In case you missed it, Wednesday 11th of October was the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl. Although days like this can often pass us by, we are still deep in thought about this one as it really hones in on one of our passions – educating girls.
Any sustainable business worth their salt, knows that paying attention to education is crucial for any kind of change to take place – now and in the future. Here at Finders and Makers, we make a concerted effort to partner with Finders that also believe in education and make it a key priority in their workplaces. This sounds good in theory but getting children to school every day can be an enormous challenge for employees and their staff. Even small efforts can make a huge difference and this is where we try to help.
In developing countries, children may miss out on education for a range of reasons. Although the concept of getting kids up and off to school seems simple enough, the factors required to successfully achieve that goal can be quite complex, especially for those living in poverty. Compromised nutrition affects capacity to learn, the experience of being hungry impacts on energy and motivation to achieve goals and in many cases limited physical access to school can be the main reason for lack of attendance. Simply being able to access transport or find safe and reliable ways to get to the local school can be impossible for those living in remote communities, or areas of danger.
Another common reason is because they are already working and school will take them away from income producing activities. This impacts on the immediate function of the family unit, making it difficult to prioritise long term gains over short term necessities. Yes, even saying that seems insane, but in families where access to education is difficult and funds scarce, everyone is taught to pitch in early. As a result, children’s ‘career’ pathways are often defined much earlier than they should be, steering them away from education and the chance for more sustainable long-term opportunities.
At Finders and Makers we are about supporting fair and ethical work practices to allow 'adults' to earn a sustainable income. This in turn means their children can remain in school. I can recall my recent trip to the region of Assam in North East India, where fair and ethical work practices combined with conscious consumers had allowed the village to thrive. I met mum Eva, father Shut and daughter Sikha. Although both parents had missed out on an education themselves, they now earned enough to support their daughter through her schooling, paying for tutors when needed and ensuring education remained her priority.
Education in my view should be available to every child, regardless of their gender. However, it is unfortunately too often the case that girls get the short end of the stick. Educated girls have a huge impact on their local and broader communities yet they are the ones who seem to miss out time and time again. Data from UNESCO have shown that maternal deaths could be reduced by two thirds if women were educated and there would also be improvements in child nutrition, lowering of birth rates, reduction of child marriages and increased opportunities for sustainable long-term income producing work.
The United Nations reports that “there are 1.1 billion girls in the world, and every one of them deserves equal opportunities for a better future. They are a source of energy, power and creativity. They can drive change and help build a better future for all. Yet, most girls face disadvantage and discrimination on a daily basis, and those living through crises are suffering even more.”
There are so many heartbreaking and staggering statistics about the impact a lack of education has on women. One of the worst for me is that two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women. Days like International Day of the Girl may pass us by, but they are important reminders that others are working tirelessly on issues such as these all of the time. We just need to get better as a society at paying more attention more often.
Let’s be the change that is needed.
Until next week,
Photo credits in order of appearance:
Himanshu Singh Gurjar, Kelley Bozarth, Chinh Le Duc, Finders and Makers, Annie Spratt