Education Combats Gender Based Violence

Amidst today’s global turmoil, let us not overlook the ongoing gender based violence impacting women and girls on a daily basis.  One-third of women in the world have been beaten, forced into sex, or abused.  One in five will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.  In conflict zones, gender based violence is epidemic.

Myanmar is not exempt from this impact on basic human rights.  The country has been immersed in civil wars and conflict since the 1960’s. At that time the military junta enacted the Four Cuts policy, consisting of “attacking villages, forcing ethnic villagers to move into heavily controlled relocation sites, destroying their homes and crops, and planting landmines in their former villages and farms to prevent their return”.

Thousands of children have been displaced by ongoing conflict in Myanmar, limiting their access to education, psycho-social support, and protection.  Impacts to these children are severe, especially for girls who are at high risk of sexual assault.

The story of Chang Chang is, unfortunately, too familiar.  She was attacked and raped in her village, along with four of her friends, by a group of Burmese military soldiers. News spread quickly, and she was punished for bringing shame to her family, school and community. Her teacher caned her in front of the entire school, and then expelled her.  Later, she was expelled from her community. Left without support from her community or the opportunity of education, she was arrested by the police for “defaming” the same soldiers that raped her. The official charge for which she was sentenced to one year in prison was prostitution.

Simultaneously, Burmese women continue to be victims of domestic violence.  Under Myanmar’s penal code, marital rape is only criminalized if the wife is younger than 14 years old. No specific laws exist to prohibit domestic violence, and women’s shelters and centers are rare.  The most commonly reported internal coping strategy for women in dealing with abuse is to ‘stay silent’.

Patriarchy is embedded in their lives.  Women are not considered capable of leadership and are frequently described as “useless”, using a Burmese phrase that describes inability and incompetence.  It is not surprising to hear the Burmese proverb – “if you beat your wife until her bones are broken, she will love you more”.

NOW the timing for change in Myanmar is optimal.  The country opened to the world in 2012. On November 8th, 2015, Myanmar conducted its first democratic election in 25 years.  Senior citizens and young activists waited in lines for hours to vote for the first time in their lives.

When Parliament convenes in January, 11% of the seats will be held by women.  An increased number of women in Parliament provides a voice for women’s issues and the power to affect change and implement applicable laws.

Women’s activist and electorate Cheery Zahau believes that empowering women is the first step towards a truly developed society.  Cho Cho Aye, Yangon electorate, hopes that more female representation in parliament will help address domestic violence across the country.

Educational Empowerment believes the answer to ending gender based violence is education.   Education will change the existing mindset that women and girls are not deserving of equal rights.  Education will enable boys to better understand girls’ issues and encourage them to contribute to a gender equal society.  Education will empower girls with self-confidence and self-esteem. Education will change a society’s practice and reduce conflict.

This year’s theme for 16 Days of Activism Against GBV is “Make Education Safe For All”.  Let’s call for action on the part of global policy makers to honor and fulfill girls’ right to education, equality, and safety.  Encourage policymakers to:

  • implement primary and secondary school-wide curriculum on gender awareness, healthy relationships, sexual health and rights, and human rights
  • develop and implement guidelines for teachers and school counselors to recognize signs of child abuse
  • respond to children’s experiences of violence sensitively within and outside school, and utilize local authorities to remedy the actions.

You too can take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights.
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Let your voice be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook at EE, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

SDG 1: What Does Poverty Mean to Women and Girls?

The first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 1) in the series of 17 goals is to End Poverty in all its forms everywhere. There are seven targets under this goal which vary in focus including reducing poverty by half among men, women and children as well as ensuring more resources are mobilized to aid in poverty reduction. The goal focuses on the need to create sound policies at a local, national and international level which are based on pro-poor and gender sensitive strategies. Does this sounds like Greek to you? I am a international development professional and reading this first goal sounds like I am reading a different language. Sure, ending poverty in all its forms sounds like an incredible goal. Perhaps, an incredibly lofty goal? What does ending poverty really mean? When thinking about the reality of how to work towards this goal there is one key question we need to answer:

What does poverty mean to women and girls?

