Breaking the barriers to education for girls

This is the winning entry for Restless Development and The Financial Time’s writing Challenge Category C (16-18 years old age category).

I grew up in a small camp, in a Middle Eastern society -a Male-dominated society where sexism is normalized, therefore girls are considered the weakest of the sexes, need protection always, and are exposed to intense social stress that controls their way of dressing up, talking, and even walking. A society that keeps repeating the statement “Girl’s place is the kitchen”, consequently shutting these girls’ ambitions and dreams. Hence, girls are forced to drop out of school at an early age, creating traumatic long-term effects on their futures, increasing the level of illiteracy, and decreasing the level of awareness among them about different social issues that target women empowerment in these kinds of societies. 

My primary school was a girl’s primary school where I witnessed my friends dropping out day by day because of this social stress. As I moved to a mixed high school we were prevented from interacting with our classmate males! This system created a close community, putting us -girls- in a close bubble! 

We never talked about menstruation, sexual harassment, and abuse because it is Taboo! I knew even though we did not talk about them, they existed! Thus, I decided to travel to the UK after earning a scholarship to attend UWC of Atlantic. From my perspective, as a person who has experienced western and eastern systems, these experiences had an enormous contribution to my personality, making me very passionate about the education for girls as it is a major core for empowerment. To improve the quality of education back home.

Firstly, education should not be limited to books, it should be more like organizing workshops inside the schools to raise awareness about menstruation, sexual abuse, harassment, and domestic violence, and how to tackle them. Secondly, on the creative side, creating a Social Service where girls can suggest projects and ideas that could contribute to their societies, consequently strengthen their presence by engaging in their society, and enhance their leadership and management skills. 

Thirdly, it is important to create a safe space for girls to come out and express themselves and this would happen by organizing “Empowering workshops” in cooperation with feminist organizations in my camp-like “Women’s Program Association”. Also, to train the teachers to be more open and welcoming to the girls in their classes.

Moreover, girls should be brought out of their bubbles by encouraging them to participate in national competitions like sports competitions, providing them with equal opportunities as males, and creating a more inclusive environment. Furthermore, so many activities could take place outside the class, including “Talent’s show”, “Monologues”, and “Expectations” where they can discover their interests and show themselves. 

Education should be more than “Alphabets and Math”, education should be a tool to enforce girls’ empowerment. Education should be awareness, activities, and creativity! Education must be a zone where girls in my community can get out of their comfort safely, strongly with powerful voices and personalities. Only by that, the Girl’s place will be in the World Not the Kitchen.

This writing challenge is part of Restless Development’s Power Up Appeal, which is raising money to help girls in Sierra Leone go to school, get their education and shape their own futures. Every pound given to the Power Up Appeal until 6 June 2022 will be doubled by the UK Government. 

Feature Photo by Andrew Ebrahim on Unsplash


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Breaking the barriers to education for girls

by Roaya Ghuneim Reading time: 2 min