Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012



Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

Plan's Because I am a Girl global campaign
Across the world, girls face double discrimination due to their gender and age, leaving them at the bottom of the social ladder. Educating girls is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and improving the lives of girls, boys and everyone in their communities. Plan International’s Because I am a Girl (BIAAG) global campaign is supporting four million girls to get the education, skills and support they need to move themselves from poverty to opportunity. More information on the campaign can be found at: www.becauseiamagirl.org
Girls living in Cairo, Egypt

Because I am a Girl report provides evidence on the difficulties faced by girls, their families, communities and teachers across Africa, and how their experience of education is impacted and influenced by policies, cultural practices and traditional values.

Setting the scene
Girls’ education in Africa
Education is a fundamental human right for all children, acknowledged and agreed to by governments across the world through UN declarations made over 60 years ago. However, in Africa millions of children, particularly girls, are still denied this right and are unable to access the knowledge, skills and capabilities necessary for them to take an empowered and equal role in society. In addition to being an intrinsic human right, education, and particularly education for girls, is one of the most effective means of tackling global poverty: better girls’ education improves maternal health, reduces child mortality, improves household nutrition and increases the potential workforce and opportunities for economic growth. 2 Governments across Africa and the world have committed to improving girls’ education in international, regional and national legislation, policies and frameworks, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the Education For All (EFA) targets. So why is it that across Africa girls are still less likely than boys to enrol and remain in school? Why, in 47 out of 54 African countries, do girls have less than a 50% chance of going to secondary ? 3 And why, even whilst at school, do girls encounter discrimination and abuse, which threatens to undermine the transformative power of the education they receive?


The report
Plan International’s Because I am a Girl annual global report maps the state of the world’s girls. While women and children are often recognised as specific target groups in policy and planning, girls’ particular needs and rights are often ignored. These reports provide evidence, including the voices of girls themselves, on why girls’ needs require specific attention. This year, for the first time, Plan’s Regional Offices of Eastern and Southern Africa and West Africa have produced a Pan-Africa Because I am a Girl report to complement the 2012 global report on girls’ education. Drawing on research with children, parents, communities, teachers and policy makers from 11 countries,1 the

Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

The current state of girls’ education in sub-Saharan Africa:4
The last decade has seen an additional 52 million children enrolling in primary education, with girls’ enrolment increasing from 54% to 74%. Despite this progress 29 million primary school-aged children remain out of school, 54% of whom are girls, and gender parity in primary schools has only been reached in 16 countries. Just 7 in 10 children who begin primary school stay until the last primary grade. It is often girls who are the most likely to leave primary education with drop out rates as high as 59% of girls in Ethiopia and 57% in Liberia. The situation is worse in secondary schools, with transition rates for girls as low as 32% in Tanzania. Under a quarter of secondary school-aged girls are enrolled in secondary education across the region and only 3% of girls in Niger and 17% in Malawi complete lower secondary school.

Even when in schools, the lack of resources, inadequate numbers of teachers and poor school management and support structures mean that the quality of education children are receiving is compromised. A crisis of learning has emerged and many children are leaving school without the basic skills and knowledge to equip them for the future. Transition from primary to secondary education (%) 5

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Sub-Saharan Africa Burkina Faso Niger Tanzania Burundi Guinea Boys Girls

Girls in a classroom in Oromia region, Ethiopia



Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

What is preventing girls getting into school and staying there?
Gendered roles of girls and women
In many communities, there are deeply entrenched attitudes to girls and women that confine them to traditional gendered roles of carers, mothers, brides and household labourers.6 In Plan’s research some parents commented that education was seen as a threat to these traditional roles for girls by delaying or harming girls’ chances of marriage.7 In such contexts it is an ongoing struggle to build an understanding of the value of educating girls and empowering them to make decisions and life choices of their own. Some parents still believe that girls’ education has no value and they (girls) cannot succeed even when educated. Male Parent, Ethiopia Plan’s research shows that sustained awareness raising and community advocacy, working in partnership with community leaders, parents and children can start to tackle these attitudes and begin to embed an understanding of the value of girls’ education. Providing opportunities and capacities for girls to advocate around their own experiences is a key component of such work. 50% of parents surveyed in the Ashanti area of Ghana said they would choose to keep their sons in schools rather than their daughters. Only 10% opted for keeping their daughters in school Changing these attitudes and behaviours is one of the biggest challenges facing girls’ education and also one of the most complex to address. Plan’s research shows that sustained awareness raising and community advocacy, working in partnership with community leaders, parents and children can start to tackle these attitudes and begin to embed an understanding of the value of girls’ education. Providing opportunities and capacities for girls to advocate around their own experiences is a key component of such work.