Throughout my time working with women and girls this question has surfaced numerous times.  Poverty as it is defined in SDG1 focuses on economic poverty. We can not define poverty solely  as someone who lives on less than $1.25 a day. Material poverty, yes, but poverty in all its forms, no. Poverty is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “the lack of something.” To often, especially in the Western World, we define poverty only as the lack of money. If you were to ask women and girls around the world this question the scope of their answers would be far and wide. I have talked with many women and girls who would say poverty means:

  • A broken relationship with a friend or family member
  • No opportunities for education
  • Not being respected or valued by men and women in the family
  • Experiencing violence, abuse and exploitation
  • Being married before she was ready

What would it look like to meet this goal?

What would it actually look like to end poverty? When I think about this goal it seems rather than asking something attainable we are asking to live in a perfect world. Do we really believe this is possible? Addressing issues of poverty is something we can all work towards. In my opinion, working to reduce poverty among women and girls rather than working to eradicate it is a more feasible goal. The work currently being done to empower women and girls to lift themselves out of poverty is incredible. Instead of telling you how this goal will be met,  I want to show you what it looks like in reality. These are only a few of so many wonderful examples of those working to understand women and girls lives and empower them where they are.

Supporting Women and Girls in WASH

Empowering Adolescent Girls

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"Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to the various effects of climate change, including natural disasters, droughts, and the displacement that results from such events. Unfortunately, despite evidence pointing to women’s increased risk compared to men and emerging findings on the potential role of including girls in mitigating their own risk, little is being done to address girls’ specific needs and potential contributions to sustainability work." Read the full post on how adolescent girls are taking charge for a sustainable future by Sacha Green-Atchley and Katy Bullard on behalf of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls on girlsglobe.org #YouthVoices #sustainabledevelopment Photo: Tobin Jones / African Union Mission in Somalia

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Improving Maternal and Child Health

Investing in Young People

 

This is the first post in a series of posts highlighting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals focused on how they impact women and girls around the world. Continue to follow girlsglobe.org for more! Illustrations for the SDG campaign have been made for Girls’ Globe by artist Elina Tuomi. 

Women Inspire: Han Su Myat

At age 14, Han Su Myat moved from Myanmar to sunny California with her mother and younger brother.  Her father had moved to America when she was 3 years old.  Since Myanmar was closed to the world at that time, Han Su and her family received no mail or phone calls from him for those 11 years of separation.

Han Su spoke little English when she arrived in America.  She couldn’t even ask questions or directions.  Kids in her new school laughed at her accent.  After a girl in her home economics class threw needles at her, she felt scared and isolated. She missed her Burmese friends. There was no diversity in her American school.

Education became Han Su’s refuge and hope.  She studied hard to get into honors classes. She believed she would be safe there and find new friends with common goals. Every night after finishing her homework, she helped her brother with his.  Through hard work and perseverance, Han Su graduated last year from UCLA. She speaks English well, and has a close circle of friends.

Now at age 24, her goal is to attend medical school, become a doctor, and return to Myanmar to help her people and her family achieve a better life.

Han Su’s early life in Myanmar was not easy.  Her family was poor, and caretaking of her elderly grandparents was difficult.  There was no electricity – only candles.  She attended government school where teachers frequently didn’t even come into the classrooms.  They just gave assignments to copy from books.  Discipline (beating or removal from school) was harsh.

Han Su learned that life in America, the land of opportunity, wasn’t easy either – there was just a different set of problems.

Han Su teaching English in Yae Kyaw Toe Village Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment
Han Su teaching English in Yae Kyaw Toe Village
Photo Credit: Educational Empowerment

When I first met Han Su in January in the Ayeyarwady Delta, she had returned to Myanmar for the first time for a visit. She volunteered with one of Educational Empowerment’s partners, Helping the Burmese Delta.  When Han Su met high school girls in the Delta, they were eager to practice English with her.  They looked up to her. She realized that once she had been like them. Because she had an education, she could now help them. It made her feel really good.

