Students from the Lily Project (a group operating as part of our HS Global Issues Network) at the Christmas Bazaar earlier this year promoting the work of EGRC (Educating Girls in Rural China).
By JingXi Y.,
Student, Global Issues Network Lily Project
An estimated 16 million girls will never set foot in a classroom. At the Lily Project, we genuinely care about this statistic and want to take the lead in bringing our community together to take the first steps in solving this issue of women’s education.
In China, access to higher-level education still remains a prevalent issue that is deeply rooted in gender discrimination and income inequality. In rural areas, like China’s western Gansu province, girls are forced to leave school in order to support their families. This year, The Lily Project has worked with EGRC–a China-based organization that works to empower girls and give them opportunities–to tackle this issue by holding fundraisers, such as the Christmas Bazaar, and sponsoring girls on their journey towards success. However, our work is far from complete, and we hope that one day our outreach can expand farther than just the borders of China.
As a part of expanding our impact, we want to use this article as a chance to share the stories of girls outside of China, in places like Afghanistan, who prove that gender inequality has real global implications.
This is Zainab. At just 12 years old, she was forced to give up her education to work on her family’s farm, managing a small nursery of saplings and trees. At 15, she says she still “likes to learn” and “will ask them [her brothers] questions about what they learned that day in school.” With her wit and initiative, many would see a world of opportunity laid out for her. Yet, Zainab, like many girls in Afghanistan, embodies two of the major barriers to education for girls in developing countries: poverty and child marriage.
In just one year, at the young age of 16, Zainab will be married off to a young man of her father’s choosing. According to Girls Not Brides, “girls with no education are three times more likely to marry by 18 compared to girls with secondary education (or higher).” Lack of education and child marriage go hand in hand with each other to perpetuate the cycle of poverty, and the story of a young girl named Doreen proves it. At 13 years old, Doreen married a 30 year old man, stating that “it was because of poverty.” When she was 14, her grandmother told her that her husband would take her to school, but she never went. Instead, she spent her days doing domestic housework and taking care of her husband.
Gloria, a Zambian girl around the same age, has a similar story. After her father’s death, she was married off to a 35 year old man at 12 years old. Here, she was subject to unwanted physical relationships that impregnated her and led to a loss of her freedom. She says, “Now in the house I was taken to, I wasn’t free. I was scared because he refused for me to do anything, and only he decided what should be done.” Gloria lost her chance at education and suffered a tumultuous year, during which she lost her husband, got remarried, experienced domestic violence, and became pregnant again. Yet, when it came time to give birth, her second husband passed away and she was left, as a young girl, to birth her son alone. Her wish is that “ [her son] could get an education, [so] his life would be different from mine.”
We know this article doesn't have the power to solve this problem on a huge scale, but hopefully it did work to build perspective on how access to education gives girls the key to escaping the cycle of poverty and the power to change the world. We ask you to join us in raising awareness for the various barriers women face on the road to attain an education, and in advocating for equality in education all around the world.
“11 Unexpected Barriers to Education Around the World: Concern Worldwide U.S.” Concern
“As Afghan Girls Become Women, Their Dreams Hang in the Balance.” Concern Worldwide, www.concernusa.org/story/girls-education-in-afghanistan/.
Education and Gender Equality. 13 Jan. 2020, en.unesco.org/themes/education-and-gender-equality.
“Girls' Education.” World Bank, www.worldbank.org/en/topic/girlseducation.
“In Her Own Words: 3 Powerful Stories From Former Child Brides.” Global Citizen, www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/girl-bridges-share-stories-child-marriage-survivor/.