In our society, going to school is part of the routine of many children and young adults. If our routine is waking up early for not missing the bus, following the lessons for six hours straight and then studying and doing our homework, we should be aware that education is a right that is not always equally distributed or recognised: according to the UIS (UNESCO Institute for Statistics), for the school year ending in 2018, about 258 million children and youth were out of school; this total includes 59 million children of primary school age, 62 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary age. This lack of education can be found especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Eastern Asia due to persistent poverty and marginalization. However, gender inequality is a problem that also affects this field; indeed, today the ones who have less access to education are girls, representing more than the 54% of the unschooled population in the world.
Besides the cultural and social factors, early marriage is one of the major causes of drop outs by girls under the age of 18, who often don’t have a say in the decision of their parents: the trigger factors of it are the thought that the only roles of women are to be a wife and a mother, as well as the interruption of the reproductive health services that raise the cases of pregnancy and subsequent marriages. In addition Covid-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on education and economy: due to this, the risk of early marriage in many families increased up of 10% from the originally 100 million girls. The phenomenon of early marriage steals a girl’s childhood, having repercussions on her future,physical and mental health. Therefore the possibility of attending school, or reaching a higher level of education is very relevant since girls will be more likely to continue their professional careers, thus reducing little girls and teen marriage. Are “the best women the least educated”? According to the Hungarian government the answer is yes: women’s education would endanger the economy and disadvantage men; besides, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has stated that the high number of female students in their higher education system could be a serious problem since it would make young women less likely to marry and have children. In addition, according to the most famous stereotypes, men would be “more inclined to entrepreneurial spirit, mathematics, logic and mechanics”,while women would be able to work only in domestic environments and would distinguish themselves for being tolerant and obedient. Thus, if the male traits are less developed than the female ones, then men run the risk of developing “mental and behavioural problems”. Furthermore, the government favours and helps only women under the age of 30 who choose to get married, which in the past year has led to an increase in female dropouts.
In Afghanistan, after the Talibans took power in 2021, many girls dropped out of school. What is the reason for this situation? Was it a choice or were little girls forced to interrupt their studies? In reality, at the beginning, the Taliban guaranteed respect for women’s rights, including education, emphasizing then “under the sharia system” (extreme Islamic moral principles). In September, only girls aged between 6 to 12 years old returned to school (forced to attend exclusively girls’ classes) but secondary school was interrupted (12-17 years). The Taliban also allowed university female students to complete their studies but, since they are not allowed to graduate, no girl will be able to study in university anymore. Samira Hamid, activist of “Afghanistan Amnesty International” said: “It’s the worst nightmare possible for Afghan women and girls, who today have seen their future torn out”. Protest movements, such as “The Movement of Change”, were born in this period: they took women’s rights at the center and took positions against the Taliban management of women’s education. Female education is a good investment for various reasons: the education is the best means to promote gender equality, so to ensure the same opportunity. Then an educated girl tends to avoid early pregnancies and diseases. They are favoured in starting economic activities and negotiating their rights, starting with those relating to the management of reproductive health and the education of children. Educated women tend to avoid early pregnancies and risk behaviors. They are favoured in starting economic activities and negotiating their rights, and undoubtedly an illiterate girl is less protected from violence, disease and exploitation than a peer who has been educated. Educated girls tend to have fewer children and focus more time and attention on the newborn. Their children are on average better fed and cared for, because mothers are better informed about disease prevention and can receive the messages of health institutions on the need to vaccinate children, maintain hygiene measures and dose medicines.
Group work by Sardini Anna, Milani Anna, Bertuzzi Alessia, Buffoli Sara.
Photo by Akshayapatra