Children's Education Foundation (CEF) is unique in that it
provides a broad range of learning opportunities for adolescent girls enabling
them to have a well rounded education, to be safe and wiser, giving them a
future with choices and the opportunity to end their family's cycle of poverty.
To this end, we do what we can to keep girls in school, in
their local communities or with any remaining living relatives so as to avoid
them having to go to a boarding school. We have seen how girls become
disconnected from their communities and remaining family when removed. We visit
our students in their homes biannually to check how they are doing in school
and with home work, as well as monitor their health and that of their families.
We review the family income, expenses and debts and check on the safety of the
home structure and on their livestock. On top of this, CEF university students
receive monthly mentoring.
Our events and workshops cover subjects they don't learn
about at school that are essential to help them stay safe and well, both
physically and emotionally, and to understand money and budgeting. Subjects
covered are human trafficking, child labour, child sexual abuse, female health
and hygiene, sex education, contraception and life skills, such as budgeting
and goal setting. Annually we teach water safety theory, floating and swimming
to our students, as it is estimated that 35 children drown each day in Viet Nam.
Other support programs include literacy, health, nutrition and food support and
we give bikes to the students to get to school.
CEF students from the Vietnam-Laos border who received flood relief funds from CEF
Small budgeting workshop
Small budgeting workshop
Students from one of our small budgeting workshops
CEF University students studying in the north after a workshop on human trafficking
Our programs are important for the girls we work with as
they are from a low socio-economic demographic, predominantly from rural and
remote farming communities, with the majority of parents having only had a
basic education of less than five years and some no education whatsoever.
Additionally, some farming families have no income and sell off rice when they
have a bill or cost to pay, and some of the men take on seasonal work which
brings in about $150 a month while it lasts. Women farmers do cleaning and
childcare when they have a child in university, but to do this they have to
live away from home earning $100 a month.
CEF has several key goals and the most crucial is simply to
do what we can to keep girls from poor families in school as long as they have
the ability and preferably until they graduate.
Another goal is to see them have freedom of choice in the
future, much more than their parents and grandparents, who generally married
young, bore children at a young age or many children in a short time. With this
purpose in mind we started sex education and family planning lessons two years
Explaining about contraceptive devices and where they are placed
A major goal is to keep girls safe from traffickers by
bringing an awareness to them of this subject and the grooming methods used.
Trafficking throughout Viet Nam is common serving the local sex establishments
such as hair dressers, massage parlours and karaoke bars.
Another important goal is to educate girls, parents and
grandparents about sexual abuse with the goal of keeping the girls safe.
The goal of helping females stay in school has led us to
gradually increase our staffing enabling us to achieve the outcome of helping
more girls remain there. In the 2017-2018 academic year we have 220 females in
With the goal in mind of supporting girls to have freedom of choice in the
future, unburdened by a family well before they are ready, we started sex
education and family planning workshops two years ago. Even though we only help
a small number of girls there has been a reduction in pregnancies among them.
The goal of keeping girls safe from human traffickers
resulted in us running workshops on Human Trafficking and Child Labour. We were
pleased we did as our most vulnerable girls had no idea that this really was an
issue and felt safer and more empowered knowing more about it and how to avoid
it happening to them.
With many cases of child sexual abuse in the papers and on
the TV news over the last year we knew we now could get permission to run
workshops on this sensitive subject. Parents and children were all shocked to
learn that this is not just on the news but also in communities near them and
were grateful to have the opportunity to be well informed. They were provided
with emergency numbers, but also given our number to call and told they could
call any time. One girl told us soon afterwards that she had been abused by a
Putting the case for the importance of focusing on girls
here in Viet Nam is based on the reality of what is happening around us and
what I have learned after many years of living and working here. There is a
dearth of reliable data in Vietnam. CEF staff have researched for days and
found little significant or consistent data. Whether it is what we see or what
we read, there are many excellent arguments supporting the importance of
focusing on girls. In my writing and presentations, I talk about the subject
and tell stories, but I use few statistics as its hard to source accurate,
consistent and reliable data. In my argument below for concentrating on
adolescent girls I have used some statistics which I judge to be relevant.
