Empowering adolescent girls in Ethiopia and Tanzania
Adolescent girls in the northern Tanzania districts of Shinyanga Rural, Kahama and Micheweni are confronted with poverty, early marriage and pregnancy and an overall low prioritization of education in their communities.
Many parents consider marriage more important for their daughters than schooling. Similar problems are found in Benishangul Gumz Regional State in Ethiopia, where the disparity between girls and boys is much wider than the Ethiopian national average.
Girls in these rural regions of Ethiopia and Tanzania are now being targeted by a new initiative launched by UNESCO and the Packard Foundation to equip them with the life skills they need to successfully finish school. The community-based project promotes crowdsourcing, or collective problem-solving. By encouraging girls and their communities to propose solutions to the many obstacles to completion of secondary education, it introduces a new approach to designing and carrying out projects aimed at keeping girls in school.
Entitled “Crowdsourcing Girls’ Education: A Community-Based Approach to Lowering Drop-Out Rates in Secondary Schools in Ethiopia and Tanzania”, the project was launched in cooperation with the governments of Ethiopia and Tanzania and is supported by the Packard Foundation to the tune of $1,500,000, equally shared between the two countries. It is part of the UNESCO Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, “Better Life, Better Future”, which celebrates its first anniversary on 25 May 2012.
The Ethiopian project aims to improve learning outcomes for some 1,000 secondary-level schoolgirls. It was launched by the Government of Ethiopia with UNESCO and the Packard Foundation, on 7 March 2012, in Benishangul Gumz Regional State. Students, parents, teachers and regional education officers at the launch workshop commended the new project. One schoolgirl pointed out that “we girls in secondary schools located in rural communities face challenges including lack of confidence, low awareness of basic reproductive health and basic sanitation facilities.”
“It is really innovative to bring together schools, communities and teacher training colleges to address gender responsiveness and learning achievement,” said deputy regional education bureau head, Akasha Ismael. “We are grateful for this initiative and the positive impact it will have on girls’ retention and successful school completion.”
Twenty-five schools in Tanzania will benefit from a similar community-based approach to supporting girls’ retention and performance in secondary education. The project was presented at a consultative workshop for district and national education stakeholders on 5 March 2012. It aims to support adolescent girls in the Shinyanga and Micheweni regions which were chosen for their low performance and retention of girls in secondary education.
The project will target interventions at the levels of the school, the community and the girls themselves. Functional literacy programmes will help parents, especially mothers, to support girls’ education. For the girls themselves the project will create “safe spaces” where they can gain leadership and entrepreneurial skills to empower them to become actors of change in their communities.
UNESCO will implement the project in close collaboration with the government of Tanzania as well as with international and national NGOs that have a strong basis in the respective communities.