There is significant gender inequality in education in Ethiopia for a number of reasons. By the time girls reach Grade 5, they are often subjected to sexual harassment and assault on their way to and from school as well as within the classroom from their male peers and teachers. Their parents keep them home from school to protect them from violence as well as to help with childcare, food gathering, and household chores. Girls who are orphaned are particularly vulnerable, as they have no one to pay their school tuition.
If a girl completes primary school and earns a place in a secondary school, her family will need to pay school fees, uniform costs, and examination fees. Devalued because of gender bias, girls are often seen as unworthy of financial support, their only value being that of earning the family a bride price.
Supporting the Rights of Women and Girls Can Change Everything
Adolescent girls are capable of being powerful agents of change both now and in the future. They are the key to breaking the cycle of poverty for themselves, their families, their villages and their countries—but only if we overcome gender inequality in education.
Girls who manage to complete school and learn skills change the world around them, benefiting the entire community.
But for women, inequality isn’t going to end soon. Generations of discrimination mean that many girls and women do not even know that they have human rights. They don’t worry about the rights of women because it does not occur to them to do so!
Girls as young as 14 are often pressured to marry and are extraordinarily vulnerable to HIV, early pregnancy, complications from childbirth, and lifelong physical exploitation. Once married, they are isolated and unsupported. The cycle of poverty, illness, and abuse continues, not only for them but for the children they will bear and raise, because the rights of women don’t exist.
It’s Not Just About Gender Inequality in Education
The key to helping overcome gender inequality in education is to improve access to education for all. An amazingly high percentage of young people quit their schooling and remain at home in Ethiopia. School dropouts, particularly girls and women, face endemic, interlinked issues, including traditionally low social positions, illiteracy, unemployment, and poverty.
The numbers of young people attending elementary and secondary schools are increasing. But a large proportion of these students cannot qualify to continue their post-secondary education. As a result, many students leave schools after completing Grade 10 and stay at home, jobless and hopeless.
This national problem is magnified in the marginalized area of Seka Chekorsa Woreda, where only 20% of the secondary school students had opportunities to continue their preparatory education to join universities and colleges. The remaining 80% do not have any alternative but to stay at home being dependent on their families.
Our charitable organization, Rainbow for the Future, and our Ethiopian partner, Support for Sustainable Development, are embarking on constructing and equipping a TVET center in Seke. About 600 students will be enrolled for essential technical skills and vocational training. We have built and continue to build primary schools as well. The projects are separated by great distances and vary in scope.
These projects will eventually help address gender issues in education in Ethiopia while providing a host of social and economic benefits. Hopefully both girls and boys will grow up knowing about and respecting the rights of women!