The Puggle: March 2023 edition

March started out with terrifying reports of schoolgirls in Iran being poisoned by toxic gas — yet another example of threats against girls’ education (which wars of the past have done little to solve). Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of schools in Burkina Faso have been closed due to violence in the region. 

But this widespread violence is merely the tip of the iceberg. More broadly, a recent summary of evidence on violence against girls and boys in school finds that “Children are exposed to staggering levels of physical, psychological, and sexual violence, perpetrated by teachers, other adults, and students.” Girls are affected directly by violence perpetrated against them and indirectly by high levels of violence perpetrated against boys, which increases the odds that these boys will go on to be perpetrators of violence themselves.

Some of this violence is normalized in the system. The same report reminds us that “Corporal punishment by teachers is legal in 63 countries—including the six most populous countries in the world.” And the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index indicates that 16% of women and girls live in countries where domestic violence is not criminalized.

Looking for some resources to track where we are in terms of other laws, norms, and policies that are supportive of girls’ education and broader equality? In addition to OECD’s SIGI, check-out the key data captured in UNESCO’s HerAtlas. These two resources show us that:

  • Women account for only 27% of Members of Parliament worldwide.
  • 19% of girls and women live in a country where it remains legal for girls to be married before they turn 18.
  • 16% of countries provide no guarantee of the legal right to education

They also show that when supportive policies are in place, better outcomes are possible. Take, for example, the marked decline in out of school girls when countries do not restrict access to education for pregnant and parenting girls:

Graph showing decline in out of school girls when countries do not restrict access to education for pregnant and parenting girls:

Tending to pregnant and parenting girls could be particularly beneficial to the next generation. A recent UNICEF report (and the first-ever global database on women’s nutrition) point to a Global Nutrition Crisis in Adolescent Girls and Women, indicating that the number of pregnant and breastfeeding adolescent girls and women suffering from acute malnutrition has increased by 25 percent since 2020 in the 12 countries hardest hit by the ongoing global food and nutrition crisis. A new study from researchers at the Population Council looks at how this spills over to the children of adolescent mothers. Looking at data from India, the researchers find that children born to adolescent mothers tend to be shorter and weigh less than their peers — a trend that worsens for these children as they grow older (at ages 6-12 years they are more behind in height and weight than they are at ages 0-5 years old). 

When children are stunted and underweight, they are likely to have worse schooling outcomes. Which is to say that when adolescents give birth, not only are their own schooling outcomes at risk, but so too are their children’s. Policies that support health, nutrition, well-being, and schooling for adolescent mothers are essential for this generation and the next.

Fortunately, lots of people are fighting to change the policies that can hold girls back. This includes globally recognized names like Amal Clooney, Melinda French Gates, and Michelle Obama. It also includes girls themselves. We’re inspired by this example from Purposeful in Sierra Leone on how Girl-Centered Media has allowed girls to “challenge cultural conversations and expectations, increasing community support for girls’ rights…[and] imagine a world that looks radically different from the one we inhabit – a world of safety, dignity, and bodily autonomy for all girls.”

Speaking of dignity, IDinsight recently launched the Dignity Self Assessment — a free tool to help organizational leaders know how attuned they are to best practices in affirming the dignity of the people they serve. 

And here are a few other resources you may find interesting:

  • Last month we wrote all about supporting more inclusive data generation. This month I shared my thoughts on the role of data and evidence in advancing gender equity with Alfonsina Peñaloza from Co-Impact and Sarah T. Lucas from IDinsight on IDInsight’s podcast.
  • The Zambia History Museum has a great online exhibit on “Leading Ladies,” showcasing the forgotten histories of  women who long held influential leadership positions “before the west introduced patriarchy that we [in Zambia] now call our own,” as Samba Yonga, co-founder of the museum, expresses in this podcast.
  • The World Education Reform Database (WERD) “contains over 10,000 policy changes reported by 183 countries, mainly since the 1970s.”
  • Here is a summary of studies related to education that were presented at the Centre for the Study of African Economies’ annual conference. There is a whole section on studies looking at girls’ education and womens’ equality, so you’ll find more about the effect of showing teachers in Pakistan a movie on gender dynamics, impacts of a life skills and girls’ clubs intervention in Nigeria, how constructing a new university affected girls’ school completion in Ethiopia, and more.
  • We were intrigued by the recent findings from the OECD on schools as hubs for social and emotional learning – Are schools and teachers ready. Although the study took place in largely higher resource settings (major cities in Colombia, South Korea, Finland, USA, Turkey, Canada, Portugal, and China) one finding that stuck out is that teachers who have had more opportunities to learn about social and emotional topics report that they themselves have higher self-efficacy, use of more active learning pedagogies and better quality relationships at school.
  • The Early Childhood Development and Action Network (ECDAN) launched the ChildCare4all website. You’ll find resources to learn about childcare, to connect with others in this space, and to advocate “to ensure that every child and family has access to affordable and high quality childcare services.”
  • The World Health Organization rolled out the Global Scales for Early Development (GSED) tool to monitor the development of young children at population level up to three years of age.

And don’t forget to send in your nominations for the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education by May 19th!