescence, girls take on more responsibility at home. A major task of girls around the world is fetching clean water for their homes. Girls can spend six hours a day collecting clean water because they often have to walk miles away from home. The daily tasks of chores and fetching water make it difficult for girls to attend school. Girls also face another barrier upon reaching adolescence. Girls start to miss days or drop out upon reaching menstruation due to the lack of sanitation and proper restroom facilities at most schools. Girls can miss 10 to 20 percent of classes due to menstruation alone. In Africa, that is one in 10 girls. In India, one in five girls drops out of school altogether upon reaching menstruation.
- Domestic and National Poverty: Poverty is a major reason why girls lack access to education. Nigeria’s socio-economic divide exemplifies this. In the Northeast, only 4 percent of girls can read, compared to 99 percent of wealthier girls in the southeast. Oftentimes, girls are not in school because of a country’s unique poverty. Although education can boost the economy, many poor countries lack funding for education systems. In crisis-ridden Venezuela, for example, some schools are struggling to stay open due to insufficient funds for clean water and food. Parents can no longer afford school supplies. The nation’s economic crisis is the leading cause of three million children dropping out of school in Venezuela from 2018 to 2019.
- Conflict and Crisis The effects of conflict and crisis in the home country can drastically decrease a girl’s school attendance. Wars and conflicts keep more than 48 million school-aged children out of school. Girls experiencing conflict and violence are 90 percent more likely to go without education than girls who do not experience conflict and violence. In conflict-zones, schools can be a place where people target girls. This safety concern is a large part of why parents stop sending their daughters to school. In Nigeria, people know Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of school girls. The group vehemently opposes the education of girls and is responsible for the deaths of more than 2,000 teachers and the destruction of 1,400 schools.
How the Keeping Girls In School Act can Help
Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) along with Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL), Representative Susan Brooks (R-IN), Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced the bipartisan act in both the House and Senate in April 2019. The Act aims to direct the attention of the U.S. government to the barriers that prevent girls from gaining an education. Specifically, the Act focuses on achieving girls’ education by breaking down common barriers. The Keeping Girls in School act is essential in giving 130 million girls a chance to learn.
The Act calls “for financing mechanisms” and smart investments between private and public partnerships to prioritize girls’ access to education. To reach its goal, the Keeping Girls in School Act supports the improvement of girls’ health and safety. These are aspects that hinder a girls’ success in achieving education besides child marriage.
The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to complement the U.S. government’s existing efforts to keep girls in school. The U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls aims to break down barriers that prevent girls from becoming educated. The barriers in focus are sanitation, early pregnancy, chores/fetching water and violence on the walk to school and during school.
Educated girls with secondary schooling are six times less likely to enter into a child marriage than girls with little to no schooling. When girls drop out of school, they are at increased risks of child marriage, early pregnancy, HIV infections and higher child mortality rates. A girls’ education may be necessary for the health and safety of their future.
Organizations that Support the Bill
Girls Not Brides strongly supports the Act. Girls Not Brides is a global partnership dedicated to girls receiving education and ending child marriage. Many other organizations like Cambridge University and Save the Children also endorse the Keeping Girls in School Act as well.
The United States is leading the movement for women’s empowerment. It starts with keeping girls in school and giving them a chance to learn. With proper education, girls around the world are more likely to break the cycle of poverty and be valuable recourses to their families and nations’ economies.
– Rebekah Askew