Discrimination of girls in education:
All humans have an equal right to an education. Sadly this is simply not seen
in many countries. Here in Viet Nam the discrimination against the education of
girls is gradually diminishing, but in the more remote and ethnic communities
progress towards accepting this is slow. In some communities around the world
families still discriminate against the education of a girl child. About 57
million children around the world are not going to school. A UNESCO report
stated that 95% of the 28.5 million children not getting a primary school
education, live in low and lower-middle income countries, with 44% in
sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in south and west Asia and 14% in the Arab states.
Girls make up 55% of the total and are often the victims of rape and other
sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts.
Lack of equality:
In Viet Nam most families, when having to choose which one of their children
will go to school, will choose a male. Many jobs go predominately to males even
when a female is capable of doing the job, such as being a physical education or
physics teacher. The hard and exhausting work, the dirty work, is carried out
mainly by women. The building construction assistants, the garbage collectors,
the garbage recyclers, the farmers and the employed farming labourers are
mainly women as the men consider these jobs beneath their dignity. When a
husband dies, his wife is lucky if the family let her stay in the home, as they
consider it the home of the man, even though she may have lived there for
twenty years and have several children.
Vulnerable to being trafficked:
Girls and young women are most vulnerable to human trafficking when they are
undereducated and poor, according to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on
Human Trafficking. Through providing young girls with education opportunities
and fundamental skills, this billion-dollar industry can be significantly
undermined. Sadly Viet Nam is a source country as well as a transit and
destination country for trafficked girls. Trafficking into Cambodia for the sex
trade continues, as well as into China supplying brides to Chinese men. Girls
are trafficked to work in Laos and Thailand, with some destined for Europe,
sometimes for sex, but also for labour. In Viet Nam in 2009, 300 women in the
northern areas of Viet Nam were reported missing. Since 2010, 5,375 trafficked
victims and 1,213 perpetrators have been identified. In 2013, 900 victims were
rescued. Pacific Links say it is hard to obtain accurate figures and they
estimate as many as 1 in10 girls and women are currently trafficked in Viet Nam.
In 2016, the guards at just one northern Viet Nam border post discovered 16
human trafficking cases and rescued 10 women and three children.
Vulnerable to sexual abuse:
From 2011 to 2015 there were 5,300 cases of child sexual abuse in Viet Nam.
Today, one child is abused every 8 hours; 16% of the victims are boys and 84%
are girls, aged 13-18 years old. In 2016, there were 1,024 cases of child
sexual abuse in Viet Nam. 93% of abusers are known to the children and 47% of
them are their relatives. Educated girls are less likely to be victims of
domestic and sexual violence or to tolerate it in their own families.
The continuation factor:
Future generations of girls will be educated when a girl is educated because
when she becomes a mother she will support her children to have a full
education knowing the benefits it has brought her. As many claim, investing in
a girl’s education is investing in a nation. This African proverb says it all:
"If we educate a boy, we educate a person. If we educate a girl, we educate
a family - and a whole nation."
Educated girls help break the poverty cycle:
The poverty cycle can be broken and educating girls is crucial to achieving
this. The statistics support this.
An extra year of primary school education boosts girls' eventual wages by
10–20%. An extra year of secondary schooling adds 15–25%. This can make a big
difference in helping to break the poverty cycle.
Women invest 90% of their income in their households, as opposed to men’s
30-40%, leading to healthier, better educated children and families and less
Reduce unemployment of women:
A decrease in the number of women out of work occurs when they are educated. In
Brazil, only 37% of women in work didn't complete primary school. This rises to
50% if they had a primary education, and to 60% if they completed their
Reduce births, HIV and AIDS:
Education is associated with increased contraception use, less underage or
premarital sex and lower HIV/AIDS risks, in addition so females who go to school
are less likely to get HIV and AIDS and consequently pass it on to their
children. The Girls Global Education Fund reports that when a child is born to
a woman in Africa who hasn't received an education, the child has a 1 in 5
chance of dying before the age of 5. Women with secondary education are more
likely to know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, an infection
that contributed to 230,000 fatalities in 2011 alone. When a girl in the
developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years
later and has 2.2 fewer children.Young women having knowledge about health care
and contraception results in delayed conception, fewer pregnancies, and
therefore a reduced risk of dying in child birth, or during the post partum period.
