11 million girls worldwide are at risk of not going back to school after COVID-19, the UN says

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Rachel Muthoni, a 19-year-old from Irimba Village, Tharaka-Nithi District, Kenya, has missed school for about seven months. Sometimes she didn’t have enough money for fees or even food.

“COVID-19 temporarily stopped my education and that meant I lost a year of schooling. I was stuck in an academic year for two years. Also, the pandemic was unexpected and that put a lot of pressure on.” my family in terms of providing for me by providing groceries and essentials for online learning during the pandemic, “Muthoni, a researcher with Women’s Global Education Program Kenya, told CBS News.

Muthoni is one of 11 million girls worldwide who are named after the pandemic, according to the United Nations. The weight of the economic toll of the pandemic has fallen disproportionately on women’s shoulders as working from home has shed some light on the reality that women still carry a large portion of childcare responsibilities. Now a generation of girls can potentially be left behind by the socio-economic benefits of access to education.

A UNESCO report published last year found that rising drop-out rates among girls not only deepen gender gaps, but also increase the risk of sexual exploitation and forced marriage.

Rachel Muthoni

WGEP


The World Economic Forum estimates that it will take over 130 years to close the gender gap, which has increased by around 35 years compared to last year.

“We are not only seeing the effects of this trend on this generation of girls, but also on future generations, because we know that an educated mother is the greatest success factor for children in terms of their ability to attend school and their health.” Results, “Emiliana Vegas, co-director and senior fellow at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings, told CBS News.

Congress and leaders around the world are trying to figure out how to reverse a generation loss in gender equality. You start in the classroom.

In the US, MPs Lois Frankel and Michael Waltz reintroduced the Keeping Girls in School Act last week to focus on keeping girls in secondary education in underdeveloped countries, according to the press release.

“This bill is about removing the barriers that young girls in particular face to go to secondary school. It could be anything from safety to child marriage to genital mutilation, ”Frankel told CBS News.

If passed, the bill would empower USAID to participate in new international development projects that focus on addressing educational barriers for girls, but not direct funding.

“In addition to supporting this law, Congress should consider ways to immediately raise more funds for nonprofits and government partnerships that are committed to helping the millions of girls who are leaving school today, including mobilizing the 140 billion or more US dollars in donor-recommended funding across the country, “Amy Maglio, founder of the Women’s Global Education Program, told CBS News.

At the international level, the G7 communiqué announced their shared goal of 40 million more girls in low- and middle-income countries going to school by 2026.

“We recognize that COVID-19 has been the greatest disruption to education in modern history, affecting all children, but especially girls and those already left behind,” the G7 statement said.

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Students at a primary school in Gatunga, Kenya. WGEP works with a community-based organization, the Tharaka Women’s Welfare Program, to deliver thousands of books to underserved classrooms in rural Kenya each year. Students returned to school after COVID-19 schools closed in late 2020 and are now repeating a school year to make up for lost time during the pandemic.

WGEP


The announcement comes after the UK, the current country holding the G7 presidency, received backlash for reducing funding for UN family planning.

During the UN Women’s Summit last month, UNESCO launched a five-year plan that focuses on the digital gender divide.

One solution proposed by economists is the urgent need to reopen schools around the world.

“The international community really needs to put its money where its mouth is,” said Vegas.

“There is a tremendous risk that a generation of girls will be lost to school closings related to COVID and that they will not return to school. We need to make an effort not only to reopen schools, but to really actively recruit girls to return, ”Vegas said.

Waltz argues that Americans should view girls’ education as a national security issue.

“If you pull the thread that our daughters are actually safer here when girls are trained abroad, that the world will be safer and that our sons and daughters will no longer have to go to these fragile societies as soldiers and development workers and diplomats in the future because of the Investments that we make in these generations, people get it and they support it, “Waltz told CBS News.

For now, a generation of girls is grappling with the side effect of the pandemic that puts them at risk of never going back to an education.

“My education is everything to me. Through education, I see a way out to enable me and my family to have a better life while giving back to society,” Muthoni told CBS News.



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