Young people play a significant role in promoting education for all, especially for girls.
Unfortunately, in many parts of the world including my beloved motherland The Gambia, girls’ education is not considered as significant as boys’ education. For many years in The Gambia, girls did not have access to formal education due to outdated cultural and traditional beliefs that “girls’ education is not important”
Many believe that a girl’s place is in the kitchen or taking care of younger children at home. As such, many families are not sending their girls to school and do not value girls’ education.
At a tender age I faced a lot of obstacles in pursuing my education, but with the help and guidance of my mother, I was able to make it through. My father passed away when I was only one year old. I grew up in an economic disadvantaged home and helped my mother in petty trading. With the money earned I was able to complete basic education. I am currently pursuing a degree in law at the University of The Gambia.
Youth help change society’s outdated norms
Thanks to active youths’ groups like Peer Health Exchange, African Youth Initiative Network, my own foundation, and many others sensitizing the general public and parents across the country, the society is changing and more girls are being enrolled in schools. However, we still need more active youth advocates to champion equal education for all.
Young people are a powerful force for good and with their energy, when given chance to exercise their rights, they can bring about positive change. They can challenge the negative stereotypes in their societies and replace them with equality and inclusiveness.
For example, young boys can challenge their parents to give their sisters opportunity to go to school with them, or girls can advocate for their fellow girls to attend school with them. Many youths are now campaigning against some of the crude ideologies set forth by traditionalists hindering the progress of girls’ education.
Girls can be active participants in society if given the chance
Many initiatives have for sole purpose to promote, protect and respect girls’ education. But more efforts should be invested into maintaining girls in schools and giving them equal work and apprenticeship opportunities. This will help them develop meaningful skills to become independent women, a stepping stone to better socio-economic development in the world.
When we advocate for equal education opportunity for all, we are not only referring to the education received in the classroom, but also training opportunities for skilled labor such as plumbing, electrical, tailoring, carpentry, mechanic, etc. to widen employment opportunities.
Our society should not gauge one’s success based on academic prowess only, because many girls encounter barriers that hugely impact their education. Some girls are treated as indentured workers; some are forced into marriages, while others subjected to all kinds of stigmas due to teenage pregnancies.
Thus, it is very important to provide guidance on how they can become productive citizens beyond their academic education. We should establish global youth networks to develop the world’s future leaders, where young people can collaborate, network, share ideas and success stories to influence each other positively.
My call to action
Today, on the International Day of the Girl 2017, I challenge myself and all other young people to come together in support of education for all girls (and boys!). Young people can influence policies and ensure that the laws already in place to support girls’ and women’s rights are applied.
Organizations that already exist for the promotion of girls’ education should be strengthened and stand firm to hold governments accountable.
TAKE ACTION and call your government be it in Africa, Asia or Latin America to #FundEducation and give education opportunities to all girls in every city, town, village, hamlet and market around the world so we can change the world and #ShapeTheFuture.