On October 11, 2013, the Aga Khan University–Institute of Educational Development, East Africa (AKU-IED,EA), celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child (IDGC). The AKU-IED, EA is deeply committed to ensuring that all of its programming in underpinned by foundational gender-responsive pedagogical approaches, and brings focus on awareness of gender-based educational issues to all its programming. Acknowledging the need to address specific challenges faced by girls and women in education, and working in line with global and national initiatives to improve access and quality of education for girls, AKU-IED faculty develops and builds capacity in innovative, sustainable, and effective programming that support girls’ development of capabilities and empowerment. Additionally, AKU-IED faculty conduct research in the area of gender and education in East Africa, contributing to an understanding of contextually-relevant issues facing girls in the region, as well as effective approaches to needs assessment and monitoring and evaluation of interventions.
For this year’s IDGC event, Drs. Shelley Jones and Mweru Mwingi, gender specialists at AKU-IED, EA, took this opportunity to bring attention to the many challenges still facing the girl child with a full morning of presentations by guest speakers, break out sessions, and discussions. Guest speakers Ms. Lydia Wilbard, Co-Director of Camfed Tanzania (https://camfed.org/where-we-work/tanzania/), Ms. Anastasia Rugaba from HakiElimu (http://hakielimu.org/), and Ms. Zaida Mgalla.from UWEZO (http://www.uwezo.net/) all spoke compellingly about the important research they are doing/have done concerning girls and education in East Africa, as well as programs and initiatives are working on to mitigate the challenges of the girl child. The audience, comprised of AKU-IED, EA faculty and Master of Education students, had many questions and comments, as well as many of their own insights to offer. Following the presentations by the guest speakers, all participants joined break out groups which considered gender-based education issues identified by the students in a questionnaire completed prior to the event and the following issues were considered: inadequate school facilities/resources for girls; gender-based curriculum/subject-streaming; sexual abuse of girls by teachers and headteachers; lack of respect towards girls by boys, and, unfriendly, non-inclusive school environments for girls. Discussions were fruitful and resulted in many worthwhile suggestions for interventions to overcome many challenges faced by the girl child.
However, the event concluded on the note that we have ample evidence of these challenges, and we have no lack of ideas for interventions, but what we need now is ACTION – Advocacy, Commitment, Tenacity, Integrated efforts, Outcomes, and No letting up until gender equality has been achieved. We are ready to take up the challenge!