Friday, April 27, 2018

About CEF ~ a long blog with details and statistics

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 ago.

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 school.

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 neighbour.
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 poverty.

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 secondary education.

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.

Increase literacy:
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 reading skills.

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 marry later.

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 adolescent girls.

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 countries.

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 communities.


1 comment:

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