When I asked Han Su what advice she would share with Burmese girls, she said:

“Believe in yourself.  Don’t be afraid of failure. Try anything you want.  Even if you fail and make mistakes, try again. You might be successful!” Han Su Myat

Han Su’s story is an inspiration and yet another example of the power of education. If you want to empower girls to follow their dreams,

  • join Girls Globe conversations on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • become a champion for girls’ and women’s rights
  • donate to Educational Empowerment, and
  • let your voice be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women and for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org & follow us on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and on Instagram.

The Hidden Price of a Girl’s Education

Fifteen year old Aye Sander lives in the Buddhist nunnery, Chanthar Aung Nunnery School, in the poor outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar.  An avid reader, she is receiving a quality education.  Unlike girls her age attending government schools which teach rote memorization, Aye Sander is learning critical thinking – how to identify, assess, and solve problems – an immeasurable life skill.

350 girls attend Chanthar Aung Nunnery School and forty orphans, like Aye Sander, live there.  With seven classrooms and eleven teachers, the school is overcrowded.  A new building stands nearby, half finished, without funding to complete the roof and flooring.  All their food is cooked over wood fires. Only one of the buildings has electricity.

The school depends primarily on donations.  Novices walk through the village twice a month asking for rice and donations.  It is always a struggle to make ends meet and is made more frustrating by the fact that monks are allowed to ask for food on a daily basis.

The head nun, a lovely and gracious woman, cares deeply for all the girls in her care.  When asked what her greatest challenge is, she said it is to feed the 40 girls who live there.

Aye Sander and her two younger sisters have lived at Chanthar Aung Nunnery School since she was three years old.  Unfortunately, her story is not unusual.  Born in the ethnic Shan state, Aye Sander’s parents divorced when their small business failed.  Unable to support the 3 girls on her own, her mother sent them away to Yangon to live and receive an education. This is the hidden cost of Aye Sander’s education.

However, Aye Sander is fortunate to be receiving an education.  Only half of Burmese girls complete primary school, and the majority of those girls do not learn critical thinking.

Education is critical to escape chronic poverty, which is wide spread in Myanmar. For some, poverty is transitory. However, the more vulnerable remain poor for long periods – even all their lives – passing on their poverty to their children.

The United Nations General Assembly convened last month in New York to create Sustainable Development Goals that will “pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off, fill in the gaps and take us to the next level”.  Whether the goals target poverty reduction, gender equality, health, the environment, or other sustainable issues facing today’s world, education is the common denominator to the goal’s success.  The world is starting to acknowledge the power of education – especially the impact created by educated women and girls.  Yet, there is often a hidden price for that education, as experienced by Aye Sander.

Help girls attain their right to education. To take immediate action:

  • Join Girls Globe conversation on Twitter @GirlsGlobe
  • Donate to Educational Empowerment at donate.
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Educational Empowerment was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities severely affected by poverty and injustice in Myanmar. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women in Myanmar to attain their equal rights.

Join us in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @EEmpower, and Instagram.

Breaking the cycle to end gender-based violence

I am one of the lucky ones.

Every morning, I wake up excited to attend another day of school. At school, I have an opportunity to learn new things, enjoy my lessons and participate in new activities. We have all heard the phrase, “If you educate a girl, you educate a nation.” Globally, it is estimated that 66 million girls will not have access to an education. Unlike many girls, I have the ability to access my right to education, choose who I marry and will have as many children as I desire.

I am one of the lucky ones.

Before I was born, my grandmother took a stand for me and future generations. She rejected the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and refused to let her daughter, my mother, go through the practice. FGM is the deliberate mutilation of the genitalia of women and girls for non-medical reasons. This practice has life-long physical, emotional and psychological effects on women and girls. FGM was practiced in my family for generations. When my grandmother was strong enough to say ‘no’ it stopped. Globally, 140 million women and girls who are subjected to this practice are not as fortunate. Women like Leyla Hussein and Nimko Ali have been fighting to end FGM in the United Kingdom and empower young women and girls to say ‘no’ to FGM. We need more global leaders, individuals, organizations, communities and governments to say ‘no’ alongside of them.

