In today’s world, where progress and equality are emphasized, it is disheartening to witness the persistent barriers that hinder girls’ access to education. From poverty and cultural norms to violence and inadequate infrastructure, girls face numerous challenges that prevent them from enjoying their fundamental right to a quality education. However, it is crucial that we recognize the transformative power of education in the lives of girls and young women. Education is not merely about enrolling girls in schools; it is about creating an inclusive, safe, and empowering environment where girls can thrive academically, socially, and economically.

Notable progress has been made in girls’ education, both globally and within Tanzania, however, the journey towards gender equality in education is far from complete. According to a a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report on Tanzania, the net enrollment rate for girls in primary schools increased from 85% in 2000 to 94% in 2019. However, challenges persist, particularly in rural areas and across different regions of the country.

Gender Stereotypes:

Gender stereotypes act as a pervasive barrier to girls’ educational advancement. The inherent biases within schools and classrooms can reinforce societal messages that limit girls’ ambitions and perpetuate unfairness in the labor market. According to a report by UNICEF gender stereotypes continue to hinder girls’ educational opportunities, perpetuating occupational segregation and limiting their choices in the labor market.

It is essential to address these biases head-on and promote an inclusive educational environment that encourages girls to pursue their passions and aspirations. Education should be a powerful tool to challenge and dismantle these stereotypes, but it often falls short. By adopting inclusive teaching practices and promoting positive role models, we can empower girls to challenge societal norms and fulfill their true potential.

Gender-Based Violence against Women and Girls:

Gender-based violence (GBV) remains a pressing concern globally, with grave implications for girls’ education. GBV includes various forms of violence, such as rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, assault, corporal punishment, and female genital mutilation. These acts of violence not only violate girls’ basic human rights but also disrupt their education journey.

In Tanzania, GBV takes a particularly heavy toll on girls’ education. Child marriage and teenage pregnancy are prevalent, resulting in the exclusion of girls from schools indefinitely. Moreover, sexual assault and harassment along the journey to and from school, as well as within educational institutions, pose significant threats to girls’ physical and mental well-being. These traumatic experiences lead to decreased attendance and higher dropout rates, hindering their educational progress and future opportunities.

Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimate that 31% of girls in Tanzania are married before the age of 18, significantly impeding their access to education and overall well-being. To combat this issue, initiatives like the “Girls Are Not Brides” campaign work tirelessly to raise awareness and advocate for the end of child marriages.

Inclusive and Quality Learning Environments:

Creating inclusive and quality learning environments is crucial to ensuring girls’ education. Unfortunately, inadequate and unsafe education infrastructure pose significant barriers, preventing girls from attending school regularly. Factors such as a lack of learning materials, ineffective teaching methods, bullying, and strict dress codes disproportionately affect girls, undermining their confidence and impeding their educational journey.

Moreover, the absence of proper sanitation facilities and limited access to sanitary pads perpetuate social stigma and disrupt girls’ education. Menstruation-related challenges further contribute to absenteeism and decreased concentration during classes. Addressing these issues requires comprehensive efforts, including improved infrastructure, access to sanitary products, and the promotion of menstrual hygiene management programs.

Ensuring girls’ access to quality education is not only a matter of justice but also a catalyst for sustainable development and gender equality. By breaking down the barriers that hinder girls’ education, we empower them to become leaders, innovators, and agents of positive change in their communities and the world.

To achieve this vision, we must challenge gender stereotypes, combat gender-based violence, advocate against child marriages, and create inclusive and empowering learning environments. By investing in girls’ education, we invest in a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

About the author:

Photo of Elizabeth Raymond
Elizabeth Raymond is a dedicated Clinician currently employed by an NGO specializing in providing support to individuals living with HIV and those affected by gender-based violence. With a profound sense of purpose, Elizabeth is committed to making a positive impact in her community by actively promoting equality and humanity for all. Her unwavering passion lies in addressing the challenges faced by youth in challenging environments, which often contribute to various health risks. Elizabeth firmly believes that in order to cultivate a peaceful and thriving community, it is crucial to empower young individuals by safeguarding their physical, mental, and emotional well-being from all forms of harm.