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Social and Financial Education empowering girls around the world

Posted in Blogs on October 7, 2020

If every girl in the world were to tell the story of her life, we would find each of the stories unique. One might wonder what a girl from Ghana could have in common with a girl from Peru or Pakistan? The answer is, simply, the challenges they face along their journeys from youth to adulthood.

The last two decades were marked for a generation of active girls that had been able to break the barriers such as child marriage, education inequality, violence, climate justice, and inequitable access to healthcare. During the last two decades, unstoppable girls had taken the picture of development as we know today. This picture shows that most of them completing school and fewer are getting married or becoming mothers.

Yet the progress has not been equally distributed among them. Girls facing poverty, living in humanitarian settings, or being part of traditionally discriminated groups are still facing extreme challenges. For example, 6 of 10 countries around the world discriminate against daughters’ rights to inherit land and non-land assets in either law or practice. Social norms like that limit the ability to develop and accumulate social and productive assets and to achieve better employment, educational, or entrepreneurship opportunities. Assuming that girls access to all of these opportunities, a strong component of well-being (social skills) is needed.

Even though fewer girls are getting married before 18 and becoming mothers at adolescence age, the risk of sexually-transmitted infections is still high in a context where access to education and health services is limited. The proportion of adolescent girls aged 15–19 years whose needs for family planning were satisfied by modern methods rose from 36 percent to 60 percent between 1995 and 2020.

Yet 4 in 10 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years who want to avoid pregnancy are currently not using a modern method. Despite the progress related to HIV, still, the highest burden of adolescents (10-19 years old) living with HIV is for girls. This number is close to 1 million adolescent girls worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, three in four new HIV infections among 15–19-year-olds are among girls.

Moreover, the risk of violence in classrooms, households, and communities remains high for girls. Approximately 13 million girls have experienced forced sex in their lifetimes. Most adolescent girls who have experienced forced sex never seek help. For those living in conflict and displacement situations, the risk is higher.

So, how the girls around the world can raise their voices and break the inequalities they are facing now and how can we support them?

In an era marked by a digital revolution and the popularity of role models like Greta Thunberg (Sweden), Helena Gualinga (Ecuador), Artemisa Xakriabá (Brazil), Ridhima Pandey (India), most of the girls around the globe still have to deal with the lack of opportunities that prevent them to have a fair chance to succeed.   To overcome these inequalities a variety of actors should recognise girls as rights holders and equal partners in the fight for gender equality (UNICEF 2020). To become equal partners in the fight for gender equality, girls need to gain competencies that will allow them to successfully transit from adolescence to adulthood.

This year, the global community has emphasised three ways to support girls:

a) establish girls at the center of policies and programs as right holders,

b) promote investment in girls considering them as a unique group with interlinked vulnerabilities, opportunities, and perspectives,

c) strengthen the data collection and include intersectional analysis of high quality disaggregated as much as possible to show the characteristics of girls.

In this manner, evidence-informed policy and program decisions for adolescent girls will be more effective. Taken these recommendations as a reference and keep in mind that the unexpected outbreak of COVID had strengthened the challenges they face, particularly those living in adverse context, life skills and financial education appear to be an opportunity to support the journey of girls.

Life skills on adolescents are aimed at building knowledge and skills, and to promoting e empowerment, and resilience. Life skills were used to support girls in interventions related to prevent HIV, empowerment, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality, employment readiness, livelihoods, education, citizenship, peacebuilding, child marriage prevention, etc.

Taking into account that girls worldwide have less access to resources and lower autonomy in decision-making, in comparison with boys, to have access to social (life skills) programs including a gender approach can allow them to actively participate and benefit equally and meaningfully than boys. Using life skills to support girls in the transition to adulthood is a way to challenge existing gender inequities and make them real right holders.

Another important sphere is financial education which aims at providing relevant and timely financial education to girls and young women at key points in their lives, as part of a program to support girls with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to tackle decisions along their life’s journey, whether this is personal, professional or in continuing education.

Based on that, the combination of social and financial education can be an effective approach to develop and increase girls’ self-understanding and confidence, understand their rights and responsibilities, and how they can make budgetary decisions, save money and other resources.

A generation of girls equipped with financial capabilities, and the awareness of their social and economic rights, can offer a better transition into adulthood. Besides that, financial education also can support them to be critical about discriminatory social norms – early marriage or limit access to credit for women. That becomes more relevant in the current crisis of COVID-19 that had strengthened the obstacles faced by them such as gender-based violence, economic and educational development as well as access to adequate sexual reproductive health.

How Aflatoun Social and Financial Education can empower girls?

Aflatoun had developed content to provide lessons with a focus on understanding oneself, one’s rights and responsibilities, learning how to plan, save, and budget as well as how to launch small enterprises. By using a blended learning method, learning in class, and practical activities, girls and boys get the knowledge to face challenges according to the context they live. During the last months, this content had been discussed with local partners to being able to respond to the emergency of COVID.

During the last years, girls participating in Aflatoun program have shown positive effects. For example, in Tajikistan, girls had shown improvement in knowledge of HIV/AIDS, and the critical thinking related to gender roles as well as the frequency of saving, and the propensity toward entrepreneurship and career future. In Uganda, the exposure of teachers to social and financial education including a gender approach shows that teacher’s attitudes towards gender can also affect the implementation of the program. In Kenya and Nepal,  we observed positive results on the self-efficacy of children and youth.

Along the research work made by Aflatoun, the most prominent insight is the importance of contextualisation. This impacts students, teachers, and vulnerable groups such as adolescent girls, or those living in extreme poverty or who are outside of the formal education setting, and is crucial to provide quality education.

Other studies conducted in Brazil, China, India, and Rwanda showed a positive impact of SFE for girls’ economic empowerment. Those studies reflect the importance of creating safe and positive learning environments for girls, but most importantly, they reflect that financial education is more effective when it is combined with a combo of social and life skills.

Twenty twenty is an extraordinary year. It is marked by an unexpected pandemic,  which has become a turning point to the girl’s global agenda. Despite great advancements since the Beijing Declaration, girls are far from being treated as equal partners in the fight for gender equality. For being that, girls require skills that allow them to appreciate and recognise the value of their cultural and religious background – but also to be critical enough to question the boundaries that limit their participation in each space of their lives.

To properly celebrate the International Girl’s Day, we stress that gender equality in terms of economic and financial opportunities is becoming more relevant in a context in which a pandemic has strengthened the vulnerabilities of girls. Aflatoun International advocates building of synergies at local and national levels that offer girls to gain relevant skills to make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and being able to cope with systematic and unexpected matters. Thus, they can confidently speak for themselves and truly become unstoppable girls.

– Itandehui Olivera, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager