Let's Hear it for the Girls!

A photograph of the author, Brooke Edwards.

By Brooke Edwards

July 26, 2012

Mother and daughter do homework.

Great news on the education-for-everyone front: Girls have finally reached parity with boys in primary school enrollment. In 1999, only 91 girls per 100 boys enrolled in primary school; in 2010, there were 97 girls per 100 boys enrolled (close enough to call it parity, according to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals 2012 report.

Enrollment overall–both girls and boys–has increased in many countries and regions, notably in sub-Saharan Africa (from 58 percent to 76 percent between 1999 and 2010).

From an article in the Guardian:

"These results," said Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, "represent a tremendous reduction in human suffering and are a clear validation of the approach embodied in the MDGs. But they are not a reason to relax."

Parity in enrollment is definitely not a reason to relax quite yet. While there appear to be reductions in barriers to enrollment of girls, sustained attendance is what will make a real difference. Between boys and girls, it is usually girls who are required to stay home temporarily or even drop out of school when the family has a need (like taking care of an ailing family member).

Bolivian students get a lesson in nutrition from Heifer.

Improved access to education is a significant result often seen in Heifer project communities. Families with improved farming practices need less of their children's time in the field. Families with increased incomes can afford school tuition, books, uniforms, shoes and other necessities associated with regular attendance. Many families who formerly only educated their sons have begun enrolling their daughters, and both boys and girls are able to attend for more years than before Heifer's intervention.