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Today, I’m going to take you back to your childhood. Imagine yourself on the morning of your 9th birthday, and… it’s a Monday. You begin your morning routine. Eating rice krispies, brushing your teeth and putting your school uniform on. You’re just about to pull your school jumper over your head when your parents tell you, “You don’t have to go to school today!”
What a relief! A whole day off to celebrate and do whatever your nine-year-old heart desires. However, Mum has a list of jobs for you to do before you can start playing with your toys or running through the park. The list has nothing out of the ordinary, cleaning and a few cooking preparations. After all, maybe these jobs are leading up to your surprise party?
The day has slowly turned into night, and there has been no sign of celebrations. For some reason, the list kept getting longer throughout the day. This is not the birthday you imagined and you are dreaming of getting into bed so you can wake to normality being fully restored tomorrow.
Your alarm goes off for Tuesday morning, and before you even get a chance to pour the cereal into the bowl your parents deliver the news that you don’t have to go to school… again. Never again!
This isn’t fair! You try and argue your case, you enjoy school, it’s important to learn and your friends are there. But apparently, “…you’re too old for that nonsense! Besides, we need help around the house ever since your baby sister came along…”
Okay, it’s time to bring yourself back to reality and the year 2019. That nine-year-old nightmare is over for you. However, not going to school is still the reality for many children all over the world today.
This is why Sustainable Development Goal number 4 (SDG4) has been created. This goal aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education… for all” (UN). At present, more than half of children and adolescents worldwide are not meeting the minimum proficiency standards in reading and mathematics. This is not because the children do not have the ability to learn, but rather their potential is not being fulfilled.
For families living in extreme poverty, children are often seen more as an asset to help the family survive rather than in need of an education. Therefore these children are expected to work around the home or get a job. This problem is exacerbated in rural areas where families rely on agriculture. Often labour is extensive for a small yield. This has become more prevalent over the decades due to the effects of climate change which is damaging crop production.
And while both girls and boys are affected, girls are often more likely to be required to fulfil the duties within the household. In 2013, two-thirds of the 757 million adults worldwide that were unable to read and write were women.
In Malawi, Hazel Manda came to notice this gender inequality: “I could relate with most of the challenges these girls were facing. If it hadn’t been for my father wanting to educate me, I would’ve been in their position.
Malawian girls were out of school and helping around the house, and in some cases, girls as young as 13 found themselves married. Families struggled to feed all members of the household, therefore encouraged their daughters to leave home, in hope of a better life. Instead, many girls would enter an extremely vulnerable situation.
The girls who were brides soon became mothers, but with being illiterate and unable to count it became extremely difficult to make a life for themselves and their baby. These girls needed help.
Hazel began to work for AGLIT+, who support young mothers in Malawi to learn how to read and write. They also teach mothers about nutrition and empower the girls to become more confident members of society rather than outcasts due to their lack of education. AGLIT+ also support boys in these communities and help to break down the attitudes towards gender inequality, which will create more educational opportunities for girls.
Thanks to our supporters, All We Can are able to support AGLIT+ with their work. Together, we are working towards a world were both females and males can receive a quality education to give themselves a more secure and fruitful future. A world where every person’s potential is fulfilled.
You can support the work of All We Can regularly, and help improve the lives of vulnerable young girls and boys by visiting allwecan.org.uk/give
As part of a year-long internship with the One Programme, Zoe Carruthers is working for All We Can as its Communications Officer. Zoe studied International Development and Media at the University of East Anglia and is passionate about social justice and womens' rights. Zoe is from Northern Ireland and is keen for others to discover what a beautiful place it is.