Fighting gender inequality in education

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Abuja Community Manager
Abuja, 19 August 2015

Gender inequality takes on different forms, including access to education. While access to education is also determined by indicators such as family income, a significant portion of educational inequality issues are based on cultural perceptions of gender. In Abuja, gender inequality in education keeps vulnerable groups of women in poverty or completely reliant on the generosity of male family members, because they lack the skills and knowledge that allow for income-generation.

Female education in Abuja is still quite low, and lagging far behind male's education, as revealed by key indicators such as literacy, enrollment and years in school. However, the Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education has contributed to awareness and to progress in addressing educational gender inequality. But the battle for change is continuous, as attitudes are slow to change in societies where women are perceived as domestic properties rather than active participants in societal development.

One organization working to encourage female education is the Maimuna Foundation in Abuja. It considers female education as the key to empowering women and building a more inclusive and progressive society, thanks to the influence of women in raising the next generation. Due to the common phenomenon of child marriages and girls getting married after senior secondary school (high school), the organization advocates for a system that does not interfere with these customs, but instead promotes continuing education despite early marriage. The foundation supports increased and prolonged female education by providing scholarships to female students. Excellent pupils are identified and are invited to awareness seminars and lectures. The students are given scholarship assistance throughout their education, as a way of subsidizing the costs incurred by parents. Through these approaches, the Maimuna Foundation is reducing gender inequality in education.

Another organization advocating for policy and mindset changes is the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC). The CIRDDOC is an independent, non-governmental nonprofit advocating for the protection and promotion of women's rights. The organization is committed to the institutionalization of gender equality and the rule of law in Nigeria. Their activities focus on driving policy to promote gender equality, and educating citizens about their rights. Activities range include capacity building, training workshops, civic education, community forums, and information centers.

The fight for equality in education is an issue in most developing countries, so much so it was a universal goal with the MDGs and is also included in the working Sustainability Development Goals. It is clearly easier for a two-income household to stay out of poverty, and incomes are usually higher for those who have been more educated - herein lays the dilemma. With limited education, not only are females at the mercy of their caretakers, the family is also affected in the long run. Thus, efforts working to reduce educational gender inequality are a viable route towards alleviating poverty.

Photo: DFID

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