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EFA: Girls First Report to the WB Global Seminar Series by Dr. V. Seeberg & J. Liu 01/29/2006

EFA: Girls First Report to the WB Global Seminar Series by Dr. V. Seeberg & J. Liu 01/29/2006. Girls’ education is the “most effective means of combating many of the most profound challenges to human development.” UNICEF, 2004, State of the World’s Children.

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EFA: Girls First Report to the WB Global Seminar Series by Dr. V. Seeberg & J. Liu 01/29/2006

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  1. EFA: Girls First Report to the WB Global Seminar Seriesby Dr. V. Seeberg & J. Liu01/29/2006 • Girls’ education is the “most effective means of combating many of the most profound challenges to human development.” UNICEF, 2004, State of the World’s Children. • “If we can prioritize, … as soon as you have peace, girls’ education should be right up there with things like HIV/AIDS and hunger.” Stephan Klasen, interviewed by UNICEF, 2005, The Gap Report. • Save the Children noted “research has shown that education is a prerequisite for progress on each of the Millennium Development Goals, and that girls’ education is an especially powerful lever to move the world towards a better future.” Save the Children, 2005, The power and promise of girls’ education.

  2. Girls First, 2 • On the personal leveleducation helps women marry later, have fewer children, reduces infant mortality rates, increases their earning power, improves family hygiene, nutrition, overall health care, children’s well being, and their daughters’ chances of enrolling in school by 40 percent or more. • On the economic leveleconometric studies show that even small amounts of education lead to significant gains in economic growth. Yamarak and Ghosh’s (2003). • Educated mothers are more likely than fathers to invest their earnings in the health care, food and education of their children. One study found that increases in child survival rates are 20 percent higher if the mother is educated instead of the father (Save the Children, 2005).

  3. Girls First, 3 • “All these different groups [developing countries, donors, development partners and developing agencies] were able to see that gender disparity is a major flaw in development that needs to be addressed.” Cream Wright, interviewed by UNICEF, 2005, The Gap Report • Broad concensus exists in the EFA community that girls’ schooling initiates trans-generational, sustainable development particularly in declining communities and marginal regions. Educated girls become mothers of development and are the means for reducing poverty, containing population growth, engendering public health, increasing educational attainment, improving human resources and strengthening the nation. • More recently, consensus is building that empowerment effects of girls’ schooling are vitally important. It develops girls’ confidence, improves their all-around well-being, and enables them to fulfill their potential and improve the welfare of their families.

  4. Girls First, 4 In China: • Supporting girls’ schooling addresses what the Asian Development Bank calls China’s biggest challenge, namely, extending development to its isolated, rural, and hard-to-reach citizens (Spohr, 2002). • Indeed statistics bear this out. And since improving gender parity is the best predictor of progress towards EFA goals, then investing heavily and effectively in girls’ education in the isolated, rural West is a highly promising strategy to assure China’s success in reaching EFA goals on time. So far progress in this area has been mixed.

  5. Girls First, 5 Western China: Girls and “new poverty” urgency • Westernresidents, a disproportionate number of whom are members of national minority populations, represent nearly 9% of China’s population but make up over 40% of the absolute poor. • Pollution, overgrazing and over logging have lead to erosion that has made much of the rural environment unproductive. • Several years of falling agricultural prices, coupled with the lure of the big city, have increasingly resulted in the abandonment of potentially productive farmland (China Economic Times, May 10, 2001). • In 2000, the floating population was estimated at 100 million in 2000 (Mancebo, 2002) and swelled to 140 million a few years later (National Working Committee on Women and Children and UNICEF in Cui, Nov. 6, 2004; Luo, 2005). • As mostly younger males leave, women carry more of the agricultural and household burden than ever; often grandparents are the only ones left to care for the school-age children.

  6. Girls First, 6 • The absolutenumber of female illiterates has been increasing annually as was their proportion among all illiterates. Every year approximately one million new illiterates emerged throughout the country, the great majority of whom were girls who had dropped out of school (Wang, 2003). • In this context, in recent years stories of girls clamoring for an education in remote corners of western China have made headlines nationally and internationally (see Haski in Liberation, February, 2002, March, Bo in China Daily, Oct, 2003; Yardley in the New York Times, Mar2004), and famously in The Diary of Ma Yan.(Haski, 2004). • Families in one of our typical villages in the mountains of Shaanxi Province lived on RMB 380 to 405 (US$ 47 – 50) and elementary school fees ran around RMB 160 (US$ 20).

