Africa Day: Workshop on girls education

Schermafbeelding_2013-05-16_om_22.16.54.png“Stimulating girls education in Somalia is as significantas realizing security in the country!”, this is the conclusion at the end of HIRDA’s workshop on girls education in Somalia, which has been organised at Africa Day in Amsterdam on November 17, 2012. Girls’ education is one of the most effective means of development, not only for girls themselves but also for communities and the wider society. HIRDA was pleased to see the workshop was greatly attended by visitors of the event.

Through inspiring keynote speakers like Olloriak Sawade from Oxfam Novib, Matan Dahir from HIRDA, Jasper van Dijk of the Dutch Social Party and Yvonne van Hees from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, different point of views on girls education are presented. “It is important to bounce the gender barrier in order to create an opportunity to change and secure the society.”,states Matan Dahir.

He emphasizes the progress that has been made from 63% boys vs. 37% girls in schools in the year 2000 to 52% boys vs. 48% girls in schools in 2007. HIRDA’s aim is to create community awareness that boys and girls have equal rights.Many families have no money to send their daughters to school. To tackle this problem, HIRDA sponsors every year a few hundred girls. “Furthermore”, says Dahir, “it is important to put female teachers in front of the classes to provide the girls a role model to which they can relate.” At this moment, in total around 12% of the teachers are female.

However, two critical points are being highlighted during the workshop: How to keep the schools safe from Al-Shabaab and how to keep the girls safe fromharassment at school? A solution to keep Al-Shabaab away is for the community to claim the school is their initiative and not from a developing organization. In order to keep the community on their side, Al-Shabaab is more likely to respect their wish. By separating boys and girls in schools the second problem of harassment could be prevented.

Sawade explains that Oxfam Novib has a strong gender component and tries to empower children on their rights. “Education is the duty of the countries’ government, however, not all countries have a government in the first place. This is where NGOs need to step in.” Oxfam helps, amongst others, girls into school in IDPs in Puntland. “Butto sustain an education system, eventually a government is needed.”, explains Sawade. Yvonne van Hees emphasizes that gender equality has been a key objective of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ policy. Therefore, the Ministry joined with organizations like UNICEF, which focus on improving and increasing education opportunities in developing countries. “During this program 26.000 classrooms were build and more than 250.000 teachers were trained in over 37 fragile countries.


Since a new Dutch government is ruling the Netherlands, the challenge is to convince them to keep on focussing on the theme education in developing aid. Van Hees is convinced that the Ministry should not decide to stop with the education program. “It is unfinished business, and all the knowledge that has been gathered, will be lost if we shift to other focus themes.”, she explains. Jasper van Dijk, from the Dutch Social Party (SP), who works on the topic developing aid, agrees that especially girls’ education is an important topic to stay focussed on. Governmental budget cuts in developing aid are, according to him, a threat to the focus on this topic.“The budget is almost 25% less than last year. We should not accept this!”, states Jasper. “How can there be peace when people cannot even read or write?”, adds Sawade to discussion. “Education is such an enabling right.” Also the attendees agree that the focus between creating security and enabling education should be balanced. HIRDA is pleased to see there is so much interest in this topic and that awareness is being raised to put girls education back on the agenda of the government’s developing aid policy. 

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