Some additional facts:

  • One in ten girls (under 20) has experienced some type of forced sexual abuse or assault
  • Every ten seconds, one girl will be subject to female genital mutilation.
  • Every two seconds, one girl will be forced into marriage.
  • Every second, women and girls are being abused, beaten, raped and groped.

The violence must stop.

As activists, leaders, governments and organizations we can not only talk about the statistics. We must take action for women and girls whose rights are violated. Systems of patriarchy and misogyny must not be allowed to continue. It is not acceptable for some men to act as if it is their right to beat their wives, rape their sisters and force their daughters into marriage.

I want to see real change.

Over the next 18 months, global leaders will draft a development framework for the next fifteen years. In the post-2015 agenda, I want leaders to focus on breaking the cycle of gender-based violence. In order to accomplish this, we must educate girls, empower young women to know their rights and give every girl a chance to raise her voice.

I am one of 3.5 billion women and girls in the world.

Our voices matter.

Cover Photo Credit: DFID, UK, Flickr Creative Commons

Join the Conversation

#ShowYourSelfie – Now is the time for young people to have their say! What do you think is a priority for the Post-2015 Agenda? Share your views and publish a selfie to join this global visual petition run by The Global Poverty Project and UNFPA. showyourselfie.org

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Growing Dreams: Help Educate Girls In Myanmar

Here in the United States, ask a girl what she wants to be when she grows up and her answer may be nurse, teacher, astronaut, senator or even president. The possibilities are limitless.  In Myanmar, a country steeped in extreme poverty, where people lack even the most basic human rights, you will hear no such answer. Girls in Myanmar typically imagine a job that takes them no further than the family farm or the local fish market.

Why the disparity?

In addition to the oppressive government, ongoing conflicts, natural disasters and displacement that have plagued the country, education is simply not attainable for many – most of all girls.

Only half of Burmese girls complete primary education.  For most, the quality of the education is inadequate and typically based on rote memorization.  One in every four girls who has attended primary school is still unable to read simple sentences about everyday life.

Although government schools are free, parents still need to pay for uniforms, supplies, and in some cases bribes to teachers to ensure their children receive attention.

When parents choose which child they can afford to educate, it is always the boys.  Girls, victims of gender disparity, are pulled out of school to work.

Girls who are educated dream big.  Education opens up endless opportunities. Education builds girls’ dreams and transforms lives.

Educational Empowerment helps ensure Burmese girls realize their dreams.

Some girls, unable to afford government schools, attend schools established in Buddhist monasteries – schools which truly are free. Many girls in these schools have been sent by their families from remote ethnic areas to be educated and safe. These girls, often as young as 4, must cope with the trauma of family separation.

One of these schools, located in a poor township outside Yangon, is Maw Kyun, attended by 582 children, half of whom are girls. These girls are learning critical thinking skills, which give them the ability to identify and solve problems.  Since their township does not  have electricity or fresh water, solving problems is essential to their existence.

Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment
Photo Credit: Edu Empowerment

Wint Yi, like 25% of other girls in Myanmar, lives below the poverty line, with a family income of less than $1.25 per day. Fifty percent of her peers will only go to school through the fifth grade.

Unlike, many other girls, Wint Yi has a dream. She knows there is a world beyond her village.  She goes to a school supported by Educational Empowerment.  Wint Yi is one of the fortunate girls in Myanmar.

Girls’ access to quality education should be a basic human right.  Investing in girls’ education bolsters their dignity, saves mother’s and children’s lives, and improves the socio-economic status of the entire community.

Help girls attain their right to education.  Empower others, like Wint Yi, to dream BIG.

Want to take action?

  • Donate to Educational Empowerment
  • Organize an event for International Day of the Girl, October 11th, to create awareness for girls’ right to education
  • Let your voices be heard for girls worldwide!

Meet Wint Yi


 

Please visit us at www.educationalempowerment.org

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Educational Empowerment (EE) was created by women for women and girls. EE promotes literacy and education for children, families and communities in Myanmar severely affected by poverty and injustice. By empowering women and girls through education, we position women Myanmar to attain their equal rights.