The costs of education
Many countries have national policies stating that primary education is free. The reality for children and their parents, however, is very different. Whilst official school fees may have been abolished, many schools continue to charge other fees such as for enrolment or examinations. Added to the costs of uniforms, Our children are often forced to drop out of school because we’re not going to steal to send them to school; what helps us sometimes is if we’re breeding animals we can then sell an animal to get the money to enrol our children. Female parent, Guinea-Bissau books, transport, stationary and other ‘hidden costs’ of education, sending a child to school remains a significant financial investment for families.8 This increases further at secondary school levels where costs are often 3 to 5 times higher than at primary level.9


Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

58% of parents in Liberia said school costs were the main reason for not enrolling their children; 36% of children identified school fees as a key difficulty faced in school and 38% said they struggled with the costs of school materials and uniforms Bursary and scholarship initiatives targeted at girls, particularly at secondary school level, as well as supplies of school materials and school feeding programmes have been shown to increase girls’ attendance, retention and transition in education in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya. Bursary and scholarship initiatives targeted at girls, particularly at secondary school level, as well as supplies of school materials and school feeding programmes have been shown to increase girls’ attendance, retention and transition in education in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya. 10

Household poverty is often a key driver for this, with the money used to cover basic needs such as food and soap, along with school materials and fees; but obtaining luxury items such as mobile phones and perfume are also common motivations.12 Percentage of sexually active boys and girls who reported having received gifts or money for sexual relations 13
100 80 60 40 40






Such financial burdens affect poor families disproportionately. Poor parents are often forced into tough economic decisions about which child is more likely to gain from the limited investments they can make in education: a girl’s immediate usefulness as a family carer, her value as a bride or her domestic and other labour may be seen as more valuable than the longer-term return from investing in her education.11

Such relationships make girls extremely vulnerable to a number of risks including HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, violence, and early pregnancy.14 These have a direct impact not only on girls’ health but also their attendance and progression in education.

Early pregnancy
More than 50% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa give birth by the age of 20.15 Studies have shown a range of factors that make primary and secondary school girls vulnerable to early pregnancy including poverty, a lack of sexual and reproductive health services and information, the prevalence of sexual violence and transactional sex, low levels of education and child marriage.16 Pregnancy was identified as a leading cause of girls dropping out of school by 57% of children in Uganda, 58% in GuineaBissau and 62% in Liberia

Transactional sex
Exchanging sex for money or gifts is an acknowledged and widespread practice amongst school-aged girls, and, to a lesser extent, boys. God gave me a ‘shop within my body’ to work with, so I can survive the sting of poverty…why can’t I use it to earn a living? Female student, Kenya






Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

Since nobody was taking care of me I received money and gifts from men, in order to please them I have to have sex with them. That is how I become pregnant in school…at first I wanted to abort the pregnancy but in the process I almost lost my life…Because I am not schooling I feel very sad when I see my friends dressed in their uniforms, sometimes I cry. I dropped out of school due to the pregnancy and life is so unbearable. Girl, Ghana

A teenage girl with her baby in Niger Plan

33% of children surveyed in Senegal and 25% of those in Mali, identified child marriage as a leading cause of girls’ dropping out of school Child marriage is closely associated with poverty. Poor parents often marry their daughters in the belief that marriage will protect and provide their child with a secure future.20 However, child marriage is widely acknowledged to be a key factor girls dropping out of school,21 and the When the father takes the child out of school to give them in marriage, the child has no chance of returning to school as their parents say that they have to follow the ancestral traditions School inspector, Guinea-Bissau negative impacts reach into the next generation: children of young, uneducated mothers are less likely to survive infancy, have a good start in education, do well in school, or continue beyond minimum levels of schooling. Daughters of uneducated mothers are especially likely to drop out of school, marry young, and begin the cycle of poverty again.22 Community advocacy and awareness raising is starting to break this cycle in some communities. In Sierra Leone Plan has supported students to actively advocate around issues of child marriage using drama, peer education and the media. Community leaders and civil society organisations have also been assisted to engage communities in raising and discussing the issue. This has led to reported reductions in child marriages and increases in girls’ retention in school.23

For the vast majority of girls pregnancy means the end of their already slim chances for education. The lack of childcare options, social expectations and pressures of motherhood, a lack of support within schools and bullying from fellow students mean very few girls are likely to return to school during pregnancy or after childbirth. Even where legislation and policies allow pregnant girls and young mothers to remain in school, the implementation and enforcement of these legal rights and policies at local levels has often been extremely weak.17 In Ethiopia, dropout returning committees (including representatives from students, school management, Parent Teacher Association, the district administration and a teacher that is born in the community) visit students who have dropped out and their parents to try to resolve issues and secure the student’s return to school. This approach has assisted the implementation of Ethiopian policies to enable the return of girls to school after childbirth.18

Child marriage
Child marriage is often both a cause and a consequence of early pregnancy, and is widespread in many parts of Africa, with rates of over 60% of girls married by the age of 18 in Niger, Chad and Mali.19

Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

Child labour
Across Africa many children are involved in forms of child labour, both in and outside the home. For poor families, such labour is often necessary for their survival.24 Finding sufficient time and energy for attending school and studying amidst this work is a severe struggle for many children.25 Children are taken as ‘means for family economy’ and are expected by parents to earn income for the family…this can hinder their school attendance and some drop out. Teacher, Ethiopia Child labour is usually split along existing gendered roles with girls shouldering heavy burdens of domestic chores, such as fetching water, cooking and caring for siblings or sick family members. These pressures are exacerbated for many In Guinea-Bissau over 40% of girls surveyed stated that they did over 5 hours of household chores every day, making it extremely difficult for them to keep regular attendance at school, to concentrate when there or to do any studying at home. families ravaged by HIV and AIDS which creates a huge burden of care on girls and women.26 In conditions of poverty, where the immediate income-earning potential of their labour is prioritised over education, girls are faced with a double burden of household chores and incomegeneration.27 In both Niger and Guinea, Plan has supported ‘second chance’ schools for children and youth who have not enrolled or have dropped out of the formal education system. These provide basic education that will enable them to either reintegrate into the formal system or continue into vocational training opportunities. These more flexible and non-formal education approaches are critical for many girls seeking to break out of a cycle of poverty and exploitation.

Girls’ experiences in schools
As we have seen, for girls across Africa, just getting into school can be an immense struggle. However, the challenge does not stop there. To ensure girls receive the empowering and transforming experience that education can offer, we must also look at girls’ experiences in schools.

One of the key factors in delivering quality education is having sufficient numbers of trained, well supported and motivated teachers. Across sub-Saharan Africa female teachers make up 43% of the primary teachers and 29% of secondary teachers, going as low as 7% in Togo and 4% in Liberia.28 Governments have struggled to expand teacher numbers to match rising enrolment rates, drafting in unqualified and untrained teachers to ease the pressure. Yet in sub-Saharan Africa 1.1 million extra teachers are still required to achieve universal primary education by 2015.29 To boost female teacher numbers many governments and development partners are prioritising and sponsoring women in teacher training programmes. Incentives, such as accommodation and financial allowances have also been introduced to attract teachers to rural areas.30 Female teachers are particularly under-represented, especially in secondary education and at senior levels of school management. Well trained, supported and motivated female teachers can act as effective professional role models for girls. Through their teaching positions they may also challenge traditional views and socio-cultural norms around the roles of women in the wider community.31

Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

Gender sensitive approaches and materials
Getting sufficient teachers into schools is a significant step. Yet equally important is the quality of the education they are able to deliver in the classroom and in the school more widely. Teaching approaches and the teaching materials used in classrooms play an important part in how girls’ engage with learning. Yet often both teachers and books continue to perpetuate traditional images and attitudes towards girls, reinforcing stereotypes and gender inequalities.32 In many African countries initiatives are underway to integrate gender sensitive approaches into teacher training programmes, and carry out gender reviews of curricula and teaching materials. Parent Teacher Associations and innovative child participation mechanisms such as school governments and school councils supported by Plan in Burkina Faso and Senegal, have also been shown to improve the school environment for girls as well as providing them with opportunities to develop skills for their own empowerment.33

