"Ever since I was little, my parents always taught me that knowledge is power and that education can unlock countless opportunities for me. Sadly, 63 million girls are currently missing out on these opportunities and on the chance to go to school. But there are many great organizations and people around the world working to change that.
Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend the Department for International Development’s Girls’ Education Forum with my fellow Girlguiding Advocates, Katherine, Mathilde and Maria. The day consisted of workshops and panel discussions on a range of topics, like the challenges facing girls who are affected by conflict and crises and Leonard Cheshire Disability’s work on reaching disabled girls.
The entire event was amazing, and it was so heartening to see how many people there are working towards the same goal. Everyone I met at the event was so dedicated to the cause of ensuring that girls are not kept out of education.
I was especially inspired by Justine Greening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, and by her commitment to widening education access across the world, especially to girls in developing countries. In fact, during the event’s plenary she pledged to spend £100 million on helping 175,000 girls who are currently unable to attend school.
One thing that made the event especially enjoyable for me was the warmth, humour and conviction of Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, the panel’s chairperson and an incredibly dedicated campaigner for women’s rights internationally. My favourite quote from the whole day has to be ‘My name is Nyaradzayi, the rest is patriarchy!’ but there were so many other amazing speakers and people at the forum that it’s almost impossible to list them all!
Here in the UK, we’re working to make sure that all girls have access to a quality education. In my past two years as a Girlguiding Advocate, Girlguiding has been campaigning for compulsory Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) in schools, including high quality Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) so that girls understand healthy relationships and how to navigate the pressures they face.
We have also put pressure on our government to tackle sexism and sexual harassment in school. Our Girls’ Attitudes Survey has found that in the UK, 59% of young women aged between 13 and 21 have experienced some sort of sexual harassment at their school or college in the last year and 81% have experienced or seen some form of everyday sexism. 75% of girls also say that anxiety about experiencing sexual harassment negatively affects their lives in some way – from what they wear and where they go to how they feel about their bodies.
We believe that any barriers to getting a good quality education, whether they be child marriage, children living in insecure environments such as displacement and war, sexual harassment in schools or everyday sexism, should be tackled. This is why we support the call to improve the global standard of education for girls and young women while working within the UK to ensure girls access education in a safe and empowering space.
My education has shaped who I am and opened up so many doorways for me and I really hope that one day all girls will be able to have the same opportunity and to have a good quality education. There are certainly lots of challenges in trying to ensure that all girls receive an education but, as the forum showed me, there is a lot of hard work going towards this cause. I hope the energy and optimism of the event can be harnessed into making real change and that everybody’s hard work continues."
- Ashvini Rae, Girlguiding Advocate, UK
To find out more about the Girls’ Education Summit, read the official press release, and to find out more about Girlguiding’s campaigning on ending sexism in schools, check out the Girlguiding UK blog.