Paving the Way to Gender Equality
Barefoot College has been spearheading innovative educational programs around the world for decades. One of its key missions is to provide education to women and girls who often otherwise are not given the opportunity to study, regardless of their age, class or location. Our children’s schools teach all genders, but with the promise that at least 50% of enrolled students are female.
There are many reasons that an educated girl has a higher quality of life- and her community benefits too! In fact, organizations like the UN have created comprehensive lists of benefits that her village- and the whole world- feel all because she got to go to school.
For instance, once she’s able to enter the workforce, each extra year of schooling she had can increase her annual wages by 20%. It also results in reduced early and child marriages, which in turn leads to having children later in life and usually fewer of them. Planned parenthood is a learned quality that enables women and girls to make their own choices when it comes to family size and also how their children will be raised, ie investing in their futures by enrolling them in school as well. Educated women also learn more about sufficient nutrition, resulting in children who are healthier, being fed more beneficial meals.
What Has Gender Favouritism Resulted In?
In many countries, an imbalance between the number of male to female students is obvious in classrooms. Very often, this systemic favouritism for boys leads to a multitude of disempowering factors in communities at large. The most obvious being that fewer people are able to contribute to the workforce than if women are included, leading to more modest family incomes and a cyclical devaluing of the female gender.
When Barefoot Gender Projects Lead Sanjana asked Indian students in their classes who would prefer to be the opposite gender, none of the boys raised their hand but every girl raised their hand. Why don’t any of the children want to be girls?
Across schools she’s visited, boys have explained that they don’t want to do household work and want to be able to play, while the girls say they want to wear pants, get to sleep in and study further. Most girls wish they can stay in school for longer but are not allowed due to lack of family funds (boys are usually chosen first to study), household obligations or early marriage.
Girls of the Future
On the other hand, when girls are given equal opportunities in life including schooling, livelihood options and personal life choices, entire communities thrive. Education is the path to all beneficial outcomes in communities. This means that all people, regardless of wealth, age or gender should have the opportunity to learn.
Education for girls is one way of approaching gender equality. We focus on bringing gender equality within the school so that children of all genders learn to question gender disparities and break stereotypes beyond education.
Since our early days as an Education leader in India, our schools have ensured that at least 50% of students in classrooms are girls. We believe in a future where women and girls become significant members of their communities through entrepreneurship, innovation and collaboration- and it all begins with education. Thus, over time, gender equality will be achieved, uplifting entire villages, towns and cities Worldwide.