According to the 2011 Global Monitoring Report (GMR), more than half the children who are not in school today, 36 million, are girls. World Bank staffers Mercy Tembon and Lucia Fort in their book, Girls Education in the 21st Century, note that girls are “doubly disadvantaged” over boys when attending school. For instance, UNICEF reports that girls drop out (or never attend) school because of poverty, distance from school, or for reasons as simple as lacking separate toilet facilities. Carol Bellamy, chair of the FTI, says “getting and keeping girls in school is a major step toward reducing poverty in the next generation…”
FTI staff are getting ready for the May Board meetings in Kigali, Rwanda. One of the decisions the FTI would like the Board to agree on is to improve girls’ access and participation in schooling in both existing and potential FTI developing country partners.
FTI’s work on girls’ education, reminded me a girl I met when I was 12 – Kalyani.
Kalyani, lived in a village near Tiptur, a small town in Karnataka, India. My family lives in Tiptur and one of my uncles hired Kalyani because her parents needed financial help.
When I visited my uncle’s house, I was surprised to see a girl my age working there. She cleaned, did laundry, and helped take care of uncle’s newborn.
Since my cousins were much younger than me, I looked for friendship with Kalyani. Although Kalyani wasn’t very expressive and was quiet, over a few weeks I gradually got to know her. Kalyani told me she didn’t know how old she was, nor how to read or write. She also told me that she had never held a piece of chalk or pencil before, so she was thrilled when we drew flowers on the sidewalk with chalk.
Shortly after I left, Kalyani become very homesick, so my uncle took her home. Unfortunately, Kalyani’s parents couldn’t afford to keep her, so they got her married, and my Uncle lost in touch with her family. I couldn’t believe she was already married…she was just a kid, like me.
I never saw Kalyani again. I don’t know where she is, or what she’s doing. I don’t know how to reach out to her. She couldn’t read, so won’t even be able to read this blog. My only hope is that she still draws flowers…
Kalyani represents one of the 36 million girls who never went to school. Kalyani never had an opportunity to learn how to read or write, do mathematics, or explore the world through science. She represents the girl living in poverty from the video The Girl Effect, because she does not have an education, her future is out of control, she was probably pregnant by the age of 15, and might have even had to sell her body to make money for her family.
Kalyani’s story is unfortunate, and no girl should be in Kalyani’s situation. Every girl deserves a chance to go to school, and stay in school. Children like Kalyani should have a voice, to demand Education for All like the children who recently held a rally in Orissa, India.
The FTI is making tremendous strides towards getting all girls in school, and ensuring quality Education for All. Follow our progress on this important issue after the Board meetings, and check out the resources on our website, including our report Fast Tracking Girls Education.
- A mother’s education has a huge effect on a child’s health By David Brown, The Washington Post, Thursday, September 16
- More financing for education resource page on EFA FTI website
More about FTI work in girls’ education:
- Fast-tracking Girls’ Education A Progress Report (March 2011)
Success stories on educating girls in FTI-supported countries:
- Burkina Faso: Girls in Burkina Faso are taking enormous strides.
- Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s political leaders champion girls’ education.
- Ghana: Ghana is breaking down gender stereotypes.
- Yemen: Improving girls’ education in Yemen’s rural provinces.