Excerpt from Susan M. Blaustein’s post “Let It Be a Lesson”: The Yearning for Learning, as a Force of Nature today on The Blog at huffingtonpost.com:
…And behind the noisy demonstrators, debaters and letter-writers stand many quieter heroes: girls who walk miles to reach their school each day, village girls who’ve traded their childhoods just to be able to live in the cities where the high schools are, often risking their health servicing the men who keep them, or girls who work nights selling or shouldering market goods just to cover school costs or to pull their weight at home, who come home late and study by flickering kerosene lamp, willing to give up their sight, their health, their buoyant radiance for an education, a lifeline, a future.
It was demonstrated long ago that girls’ and women’s education can lead to the reduction in maternal mortality, infant mortality, fertility rates and infection with HIV and AIDS. A child born to a mother who can read is 50 percent more likely to survive past five, with each additional year of schooling beyond primary on the part of the mother yielding even greater benefits in improved opportunities, options and outcomes.
Excerpt from Camfed:
Today marks the first ever International Day of the Girl – a day to recognize girls’ rights around the world. This UN-designated day highlights the growing momentum behind girls’ education and young women’s empowerment. The first International Day of the Girl turns the spotlight on child marriage – a problem that is depriving so many girls around the world of their own childhoods. The White Ribbon Alliance estimates that 10 million girls under the age of 18 are married every year. Some are as young as 12 and 13. And many of these girls give birth when they are still just children themselves. Girls’ education is recognized as one of the most effective ways to prevent this.
According to Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, “Preventing drop-out before the tipping point age of 13-14 and ensuring that girls make progression from primary school to secondary school is the most promising approach for curtailing child marriage.”
There is a direct link between education levels, birth rates, early marriage and maternal mortality. Getting more girls into school is key. Here are some of the challenges:
An acute lack of secondary schools – each child must receive a call letter to attend secondary school based on their performance on standardized exams. With a shortage of schools, many children do not receive call letters or cannot afford to pay school fees at the school where they are admitted.
Distance – Schools are often a long distance from children’s homes, leaving girls in particular vulnerable to abuse during travel to and from school or in often unsupervised accommodation
Lack of teachers – In rural areas, there were only 1,156 female teachers in 2009/10, compared to 6,522 male teachers. Young girls need role models to encourage them to stay in and complete school.
What is Maisha doing?
Maisha ensures our girls the opportunity to attend school and complete their education through the Legacy of Hope program. Individual sponsors meet all of their school-going costs, from school fees to uniforms to room and board, as well as spiritual and psychosocial support to address problems that threaten to disrupt their education. This is key to tackling child marriage. Maisha’s interventions have measurably improved girls’ school enrollment, retention and academic achievements.
The widows in the Maisha community provide a network of strong female role models. Maisha Mentoring Group meets on Saturdays and holds a special talent show and girls talk once a month to share/brainstorm solutions to their unique challenges. Our local Chief Jenipher Atieno Kosome is one of our strongest supporters and works in conjunction with us to uphold and fight for the rights of women and children.
We are also endeavoring to provide bicycles for all of our girls to have a safe commute to and from school. Solar lamps are being distributed to Maisha Homes to improve eyesight and health repercussions of kerosene lamps.
Child Marriage: The Facts (Sources: Unicef, White Ribbon Alliance, Girls Not Brides, World Vision)
– An estimated 10 million girls aged under 18 are married worldwide each year.
– In the developing world, one in seven girls is married before her 15th birthday and some child brides are as young as eight or nine.
– An estimated 3,500 girls under 15 become child brides every day. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death among them.
– Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die.
– Girls under 18 are at much higher risk of pregnancy-related injuries such as fistulas.
– Child brides are at greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases than unmarried, sexually active girls of the same age.
– The children of child brides are 60% more likely to die before their first birthday than the children of mothers who are over 19.
– Even if the child survives, he or she is more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and late physical and cognitive development.
– Child brides are almost always forced to leave school when, or before, they get married.
– To be a pregnant child is to be terrified. Girls between 15 and 19 are twice as likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth as women in their 20s and 25,000 children marry every day, 19 every minute.