As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, we agree with the UN Secretary- General, Ban Ki-moon, that although there has been significant economic, political and social achievements and “… the gender gap in education is closing, there are wide differences within and across countries, and far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities.” This state of affairs should remind us that there is more to be done.
Experiences of people on the ground, like Sr. Regina Sinjwala, a Principle at a girls’ high school, in Mongu, Western Zambia, makes this year’s theme: “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women”, more urgent. In sharing experience and frustration, she says: “I am struggling in trying to get help for pupils who need education assistance. As a school manager, I am concerned seeing promising children dropping out of school, forced into early marriages and contract the dreaded HIV virus. It’s so sad and I feel so helpless to see these students all the time coming to me asking for assistant, and I have to turn them away, like condemning them to a life without a bright future.”
Education is a basic human right and key to women’s empowerment. Factors such as living in rural areas where girls are forced into early marriages; poverty; death of parents; or living in areas that are affected by armed conflicts can limit girls’ access to education.
Thus, state and traditional authorities must support efforts that create girl friendly environments to enhance the advancement of all women. Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN), call on Governments that have not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women-CEDAW, to speedily do so. CEDAW is an international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. To date, all but seven countries USA, Iran, Sudan, Somalia and three small Pacific Island nations (Nauru, Palau and Tonga) have ratified the CEDAW Treaty.
Other resources on women:
UN condemnation of violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict
by Joseph Phiri, OMI