There is a strong correlation between the age of the mother and maternal
mortality and morbidity. Girls aged 10-14 are five times more likely to die in
pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24. Girls aged 15-19 are twice as
likely to die. The vast majority of these deaths take place when a girl of
school age marries.
Literacy transforms lives and without schooling it is hard to become literate.
Of the 163 million illiterate youths across the globe, nearly 63 percent are
female. Some 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty, reducing the
global rate by 12%, if all students in low-income countries acquired basic
Save human lives:
Over the past four decades, the global increase in women’s education has prevented
more than 4 million child deaths. In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 1.8
million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if all their mothers had
had at least a secondary education.
Reduce child marriage and its impacts:
Sending girls to school, and keeping them there, may be one of the best ways to
foster later, consensual marriage. Child brides are much more likely to drop
out of school and complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry
later. This affects the education and health of their children, as well as the
child bride's ability to earn a living. According to a recent UN report, more
than 41,000 girls under the age of 18 marry every day. Putting an end to this
practice would not only increase women’s expected educational attainment, but
their potential earnings too. According to estimates, ending child marriage
could generate more than $500 billion in benefits annually.
In some countries, child marriage involves girls as young as
6 and almost always results in the end of a girl’s schooling. In Viet Nam it is
not uncommon in ethnic communities for girls to marry at 11 or 12 years of age.
The result is illiterate or barely literate young mothers without adequate
tools to build healthy, educated families.
A decrease in child marriage takes place when girls are
educated. On average, for every year a girl stays in school past fifth grade,
her marriage is delayed a year.
Girls with higher levels of education are less likely to
have children at an early age. 10% fewer girls would become pregnant under 17
years old in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they all had a
primary education. If they all had a secondary education almost 60% fewer girls
would become pregnant under 17 years old in sub-Saharan Africa and South and
West Asia .
Studies show a correlation between girls’ educational levels
and age at marriage: a higher median age at marriage directly correlates with
higher rates of girls in school.
Girls who marry before age 18 are twice as likely to report
being beaten, slapped or threatened by their husbands compared to girls who
Compared with women aged 20 to 24, girls aged 10 to 14 are
five times more likely to die from childbirth and girls 15 to 19 are up to
twice as likely.
Increase child nutrition:
Educated mothers provide improved child nutrition. If all women had a primary
education, 1.7 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition.
This rises to 12 million children if all women had a secondary education.
Reduce population growth:
Educated women generally have fewer and healthier babies. A UNESCO 2000 study
in Brazil found that literate women had an average of 2.5 children while
illiterate women had an average of six children.
Increase understanding and participation in politics:
Educated women are more interested in and more likely to take part in political
discussions, meetings, and decision-making. Across the globe, women are
underrepresented as voters and restricted from political involvement. The
United Nations Women’s programmes on leadership and participation asserts that
civic education, training and all around empowerment will close this gap.
Improve socioeconomic growth:
Educated women have a greater chance of escaping poverty, leading healthier and
more productive lives, and raising the standard of living for their children,
families, and communities. Some 171 million people could be lifted out of
poverty – reducing the global rate by 12% - if all students in low-income
countries acquired basic reading skills. Getting all children into basic
education, while raising learning standards, could boost growth by 2% annually
in low-income countries. When women are provided with equal rights and equal
access to education, they go on to participate in business and economic activity.
Increased earning power and income combat current and future poverty through
feeding, clothing and providing for entire families.
Gross domestic product also soars when both girls and boys
are being offered educational opportunities. When 10 percent more girls attend
school, GDP increases by three percent on average.
