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BEHIND THE HEADLINES GIRLS’ EDUCATION

Friday 8 March will mark the 102nd International Women’s Day. Joy Persaud reports on efforts to ensure girls have access to education despite efforts to the contrary

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alala Yousafzai is a Pakistani school pupil and an activist for girls’ education and women’s rights – the words in the headline are hers. Malala (pictured) grew up in an area where the Taliban has at times banned girls from attending school. She came to public attention after writing about this and other topics in a diary for the BBC website. Unfortunately, this came at a cost. On 9 October 2012, the 15-yearold was shot in the head while returning home on a school bus. At the time of the assassination attempt, Malala was setting up an organisation to get girls out of domestic labour and into school. She was recently discharged from a UK hospital and has launched a fund to help other girls (www. vitalvoices.org/global-initiatives/ support-malala-fund). The NAHT is a champion of the rights of girls to be educated and supports a petition relating to Malala’s struggle (www. educationenvoy.org/petition). 22

Sadly, the lack of education available to girls extends beyond Pakistan to millions worldwide, despite the benefits it brings to individual lives, as well as its potential to reduce poverty and disease in the broader community. To help tackle the matter, the UK’s Department for International Development is supporting the Girls’ Education Challenge, which will help up to one million of the world’s poorest girls to improve their lives through education. In January, it awarded funding worth up to £30 million to 15 programmes that will create education opportunities for some of the world’s most marginalised girls. The projects will provide access to education, materials, safe spaces in which to learn, and a ‘voice’. They also emphasise innovation to encourage new ways of delivering learning. LF spoke to four organisations whose first challenge is to teach communities why their girls will benefit from education, in the hope that they will eventually be given the coveted chance to sit in a classroom.

GETTY

‘I want every girl, every child, to be educated’

Equality and empowerment CINTIA LAVANDERA Afghanistan programme manager, Womankind Worldwide HER VIEW

Afghanistan has long had one of the poorest education records in the world, with a low rate of school attendance and high levels of illiteracy. Between 1996 and 2001, under the Taliban, the educational situation got worse. The curriculum was restricted, schools were destroyed and Afghan women and girls were barred from every school, college and university. After the Taliban fell from power, an international effort to reconstruct the educational system followed. Record numbers of students enrolled in school, including the highest

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