On this International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate the great work being done by Scottish Organisations across the world to fight gender inequality, empower girls and reduce the risk of exploitation.

School girl in rural Ethiopa, by Link Community Development.jpg

School girl in rural Ethiopa, credit - Link Community Development

131 million young and adolescent girls worldwide are out of school. Those who are in school often struggle to receive a quality education in overcrowded schools, with substandard sanitary provision and social norms that prioritise boys’ learning. Millions of girls also enter early marriages, and bear children at a very young age. Most of those have no opportunities for training or a career, and this situation perpetuates poverty, disease, and suffering.

Clearly, there is much to be done, but Scottish charities are committed to breaking this cycle. By working with communities around education and training, they work holistically to address the gender imbalance, promote girls’ well-being and protection, and ultimately transform communities, offering a sustainable, long-term escape from poverty.

‘When you educate the girl-child, you educate the whole Nation’ (Mercy Sibande, MMF Malawi Manager)

Link Community Development (Link) and the Mamie Martin Fund (MMF) are supporting girls in sub-Saharan Africa to get a quality secondary education. MMF provides schools fees and support including uniforms, sanitary pads and notebooks to girls most in need in northern Malawi, where just 34% of classes are female. Through a partnership with Soko Fund some girls are awarded further funding to pursue tertiary education and university studies. Link are working directly with 63,000 marginalised girls in rural Ethiopia. They provide material help, but girls’ needs beyond the classroom are also addressed as they are connected with role models, taught financial and other life skills and are offered guidance and counselling. Crucially, Link also works extensively with communities to create attitudinal change, helping parents and teachers to see the importance and rewards of educating their girls which is essential to achieve long-term transformation. Child protection training, implementation and sustainability are thoroughly interwoven through the project design.

“For the first time in my experience … girls have ranked first at all grade levels which gives me so much happiness. This is evidence that Link’s interventions are working” (Headteacher, Ethiopia who worked with Link Community Development)

These charities empower girls to gain a quality education, creating an environment where all women and girls in the community face reduced risk of discrimination, exploitation, abuse, and neglect. Beyond the classroom Scottish charities also provide vocational training to provide careers and livelihoods for women.

Starchild works with vulnerable women and children in Uganda providing training in animal husbandry, poultry, horticulture and tailoring. Sewing machines, fabrics and threads have also been provided. Having a trade means the women can earn an income making school uniforms, bedding and clothes for the community. Starchild encourages the women to save and teaches them life skills, encouraging them to be innovative and develop business ideas and activities that can help transform their lives and those of their children.

 “Because of the Makapads provided by Starchild, we have seen an increase in the girl child uptake at our school. The girls are happier and stay in school because they are not teased by the boys. They no longer have to stay at home and miss exams and can complete their education.” (David Wamala Paul - Deputy Head Kabungo Secondary School, Masaka)

Similarly, in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, Renew SCIO supports orphans and widows of park rangers who, due to political instability, economic and social struggle, have lost their lives whilst protecting irreplaceable natural resources and wildlife. These women and children are more likely to be economically and physically exploited. Renew SCIO and its grassroots partner organisation, the Park Rangers Widows and Orphans Project, provides access to education for the children and training in sewing, support to create local cooperatives and investment in rearing livestock for the women. The training and support provided by Starchild and Renew brings about sustainable, transformative change for women, giving them a source of income, and a voice, protecting them from exploitation and discrimination.

In middle-income countries such as India, girls can still get left behind. Scottish Charities EMMS International and Scottish Love in Action recognise this, and both work to support projects in India specifically aimed at helping girls to access education and achieve a brighter future.

A teenage girl learning to tailor clothing in a rural area of the northern Indian State of Bihar, credit EMMS International.JPG

A teenage girl learning to tailor clothing in a rural area of the northern Indian State of Bihar, credit EMMS International

EMMS International partners with the Duncan Hospital, which works specifically to reach women and children in the northern state of Bihar, while in southern India, Scottish Love in Action works with the ASRITHA Rainbow Home, which cares for 100 girls formerly living on the streets of Hyderabad. To help address limited access to education and healthcare, EMMS holds workshops specifically for girls, educating them at rural health clinics. These teenagers, who are typically kept out of school by their families, are being taught practical skills that promote independence, such as tailoring, and basic computing.

Happy and healthy girl at ASRITHA Rainbow Home in Hyderabad in Southern India.JPG

Happy and healthy girl at ASRITHA Rainbow Home in Hyderabad in Southern India, Credit - SLA

In Hyderabad, Rainbow Homes converts underused rooms in Government schools into residential homes for girls who have been living rough on the streets so they can then enter mainstream education in these same schools. Many of the girls who come to the home have never attended school. SLA work intensively with these girls to improve their social skills empowering them to take charge of their own education and future in a safe and loving environment.

“Rainbow Homes is an inspiring and uplifting illustration of how to rescue and rehabilitate vulnerable street children. Their unique model of public-private partnership is a catalyst for the successful operation of 45 Homes across India, caring for more than 3,800 children. Their approach is recognised by experts as an example of best practice, achieving excellent results.” (Michelle Davitt, SLA CEO)

Similarly, by facilitating online access and group research projects on the role of girls in society, EMMS also aims to raise awareness about the exclusion that many girls experience through to adulthood and challenge negative cultural practices by educating children and teenagers.

“We are delighted with the progress of this project – these young people are poised for change! It’s a privilege to support them as they build a brighter future for themselves”. (Karen Reid, EMMS International Director of Fundraising)

These innovative projects demonstrate the valuable and varied work Scottish charities are undertaking to create lasting change and opportunities for women and girls across the globe. By providing a formal education, vocational training, material help and support, communities are lifted out of poverty and the risks of sexual discrimination and abuse are greatly diminished. It is only by recognising and unlocking the huge potential and power of women and girls that this is possible.

This piece was written by a group of Alliance member organisations, led by Lyndsey Rae, Communications and Administration Officer at Link Community Development in conjunction with Lewis Ryder-Jones, Policy, Advocacy and Communications Officer at Scotland’s International Development Alliance (the Alliance). Please contact Lewis for more information.https://www.intdevalliance.scot/.   It was published by The Alliance and Cable Magazine in March 2018

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