CEF is still a young organization and the changes that
having a full education will bring about for the children our students will
have and for their communities won't be seen for some time. However, even in
such a short time as the 15 years CEF has been supporting girls, I find it very
exciting to see the differences it makes for a girl to be educated and how
profound the changes can be. This is particularly true when you compare generations.
Although the following stories show shorter term benefits of educating girls,
the promise of broader, longer lasting changes is implicit in them.
Hong and Hang have a single mother and a grandmother who are both garbage
collectors. Both mother and grandmother suffer from poor health, so their
income is unstable. The mother also farms a small area of rice growing land and
if there are no pest invasions, serious flooding or typhoons then she can feed
herself, her mother and her two daughters. Her income is not enough to pay for
the education and education related costs of her two daughters and both were at
risk of being withdrawn from school when in grade 6 and grade 10 when both
their education costs had jumped considerably. Sponsorship of the two girls and
some medical support for mum has enabled them to stay in education and helped
mum's health to improve enabling her to work more consistently. The eldest
graduates from university in three months and has done really well and the
younger is an exceptional high school student. They have so many more options
than their mother or grandmother, who as uneducated women could do little else
than work recycling garbage.
Hang, mum and Hong
Diem's father died many years ago and mum, who has advanced heart disease,
unable to work enough to cover her daughter's education costs as well as her
son's, chose to keep her son in education and send him to university. A
sponsorship for Diem enabled her to stay in school. She has also been sponsored
through high school and college and has done well, graduating in two months
time. The change in her has been a delightful surprise as when we took her on
she was quite changeable and had erratic results and we really wondered if she
would stay in school. Mum now has kidney failure and Diem is determined to
complete her studies as well as help care for her mother part time, while her
brother helps the rest of the time.
Ly is in grade 11 and we have helped her to stay in school
by providing a sponsorship since she was in grade 4 when she was quite a wild
and angry child abandoned by her mother and forced to live with her
grandparents. She wants a better life than the exhausting ones led by the women
she sees in her local farming community. Granny's leg was injured in the Viet
Nam war and she can only do a little vegetable gardening while granddad sold
lottery tickets until two months ago, when he became too old and weak. We have
provided food support through this time as all relatives are too poor to help
support them. Both their education and food support have been increased
recently now that grandad has no income. Ly will be given a university
sponsorship, and wants to work part time to help support her grandparents.
Ly with granny
CEF would benefit from professional NGO help from
researchers to find relevant statistics related to Viet Nam, and from grant
writers to write the grant applications for funding of our programs for
Some final points from 'Together for Girls' to support the case of the
importance of education for adolescent girls. In the world today there are 1.2
billion adolescents aged 10 to 19. In fact, today’s youth generation is the
largest in history and half of them are girls. While children aged 0 to 5 have
received great focus from the international community for decades and women
have gained increasingly strong attention within the global development agenda,
a “girl gap” persists over the period of adolescence. Development assistance
has historically bypassed adolescent girls by grouping them with women or
children, but not as a category of their own.
Research shows that participants and beneficiaries of
“youth” programs are primarily male, sometimes by as much as 80-90 percent
meaning that programming that targets adolescents as a broad category generally
fails to reach girls. When programming does target adolescent girls, often it
is only those already in positions of privilege that are able to take part. The
most vulnerable girls, such as those who are married, indigenous, or live in
rural areas, are the hardest to reach.
Adolescence is a critical period, when a girl’s future
potential and opportunities can flourish through education, economic
opportunities and psychosocial support. Or, that potential can be stunted and
stifled by the irreversible effects of child marriage, early pregnancy, HIV,
and other preventable hardships. Fulfilling the rights of adolescent girls to
health, education and protection from violence and abuse-ensures they have the
chance to achieve their physical, emotional and social potential, and can go on
to become empowered women who can support their families, communities, and
Less than two cents of every development dollar goes to
programs specifically for adolescent girls, but they are the key to breaking
the cycle of poverty. The five founders of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls
sought to fill that gap in development assistance through concerted, innovative
efforts to drive support towards millions of adolescent girls in the poorest