In many developing countries, women are responsible for most of the daily care of children. It will be their knowledge that can contribute most to improving children’s health and reducing, among other things, child mortality. Therefore, education for girls and women plays a key role in combating poverty.
Secondary school important
It is especially girls’ schooling at the lower secondary level that provides major benefits in the form of poverty reduction, gender equality, participation in working life and improved reproductive health, according to the UNFPA report The World Population Report 2005. The report shows that mothers with education are also more concerned of sending their children to school.
5: How can Shonglap education change?
According to HARVARDSHOES, the funds that Norwegian students work in during Operation Dagsverk 2008 , go to the Strømme Foundation’s Shonglap project in Bangladesh. Shonglap is a one-year education for unmarried girls between the ages of 11 and 19, who have missed school. The program is not an alternative to regular schooling, but an addition – an education these girls would otherwise never have received.
Becoming independent and proud
The Shonglap education mixes elements from “the pedagogy of the oppressed”, developed by the Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, with local tradition, song, dance and drama. The training is divided into three sections.
- During the first half of the year, the girls learn about conditions that are important for living a good life in the family and in the local community. Central here are health, hygiene, rights and awareness.
- This is followed by a three-month reading and writing course.
- Finally, the girls receive training in various types of occupations and income-generating activities. It can be anything from sewing, batik and embroidery to animal husbandry and mushroom growing.
The goal of the Shonglap education is to make the girls proud and independent – give them knowledge about their own rights and the opportunity to earn their own money. So that they can become more financially independent, make their own choices and avoid premature marriage, forced prostitution and abuse.
The word Shonglap means dialogue in Bengali and refers to several different forms of dialogue that occur in the teaching: For example, the girls like to sit in a circle and talk about different topics. But the Shonglap education is about more than opening up for a good dialogue between the girls. It’s just as much about creating dialogue between the girls and the parents, the girls and the boys, the girls and the rest of society.
6: What about the boys?
As girls are most behind in terms of schooling and because investing in girls’ education has proven to be most effective in the fight against poverty, this is a natural place to start. But at the same time, it is important to include the boys . They too are entitled to education and also their attitudes must change in order to create greater equality between the sexes.
In many places in Bangladesh, the boys have shown great interest in what the girls have learned through the Shonglap project. They have seen the change the girls are going through and want to take part in this. With the funds from the NPD 2008, the Strømme Foundation will also develop an offer for young boys in Bangladesh.
7: Tomorrow’s parents
To date, about 15,000 girls have completed the Shonglap education. And they know how important this has been in their lives. Unlike Rupali, the young girl who became a mother when she was twelve, they have been saved from premature marriage. Some have even made a living, while others have persuaded their parents to let them continue in public school.
But perhaps most important of all: They have gone from being silent and oppressed to becoming proud and independent. With the help of the NPD 2008, even more people will have this opportunity. Over the next five years, 100,000 young people can take the Shonglap education. And the ripple effects will extend even further.
– We are the mothers of tomorrow. What we learn will improve the lives of the next generation, says Shonglap student Bichitra Mondal (14).
8: The education that changed lives
– Without the Shonglap education, we would have been completely lost, says 14-year-old Champa Akhter and her friend Monira Kharim, who both completed Shonglap in the summer of 2007.
– We have learned so much about life. Far more than just reading and writing. We have gotten to know ourselves better and gained new self-confidence, Champa and Monira say.
The girls say that they underwent a transformation during the Shonglap education. Before they started, they were like most girls in Bangladesh: shy and afraid to talk. And they did not dare to come up with their own opinions. But now they are completely different. They radiate confidence and almost talk to each other when talking about what Shonglap has meant to them.
Today, they run two embroidery businesses with five other girls. They embroider everything from elaborate rugs to beautiful saris that they sell at the local market. Now they are no longer an expense item for the parents, but a valuable resource in the family.