September 16, 2019
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 In Access to Education for Women and Girls

Country: South Africa
Delegate Name: Shriya Reddy

United Nations Women
Access to Education for Women and Girls
The Republic of South Africa
Shriya Reddy
Forest Hills Eastern

129 million girls are out of school, around the world, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age. There are many obstacles to accessing education for women and girls. Poverty, gender-based violence, and societal gender stereotypes are just a few such obstacles.

South Africa’s gender inequality in education drives a deep division between access to education and its outcomes. Recent efforts by the South African government have proven effective in encouraging female participation and continuation of schooling. However, the problems in South Africa, like in the United States, are complex and deeply intertwined with societal issues dating back centuries. In South Africa, 55 percent of the uneducated adult population are women, suggesting a fairly equal education system in terms of numbers. However, equality in numbers does not indicate equality in education. The gap in equality of outcome is partially accounted for through factors such as teen pregnancy and sexual violence. Another vestige of apartheid, violence, is often used to exert control and in many cases, sexual violence exerts male control over females. This high incidence of reported sexual violence is disproportionately prevalent in schools. The research found that “schools and their surrounding environments may attract crime and place individuals at an increased risk of sexual victimization, at least in a South African context”. Sexual violence represents a “discriminatory barrier for young women and girls seeking an education”. Furthermore, teen pregnancy poses a significant barrier to women’s education. In South Africa, among female youth (ages 10-19) “19.2% said that they had an adolescent pregnancy”. At this age, pregnancy directly interferes with young women’s education creating a ripple effect on future job opportunities and other career choices. This is due to “insufficient support (physically and emotionally)” causing many young mothers to “quit school or do not succeed with schooling”.

These factors also contribute to poor performance, and worse job outcomes, and can create additional reasons for dropping out. All countries must work together to stop discriminatory gender norms and human rights violations. The cost of education should be reduced because several African countries have abolished their school fees. Each time, the move has triggered a large increase in primary school enrollment. For example, enrollment increased by 12 percent in Ghana, 18 percent in Kenya, 23 percent in Ethiopia, and 51 percent in Malawi after the abolition of school fees. Countries should address local governments’ and communities’ need for financial investment in education.

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