By Francis Amatepey, YRE Youth Board
Being born as a girl into this world seems to be a curse. Women have and continue to suffer various degrees of injustices and inequalities spanning from cultural, social, economic, religious, and political matters.
Nothing deserves more critical consideration in education than the inequality in education for boys and girls in the poorest countries around the globe. The barriers to girls’ education have been an old phenomenon in society and have proved too problematic to resolve. Their inhumane treatment dated back since human civilization. The discrimination and abuse perpetrated against women continue in society through traditional practices, stereotyping, cultural and religious beliefs which put women at risk and neglect at any level. These negative attitudes have affected their educational opportunities. However, globally education is recognized as the
Fundamental human rights—where every child has the right to receive quality basic education; it is a critical resource to reduce poverty, inequality, and the foundation for a successful life.
Since independence, several governments in Ghana and Africa at large have not in any way instituted laws and policies to discriminate against the education of girls. But social and cultural beliefs, practices and attitudes of society have and continue to perpetrate discrimination against women. For the past years, Ghana has seen some progress towards gender parity in education, especially at the basic levels (ges.gov.gh; UNICEF Ghana, 2012), but the gap widens as students’ progress to higher levels.
Notwithstanding the progress made for the past years to bridge the divide, the supremely ambitious and transformational vision of the UN agenda 2030 still got it captured under target 4.1 “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes” What a world with universal literacy? A world with equitable and universal access to quality education at all levels, to health care and social protection, where physical, mental and social well-being are assured.
Factors impeding girls’ education are multifaceted and interrelated. There are three main categories of factors causing gender gaps in primary and secondary education in Ghana: school-related, socio-cultural, and macro-level. School-related factors serving as barriers to girls’ education in Ghana are sexual harassment and lack of female teachers as role models.
Firstly, Sexual harassment and violence perpetrated generally are by classmates, male teachers, and males in general are one ofthe hindrances to girls’ education in Ghana. Classmates take advantage to prey on their female counterparts byabusing them sexually (rape) and physically (violent assault) especially when they refuse to consent to a sexual relationships. Male teachers also take advantage of their female students to prey on them. Oftentimes male teachers threaten to fail them in examinations, humiliate them in public, harass, abuse, and tease them. To bridge this divide and control sexual harassment and the abuse, I suggest that the government of Ghana and parliament should enact legislationand enforced its implementations. Child protection Interventions could help change attitudes and create awareness on the needs to empower girl’s and women in sustainable development.
Also, Since cultural barriers in many countries play crucial roles in determining whether girls have access to education, and perform well if they have, female teachers have been recognized as critical in impacting girls’ access, retention, and achievement, even at the primary level However, girls in Ghana and other African countries do not have access to female teachers as role models because they are few at the lower primary level to receive emotional and moral support to guide them to higher achievement.
The benefits of girls’ education have been well documented by research to have multiplier effects. Their impacts extend beyond the individual and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) “No development strategy is better than one that involves women as central players” It is a long-term investment that yields exceptionally high returns. We need those with power to change things to come together in an alliance for girls’ education: governments, voluntary progressive groups, and above all, local Communities, schools and families”
I believe that if Ghanaians change their negative and marginalized attitudes toward girl-child access to education, consider the benefits of girls’ education as have been documented by research, with well-planned and implemented policies by the government, not just rhetoric, could ignite a revolution in girls’ education.
This is because such policies or reforms have been implemented in some countries in the world where girls’ have either drawn parity with boys or overtaken them in education.
Realizing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets. Establishing Girls Clubs, as some schools do, would also be beneficial to raising the self-esteem of female students and decreasing harassment. Empowerment Camps or groups may help, and prosecuting the perpetrators should be a focus for the government The achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
There is a need of an Awareness Campaign. Changing a cultural mindset is difficult and slow, but in the case of Ghana’s universal sexism, necessary for progress. A social campaign to emphasize the importance of educating females would be helpful in changing this mindset. This campaign should come from the government and local governments, and be funded with money from the Girls Education Unit
Women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources and political participation as well as equal opportunities with men and boys for employment, leadership and decision-making at all levels.
This article was first made public on International Womensday 8th March 2018 at MyJoyOnline: