Doctor of Education Case Study

Girls’ Education and the Millennium Development Goals: NGO Challenges

855.716 Contemporary Approaches To Educational Problems Spring 2014

Girls’ Education Case Study
Girls’ education is front-page news. Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for her efforts both to attend school and advocate for girls’ education, recently addressed the United Nations General Assembly and was nominated for a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize (Yousafzai, 2013). Global agencies, advocacy groups, and feature films such as “Girl Rising” and “Half the Sky,” have popularized a correlation between the advancement of girls’ education and overall global development (Lomoy, 2010; Bhatt, 2011). Adopted formally by 189 member states and 23 international organizations in September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) enlist governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and global agencies to accomplish targets established in 8 broad categories: (1) eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (2) achieve universal primary education (3) promote gender equality and empower women (4) reduce child mortality (5) improve maternal health (6) combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases (7) ensure environmental sustainability, and (8) build global partnerships for development (UN-MDG Report, 2013).

Photo Credit: Fred Mednick

The United Nations claims that the MDGs catalyzed unprecedented progress and dramatic results (Heyzer, 2005). Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s 2013 report asserts substantial gains: (1) the number of those living in extreme poverty has been halved (2) the goals for reliable access to clean drinking water have been met (3) the aggregate figure for gender equality in primary schools is on par with those of boys (Ban, 2012). Efforts to stem malnutrition, remove barriers to school enrollment, curtail unsanitary conditions leading to child mortality, and combat malaria and tuberculosis have been equally impressive (Lewis & Lockheed, 2007). Rapid advances in technology, particularly in telephony, networks, and Internet access, have resulted in dramatic changes in e-government, education, and entrepreneurial activity (Cisco, 2008). Today, from all corners of the globe, communities expect information to be accessible, available, and affordable so that they may participate in a globally interconnected economy (World Bank, 2008).

The United Nations recognizes the correlation between girls’ education and overall social and economic development (Hannum & Buchmann, 2005), particularly MDG 3 – to promote gender equality and empower women; An educated mother is 50% more likely to immunize her child than a mother without an education (UNESCO, 2012). With an extra year of education, a girl can earn up to 20% more as an adult and often reinvest 90% of her income into her family. (Save the Children, 2005). Children born to literate mothers are far more likely to survive past the age of 5 (Hogan, 2010). Over the past 40 years, women’s education has prevented more than 4 million child deaths (Veneman, 2007). As the 2015 MDG expiration date approaches, a vigorous and contentious post-2015 debate is well underway, particularly in regard to the education of girls.

Millennium Development Goal Challenges
Despite claims of having inspired dramatic advances in human welfare, the MDGs have faced substantial criticism as an aspirational, unenforceable, one-size-fits-all approach to major global issues, designed by rich countries as a marketing ploy (Pogge, 2012) to expand markets or exert political influence (Easterly, 2006). Significant concern has been raised about faulty evaluation design; data collection, validity, and reliability; and monitoring capacity (Maren, 2002). Women’s organizations and marginalized communities claim that the MDGs have not included them at the negotiation table (Maren, 2002, pp. 47-56). Critics argue that the MDGs have committed egregious sins of omission that cut across a wide range of international development and policy issues, by failing to include declarations and conventions introduced since the MDGs began. (USAID, 2012). Others decry a lack of usable and enforceable frameworks for the protection of human rights, particularly those of women, beyond a fleeting, tokenistic, or rhetorical embrace (UNGEI, 2012). Without the inclusion of such issues (most notably targets for food security, internet access, peace, and justice), the MDGs are dismissed as hollow and ephemeral (Eastery, 2006, pp. 35-47). The criticism is not limited to structural or political issues. The MDGs themselves have come under intense scrutiny. Halving poverty has been viewed as “woefully under ambitious” (Barton, 2005). Most poor countries will not meet MDG targets (Annan, 2010). The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) reports that (1) in 47 out of 54 African countries, girls have less than a 50% chance of completing primary school, and (2) in the least developed countries overall, more than a third of young women, 15-24 years old, cannot read (GCE, 2013; OECD, 2010). In several regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the number of mobile phones outstrips the number of latrines or flush toilets (Cohen, 2010). As the MDG debate continues, proponents and critics agree that the education of girls is of paramount importance in global efforts to address global problems, particularly in the area of

education access and equity, public health, and education in emergencies (Turquet, Watt, & Sharman, 2007).

Education Access and Equity
Issues of gender equity have been central to the development of a gender sensitive lens designed to link social justice and gender equality with education for sustainable development (De Schutter, 2010). Researchers and NGO leaders have demanded publicly viewable data and accountability measures ensuring that policies governing gender equity and protecting girls are enforced (UNESCO Atlas, 2012) The United Nations’ latest Millennium Development Report (2013) Report acknowledges this issue, claiming that “…persisting gender-based inequalities in decision-making continue to deny women a say in the decisions that affect their lives” (UNDP, 2013, p. 5). For several countries rated at the bottom of the United Nations Development Index, the pace of progress toward equity and human rights has not only slowed, but also gone backward (UNDP Index, 2013).

Photo Credit: Human Rights Watch

The issues surrounding girls’ education are rarely understood from a single theoretical or empirical perspective, and must consider a range of socio-economic, historical, and cultural variables. (Kabeer, 2005). Girls may not attend school in a region of Pakistan because their families may fear retribution by authorities, human trafficking networks, or school sexual violence. Families may have been told that religious doctrine forbids the education of girls. (Milanovic, 2012). From an economic perspective, those same families may not comprehend the

longer-term financial benefits of removing girls from the task of carrying water, rather than attending school, especially when families are required to pay school fees for uniforms or supplies (Turquet, et al, 2007, pp. 15-18; Polman, 2010). As the world becomes increasingly aware of educational and equity disparities, the momentum to build more schools has met with resistance from those who seek assurances that those schools are staffed with qualified teachers capable of promoting inclusion and fairness (deMayo, 2009). In short, Malala has a right to attend a good school and learn from well-trained educators.

Education and Public Health
Public health cuts across all areas of development and educated girls benefit the most (Temin, M & Levine, 2009). Public health professionals must confront female genital cutting, child marriage, poor maternal care, HIV-AIDS transmission, human trafficking, gender-based attacks, limited access to health services, protection, or mechanisms to make their voices heard (Alston, 2004).

Photo Credit: Global Campaign for Education

Public Health initiatives have made remarkable success (Chen, 2005). In Malawi, voucher programmes for fertilizers and seeds have addressed decades-old famine and have transformed the country into a net food importer. Immunization programs, particularly measles campaigns,

have surpassed expectations. Distributions of mosquito nets (supported by education about proper use) have drastically reduced the number of malaria-related deaths than among children not protected from them (Yehualashet, 2011). Public and private partnerships have made substantial inroads to provide mobile maternal health units, initiate campaigns to end Fistula, provide free access to antiretroviral treatments, slow HIV infections among youth, control and treat tuberculosis, distribute vitamin A supplements and parasite medication, and install water purification systems (De Waal, 1999). The remarkable success of these health initiatives, however, has evaporated in those regions where public health education campaigns are insufficient and where women are not empowered (EFA, 2010). Here, too, research on gender issues depends upon region, resources, and attention. In subSaharan Africa, women continue to be more likely than men to live in poverty (World Bank, 2013). MDGs associated with promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health are the furthest MDGs from their targets. In subSaharan Africa, where women, especially those between the ages of 15 and 24, are at higher risk of living with HIV and 30 per cent more likely to be infected with HIV than men (Williams, 2013).

Education in Emergencies
In 2000, as the MDGs were being formalized, the InterAgency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) was founded in order to create education clusters of NGOs and global agencies in order to coordinate interventions and establish standards. This unprecedented global collaboration has also enlisted public support in exposing cases of education under attack and the use of schools as battlegrounds.
Photo Credit: Zachary Adam

Today, when disaster strikes, coordinating NGOs require that educators be included in firstresponder teams (Save the Children, 2009).

The new millennium also brought to global attention the experience of women in natural and national disasters (Enarson, 2000). INEE focuses a considerable amount of attention on the education of girls. Natural and national emergencies have magnified existing social, political, and economic disparities. Acute crises – expected to last months – stretch into years, compounded by the issues that emerge in overcrowded, unsanitary, refugee communities (INEE Gender Toolkit, 2013). Large-scale natural and national disasters have disenfranchised and displaced millions, resulting in the largest number of refugees in history. During the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami, two-thirds of the casualties were women (UNISDR, 2005). In 2013, states bordering Syria faced the daunting humanitarian task of absorbing 2.5 million displaced people into makeshift camps (UNHCR, 2014; Human Rights Watch 2013) in which polio – once eradicated – has returned and incidents of gender violence have soared. Often responsible for basic livelihoods and care for children in refugee communities, girls and women have suffered the most. Relegated to a lower rung on food, power, and housing hierarchies, girls and women are subject to higher rates of infectious and water-borne diseases, and sexual and domestic abuse (Prevention Web, 2013). INEE has led the effort to promote the instrumental role women have played in mitigating the effects of hazards through prevention and rescue and recovery, relief, and reconstruction. The International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and the United Nations Development Programme now campaign for gender mainstreaming to be incorporated into disaster management initiatives, including education in the science and technology of safety, educational leadership, disaster preparedness and planning, child-friendly spaces in emergencies, post-disaster relief, and reconstruction efforts following natural or national disasters.

Girls’ Education: Research Questions and Challenges for NGOs
The United Nations and NGOs worldwide are asking critical questions as they seek to inform or influence the post-2015 MDG agenda. Those questions require empirical, theoretical, and contextual research that considers the complex, interdisciplinary nature of the development field itself. Such questions often include, but are certainly not limited to, the following: n

How do we build the capacity necessary to evaluate our work and demonstrate impacts? What successful methodologies and best practices should we use to negotiate power relationships and stakeholder pressures? What are the processes by which successful gender mainstreaming practices in one region might be of valuable to, and take root in, in our region? Considering our environmental, political-economic, social, and cultural context, how do we address threats to our work? What tools and resources have been successful in measuring the effects of girls’

• • • •

education in a given community? • • • • How can our girls’ education efforts be sustained, replicated, communicated, and measured? How might we address the opportunities and challenges of communicating these impacts to policy makers, planners, field workers, and community organizations? How do we manage change and cultivate leadership? How do we ensure community support?

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towards gender equality and women empowerment?: A case study of the policies and practices of two tertiary institutions in Ethiopia (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of South Africa. Retrieved from =1.
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