  7. Girls First, 7 • The many-fold burden on the left-behind children in western China: • The village schools are of much lower quality than the urban ones; • They don’t have the family support or structure to facilitate their learning; • Girls must do much more housework. • The resources of communities are exhausted, as is much of the land. • Families have more burdens than resources.

  8. Girls First, 8 Paradoxically, we have found, • Evidence from our case studies in remote regions the remarkable availability and readiness of “left behind” girls (and their parents) to invest their energies in education and to persist in school – battling harsh environmental conditions, personal deprivation and illness, and brazening out cultural constraints. • In just such locations we have found girls desperate to stay in school so that they can escape the grim circumstances of their families’ lives but also to take on unexpected responsibilities for their birth families and communities. These new roles of personal empowerment suggest a cultural change is underway.

  9. Girls First, 9 • Not long after the start of the school year, fees were due. Dad said, ‘we have no money in the house, come home. When you see the hopelessness in your mother’s eyes about all the money being gone, you won’t have the heart to ask for money to study.’ When I heard dad’s words, I cried, and when he saw that, a tear dropped from his eyes. Dad is very strong, he never cries, but that day he shed a tear. I had to listen to dad and return home. After I got home, I heard the village cadre say, ‘Guanlan’s mother is sending scholarships for students who had to eave school.’ When I heard that I got unbelievably happy, and two days later, really, you came to our village to rescue us drop-out students. I returned to school, to start on a new path, to realize the dream I have had forever.– a Guanlan Scholarship girl. • I know that nowadays a person should possess knowledge before she can change her fate. -- a Guanlan Scholarship girl.

  10. Girls First, 10 • In a Tibetan autonomous county seat schools, one girl student in the 6th grade Tibetan language track, an only child, her mother was illiterate, but her father was a senior secondary graduate who worked as a government official [ganbu]; she intended to go to the Tibetan language senior secondary school and on to university, although she admitted it would be difficult for the family to pay for it. In the long run, she wanted to return to work in town to be near her parents.

  11. Girls First, 11 • Nonformal education, in the process of providing economic opportunities and resources for women’s self-development, can also engender fulfillment as human beings. • “What’s most important, women’s self-confidence and self-provision can greatly improve their status in the family and in society”– comment on , a women’s micro credit training project made by a male official for foreign-aid projects in Tianzhu County of Gansu (Zeng, 2005, p. 4).

  12. Girls First, 12 • We add a caveat: Critical attention to empowerment of girls needs to be incorporated into projects for girls’ education. At the micro level, empowerment allows for the creative energies of individuals to engage in finding appropriate solutions to local problems. At the macro level, the girls’ empowerment engenders cultural change. Without the inclusion of empowerment, individual and social, the developmentalist focus in policy implementation often engenders distrust and lack of buy-in or demand. It is critical to incorporate local initiatives in order to successfully address the complexities of poverty alleviation and educational access programs, and how they influence female and family well-being.

  13. Girls First, 13 • It is no longer debatable that the girls’ education is the most effective tool for development. What is critical now is what we do - at the individual level, at the family and community level, at the national level, and the global level - to ensure that our girls, future wives, future mothers, and future citizens of the Least Developed Countries are not left behind as the world moves on to greater heights in technology and information (The Forum for African Women Educationalist (FAWE, 2001). • The MDG clock for gender parity has struck midnight. (UNICEF “Gender Achievements and Prospects in Education: The Gap Report, UNICEF, 2005) While China missed reaching its MDG of gender parity goals for primary and secondary school, the real question for girls in China, including left behind girls, is whether attending school will lead to more than knowledge and self-confidence but to opportunities to contribute to local development and the well-being of the community.

  14. Girls First, 14 • Conclusion: • Girls’ education in western China must be placed first and must address the changed female identities and raised expectations at the personal and at the economic level. • Policies must incorporate measures that provide the basis for girls and women to realize more fully their potential over their lifetime, to ensure their well being, and to enable them to improve the lives of families over several generations.

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