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How can we achieve gender equality in education?

As students return for the school year, gender equality in education is as important as ever before.

While significant gains have been made in women and girls’ education over the last decades, new obstacles such as climate change, the rising cost of living, and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to push back the progress that has been made.

The continuing impact of COVID-19 on women and girls’ education

The pandemic exacerbated many of the barriers women around the world already faced when accessing education. This includes financial hardship caused by the loss of work or unexpected medical bills, along with the need for many women and girls to stay home to take care of ill relatives. Women work more often than men in sectors such as domestic work, hospitality, and tourism, all of which lost revenue during the pandemic. 

While many of us return to normal life post-pandemic, UNESCO estimates that over 11 million girls will not return to school following COVID-19. This may be due to draining financial savings during the pandemic that would have gone towards school fees, or due to marrying or having children in the time since COVID-19 shut down local schools.

Understanding the risk of climate change and natural disasters

Natural disasters made stronger and more prevalent by climate change disproportionately affect the lives of women and girls, and this has a direct impact on their ability to access education. For example, girls are less likely than boys to attend temporary facilities when their school is damaged, due to the risk of experiencing violence or harassment on longer commutes to unfamiliar neighbourhoods. 

At WONDER, many of our partners are based in countries with an increased risk of experiencing natural disasters. Recently, our partner in the Philippines, FPTI, was hit by Typhoon Rai in December 2021. Not only did the typhoon put many families at risk and create an immediate need for essential resources such as food and shelter, it also destroyed part of the school’s campus and the dorms where the students stay. This, along with financial and emotional hardship, has a direct impact on students’ ability to learn and succeed.

The refugee and cost of living crises

The past year has also seen a growing refugee crisis. When women and girls flee their countries in search of safety, it may be years before they find a stable home once again. This can lead to missing out on significant portions of their education. Even once they find a safe place to resettle, language barriers and financial hardship may prevent them from getting the quality education they deserve.

At WONDER, we have been working with Ukrainian refugees in Poland since February 2022. Our partner Pontes provides women and girls with Polish language classes, and supports them with resources to navigate the paperwork involved in receiving work visas and registering in local schools.

Additionally, the cost of living crises that many of us face this year will put vulnerable women and girls further at risk. They may no longer have the ability to afford school fees or resources such as textbooks, or they may have no choice but to leave school in order to work and support their families.

One of the best ways to help women and girls go to school this year is by joining the Thrive Fund. The Thrive Fund provides scholarships to women and girls, so they have a reliable source of support and can finish their education. Learn more today.