Laws and policies do exist in many countries to prevent such abuse within schools, but they are rarely monitored or enforced, allowing children’s, and particularly girls’, rights to be violated with impunity.36 Teachers unions are playing an important part in many countries to tackle violence in schools through the provision of training for teachers, awareness raising, lobbying for stronger legislation and supporting teachers to provide safer school environments for children and particularly girls.37

Learn Without Fear Plan’s global campaign to end violence in schools
In 2008, Plan launched its pioneering global campaign to end violence against children in schools – Learn Without Fear. The campaign, focusing on the need to end sexual violence, bullying and corporal punishment, has met with a huge response worldwide. Plan has been working at all levels – global, regional, national and local – to ensure that violence-free schools are a priority for governments and all those involved in children’s education and rights. The Learn Without Fear campaign and advocacy work has resulted in great positive gains for children worldwide: • New laws and policies to protect over 485 million school children from violence. • Nearly 53,000 teachers have been trained in non-violent teaching methods • Over 30,000 schools are directly involved in the campaign • Plan is working with teachers’ unions in 20 countries, where they play a key role in spreading campaign messages. • 311,501 people have attended awarenessraising in the aims of the campaign, helping to change beliefs and attitudes about violence towards children. 38

Violence in schools
There is clear evidence that quality education can contribute significantly to protecting girls from violence and enhance their capacities to resist abuse.34 Yet research indicates that girls and boys are subjected to high levels of violence and exploitation within schools, including corporal punishment, verbal and physical abuse and sexual violence.35 Teachers were reported to be the main perpetrators of violence in schools by over 80% of children interviewed in Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. Teachers were identified by children as the perpetrators of girls’ pregnancies in 17% of cases in Togo, 16% in Mali and 15% in Uganda


Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

Policy recommendations to national governments
As demonstrated in this report, promoting girl’s right to education will require the engagement of everyone. With the BIAAG campaign Plan wishes to create a social movement for gender equality, and to see national governments take the lead as the primary duty bearers responsible for ensuring the rights of all children. Governments will need to engage in policy reforms and to increase financing to make sure that education policies will provide all girls with a quality education. In addition to this, governments will need to undertake the policy and legal reforms necessary to eliminate social factors hindering girl’s access to education. Finally, governments are encouraged to engage and work with civil society to create the social changes needed to ensure the right to education for all boys and girls – by 2015 and beyond. 1. Undertake a gender review of government Education Sector Plans to ensure all girls complete at least 9 years of quality education, including support for actions in the following areas: a. Girl-friendly educational environments: i. Ensure safe and supportive learning environments for girls through girl-friendly school criteria, teacher codes of conduct, and child participation in school governance. ii. Provide sufficient numbers of trained, motivated and resourced teachers, particularly female teachers, through fair pay and conditions, quality teacher training and incentives to attract and retain female teachers. iii. Revise curricula and teaching materials for gender sensitivity. iv. Strengthen comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education as a core part of the curriculum v. Expand flexible and non-formal education options.

b. Socio-cultural barriers to girls’ education: i. Strengthen public service information campaigns and community advocacy to challenge gendered attitudes to girls’ education and harmful practices. ii. Enforce policies to enable pregnant girls and young mothers to remain in school. iii. Take appropriate measures to prevent child marriage including through legislative and policy change and strengthened monitoring and enforcement mechanisms. c. Government capacity to support girls’ education: i. effective education policy dissemination and implementation through realistic and adequately resourced plans and monitoring and evaluation systems. ii. Monitor and improve learning outcomes through the development of national gender-sensitive learning outcomes. 2. Improve funding to support girls’ education: a. Allocate at least 11.4%* of the national budget to pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education. b. Fund at least 9 years+ of compulsory free education. c. Improve the planning and management of resources and ensure transparency and accountability. 3. Maintain the focus on girls’ education and emphasise quality as well as access in postMDG frameworks

