Equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias, and it is very appropriate. We should all aim for a world where everyone has equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making.
But to break the bias, we first have to recognise it.
Today, an estimated 435 million women and girls globally are living in extreme poverty. Women’s food insecurity levels were 10% higher than men’s in 2020, compared with 6% higher in 2019. In addition, the number of employed women declined by 54 million in 2020, and 45 million women left the labour market. Women have suffered steeper job losses than men, along with increased unpaid care burdens at home.
The process of levelling the playing field for men and women has been excruciatingly slow across sectors, and we believe that the gender gap in global education plays a significant role.
Around the world, 129 million girls are out of school — 32 million are of primary school age, and 97 million are of secondary school age. In Nigeria, 1.3 million girls drop out of school every year before getting to Junior Secondary School 3 (JSS3). Key obstacles include poverty, early marriage, pregnancy, geographical isolation, gender-based violence, and traditional attitudes towards women. Access to education is a fundamental human right, and it strengthens economies and reduces inequality.
We can do better. We should do better.
The Feminist Coalition Girls Education Program launched in September 2021 to bridge the education gap for young girls from low-income backgrounds in Nigeria, whose most significant barrier to quality education is financial.
With support from our donors, including Radio Caca (RACA) and Bundle, 12 girls who, without support, may not have been able to complete their education are currently enrolled at Vivian Fowler Memorial College in Lagos, Nigeria, and this is just the beginning. With our donors’ contributions, we will provide more girls with the opportunity to complete their education every year. This support goes beyond tuition; it ensures that scholars have access to extensive resources, including co-curricular activities like robotics and boarding requirements. All members of the Feminist Coalition are also actively engaged in the girls’ schooling and provide mentorship and guardianship with scheduled bi-weekly video calls and termly meetings with their teachers, ensuring that the proper support is available for the Scholars.
We are committed to widening the impact of this program to reach more girls. Education is transformative. Education will empower women to see the world differently through an ethical lens, and they will go on to challenge and defy the status quo as change agents.
There are several ways to get to a world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive — a world where difference is valued and celebrated.
To break the bias, we have to recognise its existence, and our starting point is education. Tiny pebbles create the largest ripple effects, and our hope is for us all to create ripple effects that build a better world.
Happy International Women’s Day!