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Girls’ Education Helps Fight Preventable Disease

While people in higher-income African countries are most often killed by non-communicable and lifestyle diseases, most of the deaths in sub-saharan Africa are preventable. For example, a study by the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 22% of all deaths among children under the age of five in sub-saharan Africa in the year 2000 were caused by diarrhoeal diseases.

These problems continuously resurface despite the hundreds of aid organizations fighting against them. Many countries in Africa simply lack the physical and governing infrastructure to organize and prevent them from occurring again in the future. Troubled economies and governments make acquiring and distributing medicine very costly and time-inefficient, never mind the fact that diarrhoeal diseases are largely prevented with just a clean water supply.

To build a community that can fend for itself, the community must first use everything it has to offer. This is the mission of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), a pan-African non-governmental organization that works in 33 African countries to “empower girls and women through gender-responsive education” to better themselves and the communities in which they live.

FAWE’s vision is one in which all African girls are able to access a high-quality education – something they assert is beneficial not only at the individual level, but at the community and country levels as well.

Statistics from a 2009 EFA Global Monitoring Report on FAWE’s website state that sub-Saharan Africa still accounts for 47 percent of the world’s out-of-school children.

“Despite considerable progress towards universal primary education in recent years, 35 million African children of primary school age are still not enrolled in school. More than half of these – 54 percent — are girls, many of whom have never attended school at all.”

Moreover, “women account for less than 20 percent of students in scientific subjects in tertiary education, and female teachers are particularly underrepresented at secondary and tertiary levels, being more represented at lower levels of education.”

FAWE’s members include ministers of education, university vice-chancellors, education policy-makers, researchers, gender specialists and human rights activists, all working together to execute their “four-pronged” approach. This approach includes convincing governments to adapt educational policies, building public awareness for issues concerning gender equality in education, and developing and encouraging governments to adopt new models that are conducive to girls’ education.

Since being founded in 1992, FAWE’s work has led to “increased rates of girls’ enrollment, retention and completion of school.” These educated girls are then able to develop their communities in ways previously impossible.

Featured Image by Rod Waddington on Flickr

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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