*This is the average national budget expenditure of low-income countries on education. Covering both primary education and the transition into lower secondary education

Because I am a Girl - Africa Report 2012

1 Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Senegal, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe 2 GCE/RESULTS (2011), Make it Right: Ending the crisis in girls' education, Oxford, UK, Global Campaign for Education & RESULTS Educational Fund 3 Ibid. 4 Data in this section is taken from UNESCO (2011), EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011 5 Ibid. 6 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 GCE/RESULTS (2011), Make it Right 10 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 11 Ibid; Plan International (2012), Because I am a Girl: the state of the world’s girls 2012. Learning for Life, Woking, UK, Plan International 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid. 14 Plan WARO (2012), ‘Literature review: Girls’ retention and performance in primary and secondary education: makers and breakers’ 15 WHO (2007), Adolescent pregnancy – unmet needs and undone deeds, Geneva, Switzerland, WHO 16 Plan WARO (2012), ‘Literature review’ 17 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 18 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG: Ethiopia Country Report’ 19 UNICEF (2005) Early Marriage: A Harmful Traditional Practice, New York, USA, UNICEF 20 UNFPA Child Marriage Factsheet (2005)http://www.unfpa.org/swp/2005/presskit/facts heets/facts_child_marriage.html 21 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 22 UNICEF (2005) Early Marriage 23 Plan Sierra Leone (2011), ‘Country Programme Progress Report 2011’ 24 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 25 Ibid. 26 UNESCO (2009), The implications of HIV and AIDS on women’s unpaid labour burden, Paris, France, UNESCO 27 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 28 UNESCO (2011), EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011 29 Ibid. 30 Plan International (2012), Because I am a Girl 2012 31 Ibid. 32 Plan UK (2012), ‘Girl Friendly Teaching: Investigating the classroom practices that promote girls’ learning’, research paper for Plan UK 33 Plan International (2012), Because I am a Girl 2012 34 GCE/RESULTS (2011), Make it Right 35 UNICEF Plan West Africa, Save the Children Sweden , West Africa and ActionAid (2010), Too often in silence: a report on school violence in West and Central Africa 36 Plan RESA (2012), ‘BIAAG Synthesis report’; Plan WARO (2012), ‘BIAAG 2012 research’ 37 Plan (2012), The campaign to stop violence in schools: third progress report, Woking, UK, Plan International 38 Ibid.


Call to Action
1 Ensure any post-MDG framework maintains a strong priority on Education, but broaden our ambition to include the successful completion of at least nine years of quality education, with an intentional emphasis on gender equality. 2 Commit to undertake a gender review of government Education Sector Plans and support action to address the identified gaps. 3 Expand funding mechanisms to support quality education for girls.

MDG 3 puts gender equality at the heart of international policy. It is an ambitious goal that has to be tackled at all levels of society and will mean far-reaching changes in the world in which we live. How can we measure the status of girls and women within their families and communities to monitor real gender equality? How can levels of gender-based violence be reduced and the equality of decision-making at home and work be increased? How can we make sure that women are paid equally and girls equipped to play an equal role in society? Education of both girls and boys is key. Equality of opportunity at school, providing a good-quality education and making sure that girls can benefit from it, is crucial. Education alone may not be sufficient to transform the society we live in, but transformation can never be achieved without it. By caring about how education can contribute to girls’ increased agency, educators and governments and girls themselves can find ways to design an education that truly supports girls to live freer and more fulfilling lives, and transforms the world around them. “I am the only one in my family who attended university. I am a role model in my family and my community, and I always try to encourage the girls of my village to strive for the best despite the poverty that seems to be a barrier to their dreams.” Firehiwot Yemane, 24, Ethiopia “No enduring solution to the major changes of our day – from climate change to political and economic instability to poverty – can be solved without the full participation of the world’s women and girls. This means paying real attention to the State of the World’s Girls. By providing evidence and calls to action, Plan’s series of reports, and the ‘Because I am a Girl’ Global Campaign, help all of us to advance gender equality as our individual and collective responsibility.” Michelle Bachelet UN Women Executive Director, Foreword, 2012 ‘Because I am a Girl’ global report

Take action at: www.becauseiamagirl.org


Front cover page: Ollivier Girard