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Educate the Girl, Empower the Woman - IPS - 0 views

  • Picture a mother, hunching over a field with a Medieval-style hoe in hand, spending day after day tilling the soil under a beating hot sun - only to retire home to care for her family without electricity or running water.

    This is not a 12th century image, but a typical working day for scores of rural women in today's developing world, where lack of access to education and technology has forced many to resort to traditional and often painful methods of livelihood.
  • Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF), a pan- African network bringing together individuals and organisations from 23 countries, is among the key regional groups tackling this issue head on.

    WILDAF believes lack of knowledge about education rights, specifically among young girls, is one of the main reasons forcing rural people to endure lives of agricultural hardship.
  • "We want to teach them how to develop projects, from tilling the ground to seeding, all the way through to packaging at an international level so the food will be accepted by everybody in other countries," she said.

    Agu cited a project where female farmers of moringa – a nutritious African plant – were able to increase the efficiency and ease of production, through simple modern conveniences.
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  • Bisi Olateru-Olagbegi, executive director of the Women's Consortium of Nigeria (WOCON) and board member of WILDAF, said educating girls with both formal and practical education was key to addressing the gender imbalances and breaking the cycle of poverty.

    "When a women is empowered and she can assert her rights in the community she can rise up to any position and be part of decision making and raise the status of women," Olateru- Olagbegi said.
  • Although enrolment levels have risen in many developing countries since 2000, UNICEF estimated there were still more than 100 million children out of school in 2008, 52 percent of them girls and the majority living in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Subsequently there has been a measurable increase in girls attending school, a trend that has led to fewer early marriages and teenage pregnancies as well as a reduction in the number of youths who are trafficked and prostituted.

    In spite of the gains, however, girls are still largely underrepresented in the science and technology fields.

    "Even when girls go to school there is a bias that girls are not supposed to learn science and technology; they're still doing the social sciences and humanities," Olateru-Olagbegi said. "They don't think that the faculties of girls are developed enough and it's mere discrimination."
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