“The most urgent priority is to ensure access to and improve the quality of education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation. All gender stereotypes in education should be eliminated”.
A global perspective on girls’ education
Millions of girls around the world are victims of poverty, violence and war. These harrowing experiences turn these girls’ lives upside down; potentially defining their path in life. Amongst other things, violence or poverty in the area they are living in severely reduces their opportunities for education. One need only look at countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia or Pakistan to see the number of girls which have never been to school.
The reality is that in 2017 there are a staggering 130 million girls who do not have access to education. And in many developing countries, the girls who are in school are not always learning the necessary skills to live healthy, happy and independent lives. In many schools, subjects which are important in the 21st century – such as mathematics, science and technology (STEM), and more “soft” skills – such as collaboration, communication and creativity – are not given enough importance.
On a global level, we suffer from certain cultural norms which tell us that it’s fine for girls to not like mathematics and science, and to not be interested in pursuing technical educations such as computing or engineering. Traditional gender roles are enormous obstacles which discourage girls to test their abilities in what are traditionally considered “masculine subjects”.
The importance of access to modern education for girls
The truth however, is that it is time to break down these obstacles. Because there is no such thing as boy subjects and girl subjects. Everybody has the ability to build and create – with the help, inspiration and education. In an ideal world, girls and boys have opportunities and access to modern education, which teaches them the right skills, and builds confidences in their ability to succeed in the future.
The benefits of equal education with a strong focus on STEM skills are many. STEM pervades every aspect of this globalized, information-heavy, technological world – and STEM skills are absolutely critical to function and succeed in this environment. Providing the opportunities for girls to learn STEM skills will create intelligent, confident and qualified women who can enter the workforce, support their families and contribute to lifting their community out of poverty.
Luckily, there are a number of organizations around the world who see the not only the challenges, but the ways to overcome them. Non-profits such as Code.org, Girls who Code, and Black Girls Code, are actively making a difference in thousands of girls’ lives worldwide, by teaching them in-demand skills in technology and computer programming. Our community partner SmartGurlz, has combined free play and coding to create a programmable robot doll which drives a Segway. Girls are thus able to learn about spatial reasoning, computer programming and problem-solving skills through several games and challenges. SmartGurlz is partnering with Black Girls Code for workshops around the United States, and with the Danish Technical University (DTU) to create a pre-school product to teach girls how to code without a smart device or computer.
The road ahead
Technology is the future, half the world’s population is female, and education is the key to joining the two together. It stands to reason to invest in modern education for girls; the benefits are proven to be many – ranging from improved health, more jobs, stronger economies and stable countries. By investing in girls’ education, we are preparing the children of today for the job market of tomorrow.