Family engagement: The importance of parental involvement for young girls’ and women’s education

What and why is family engagement important?

Family engagement plays a crucial role in shaping the education of young girls and women. As the foundational unit in society, it is important to establish a positive and mutually respectful environment that supports children’s learning. According to Youth.gov, family engagement not only positively influences children’s health and development, but also has significant effects on their academic and well-being outcomes throughout adulthood.

Family support is especially critical for women and girls, whose educational access can be hindered by a lack of family involvement.

Challenges faced by women and girls 

Participation in the labour market

Women globally continue to bear the brunt of essential unpaid care and domestic work, including child care, cooking, cleaning and farming, limiting their time for paid labour. According to UN research, in 2020, 47% of working-aged women participated in the labour market compared to 74% of men—reaching a staggering low of 30% in Southern Asia, Northern Africa and Western Asia. At WONDER, we address this disparity by collaborating with partners to provide vocational training and mentoring. Our aim is to facilitate increased access to higher education for young girls and women, enabling future participation in the labour market.

Inadequate childcare systems

The inadequacies in childcare systems act as a barrier to women’s full participation in the labour market. As reported by UNICEF, 2002 data from 31 countries surveying working women with children under the age of 6 found that 39% looked after their children whilst working; 22% left them with a relative; 12% left them in the care of a female child, and 4% left them in a nursery or with a domestic worker. Accurate estimates regarding the degree of care occurring across various contexts are currently lacking. Despite the limited data, it remains important for families to support young mothers in managing such responsibilities while pursuing education and employment.

Social and cultural norms

In some societies, social and cultural norms contribute to gender disparities in education. For example, in Kilifi, Kenya, parents see their daughters primarily as future spouses, prioritising sons over daughters in education. The World Bank reports that young girls are 2.5 times more likely to be taken out of school compared to boys in families undergoing financial challenges, perpetuating a cycle of disenfranchisement. This lack of support can discourage young women and girls from aspiring towards a better future. Encouraging a perspective that views young girls and women beyond domestic roles gives them the opportunity to pursue an education.

Forced intimate relationships

Lacking a support-system can also lead to coercive or early marriages for women and girls, as well as forced intimate relations with older men. In Sub- Saharan Africa, 38% of young girls experience child marriage. Furthermore, in Kilifi, one in every four girls between 15 and 19 is affected by teenage pregnancy. Many girls are forced into transactional sex arrangements to survive, and some directly by their parents.

Our work at WONDER Foundation

WONDER recognises the urgency when it comes to supporting women and girls at the family level. By emphasising parental involvement in children’s well-being, we aim to foster a strong support network. When families perceive a woman or a girl’s success as their own success, a ripple effect occurs, leading to higher completion and attainment rates. These empowered women become influential role models, setting positive trends in their wide communities.

By encouraging women and girls to invest their learning back into their families and supporting other family members in seeking education, we strive to create a world where every individual can thrive, breaking free from the constraints of social norms and fostering a future of empowerment and equality.

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Volunteering

Corporate Volunteering at WONDER Foundation

WONDER Foundation hosts a variety of corporate volunteering days throughout the year, partnering with organisations and businesses that support our mission and goals.