Over the past 25 years, we have witnessed significant progress towards gender parity in access to primary and secondary education globally. So why has Benin seen deteriorating enrollment rates for girls and widening gender gaps?
This is the alarming question that partners asked themselves in 2021 when observing 2017–2020 education data.
Not only was a growing gap visible in the data, but the actions in place to improve girls’ access to education were not yielding the desired results. This reflection gave rise to a discussion between the ministries of education, civil society and technical and financial partners during the 2021 joint sector review.
Partners agreed on the need to organize a forum to analyze the challenge in detail using a collaborative approach, recognizing that improving outcomes for girls was not just an education issue.
A forum for dialogue-based data and evidence
The forum was designed to include actors from different sectors, such as health, education and social development.
With the support of the Vice-Presidency of Benin and the coordination of the Ministry of Preschool and Primary Education, the National Forum to Accelerate Girls’ Education took place in March 2022. Young women, the government, civil society, religious leaders and technical and financial partners participated.
The available evidence served as the basis for the discussions: a gender analysis and the statistical yearbooks of the ministries of education indicated the extent of the gap and the main barriers.
In Benin just 59% of girls complete the primary cycle, a rate lower than peer countries in the region, such as Togo (86%), Senegal (67%), Nigeria (69%), Burkina Faso (69%) and Côte d'Ivoire (77%).
Girls face barriers to access education, such as a lack of schools and challenges to cover the costs of fees, transport and school supplies.