As International Women’s Day 2020 approaches, here at Aide et Action, we’d like to stress that girls’ education must be recognized as a development priority around the world in order to build a more just and sustainable world. Today, women make up 63% of the global illiterate population and nearly 29 million girls still remain excluded from primary education. In Cambodia, almost one in two female students in rural areas dropped out of secondary school last year without completing the last grade of education.
“Currently, girls’ education remains hampered by many factors: poverty, discrimination, early marriage and pregnancies, unsafe environments and more …” notes Charles-Emmanuel Ballanger, Director of Aide et Action, speaking from our headquarters in Paris, France. “Speaking out for girls’ education and women’s literacy is essential, but it is not enough. We must take urgent action” he adds.
In addition to creating programmes dedicated to girl’s and women’s urgent needs, Aide et Action and its partners are also using awareness-raising and advocacy campaigns in the communities where they work. This multi-faceted approach is working to shift attitudes and prejudices and remove some of the obstacles that girls and women face in accessing quality education.
In India, where being born female too often means a girl will be deprived of education, Aide et Action has been carrying out the “Enlight” project for the past five years which currently supports 300 marginlaised young girls of primary school age across ten cities to access education. “In India, people are discriminated against because of their caste but being a girl in these perceived lower castes is worse than anything,” remarks Albert Bosgo, Head of the Enlight Project in Chennai, India. “When we started our project, we first had to convince communities of the need to send their daughters to school. Meetings were organized, once or twice a month, to discuss this with families and in particular with mothers. Today, Albert pleased to see a big shift in the communities’ attitudes to education, where both adults and children alike are now convinced that education is the only way to break the cycle of poverty many have been trapped in.
The cause of girls and women is at the heart of Aide et Action’s priorities. Enlight is one of the flagship projects led by “Education for Women Now”, an international philanthropic campaign launched earlier this year by Aide et Action, to fight against gender inequalities around the world. “This struggle begins at the very doorstep of school and education. The deconstruction of the mental and social representations built around women cannot be done without the participation of everyone: men, women, children, teachers, local and global leaders, communities, government and more” insists Vanessa PERRETTE, International Director of Fundraising, of Aide et Action.
In Cambodia, under our new campaign, we are working to improve access to equitable, quality and relevant education, skills and employment training for marginalised girls and women (aged 11-25) who have dropped out of school or who are at risk of dropping out. During the last academic year dropout rates in upper secondary schools across Cambodia reached 23.8% with almost one in two female students in rural areas dropping out without completing the last grade of education. This high dropout rate reduces girls’ chances for skilled employment and increases their risk of illegal migration, exploitation and poverty.
“Accompanying girls and women on the path to education is a major concern for Aide et Action. Outreach work with girls and women gives them the knowledge and skills they are or have been deprived of, but it also helps guide them on the path to equality, freedom and active citizenship. It gives them back a voice, one that has been stolen from them for centuries,” says Charles-Emmanuel Ballanger.