In 2015, the world realized we needed to collectively change the way that we address issues of poverty, equality, and prosperity. The unprecedented and historic solution was the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It put into place goals and targets to achieve in various areas such as poverty reduction, improving health, increasing access to quality education, and advocating for gender equality. The goals were endorsed by over 150 world leaders, and seek to transform the distribution of rights to all people.
A recent report by the UNFPA is now redefining who we need to focus on right now to make the biggest impact. And the result? 10 year old girls.
When a girl turns ten, her life is at a pivotal point. “In some parts of the world, a girl at this age enjoys limitless possibilities and begins making choices that will influence her education and, later, her work life. But in other parts, a girl who goes through puberty is suddenly seen as a commodity that may be bought, sold, or traded, the UNFPA report shows.” This means that at the age of ten, girls around the world become much more likely to be married off, sent to work, or endure practices such as female genital mutilation—all of which can keep girls out of school.
It is no secret that educating girls can be instrumental in benefitting both the health and wealth of a community. In fact, studies show that “each year of education delivers an additional 11.7% uplift in wages in later life for girls (compared with 9.6% for men)…and if all the 10-year-old girls who drop out of school or do not attend school in developing countries completed secondary education, they would trigger a $21 billion annual dividend.” This is in addition to statistics that show that mortality rates drop and lifetime expectancies increase when women are educated.
The Agenda for Sustainable Development has already enabled governments to put into place policies in support of its goals. These policies work at reducing barriers to education, and can range from banning child marriage to providing cash transfers to parents of girls in poor households to help defray costs of schooling, thus keep girls in school longer. But while these measures have been successful, we need to do more.
Mona Foundation holds the position that girls' education is only one piece of the puzzle, but that the supportiveness of fathers, families, and communities more generally must be addressed as a factor in educational access for women and girls. In addition to the commodification of girls that occurs at the age of ten, there may be additional cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from having access to education. If girls’ fathers or brothers do not allow their schooling, they will be unable to complete their education. One of Mona’s partner initiatives that has been actively focusing on addressing this is Digital Study Hall.
Digital study Hall is based in Lucknow, India, but sends its video lessons to government schools around the state of Uttar Pradesh. Recently, Digital Study Hall has expanded its “Aarohini” program, a girls’ empowerment and community mobilization program. The program builds the capacity of teachers to conduct critical dialogues with adolescent girls on the issues in their lives. Teachers are also trained to mobilize neighboring communities to encourage parents and the community members to advocate for girls’ rights and understand the problems faced by girls so that they become more supportive of girls’ education.
As a result of the program, DSH has achieved much success with parents of students who attend schools that the program is administered at. Rajni, the father of a girl who attends a government school in Salarpur, Budaun, has said that as a result of the Aarohini program, “ I am overjoyed…and I have decided that I will keep my girl in school as long as she wants to study.”
In a recent victory for Digital Study Hall, the Aarohini program was adopted by the state government, and will now be expanded to all off the 746 government-owned schools in Uttar Pradesh, resulting in the curriculum being adopted at over 968 schools in India in total.
It is imperative now that we make every effort we can to support the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainability. Mona Foundation does so by offering long-term support to partner initiatives we carefully select, because we know that change takes time and requires stability. Help us today in supporting our schools, and to help ten year old girls, their families, and their communities today. Donate here.
Click here to see stories from ten year-olds around the world, learn the statistics, and see why supporting Mona’s work can truly make a difference on a global scale.
"Whenever a girl’s potential goes unrealized, we all lose" - UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin