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No Girl Left Behind: Plan International in Zimbabwe

11 Oct 2021 - Munashe, Kaplan Student Ambassador

At Kaplan, we believe that everyone should have access to a good education. Every life transformed through education contributes to shaping the future of our planet. We also believe passionately in gender equality. There’s lots of research to show that when a society invests in educating girls, everyone benefits.

That’s why we support Plan International’s work in Zimbabwe to get 16,500 girls back into school to give them a better start in life. The programme is called SAGE. It’s an acronym for Supporting Adolescent Girls into Education.

Kaplan Student Ambassador Munashe is from Zimbabwe and here she shares what Plan International’s SAGE programme means to her.

Being a girl in Zimbabwe

girl child in Zimbabwe

Growing up in Zimbabwe, I came across girls my age who could have been sitting at the same desk as me at school, but instead they were housekeepers, vendors and some had even married already.

In parts of the country, nearly a third of secondary school age girls are not in education. Some have never had the chance to go to school while others have had to drop out early.

Put simply, they were robbed of being children because life happened; their parents either passed away or they could only afford to send the boys to school. Educating girls is often considered less important than educating boys because much of society thinks daughters should marry early and leave the family home.

Some of these girls end up in abusive marriages and cannot leave because they would have nothing and would therefore find it difficult to fend for themselves.

I also grew up watching the women in my family juggling motherhood and education, and I saw the strains this put on them. “You should learn while you are still young because education will open many doors for you” is a statement I hear often.

“You should learn while you are still young because education will open up many doors for you”

But what about others who are not so lucky and who do not have strong female figures to strengthen them, and who are always weighed down by the patriarchy? Where will they find their voice?

Plan International’s SAGE programme

teacher helping student to write

We all know that when someone is educated, they will start seeing the world through a different lens. It could be that some girls who have previously been pinned down by gender inequality start to become aware of their rights and educate others. As the saying goes: empowered women empower women.

The inspirational Michelle Obama once said “when girls are educated, their countries become stronger and more prosperous”. It’s been shown that educating girls can transform an economy. Therefore, we should not leave any girl behind if we want to see real change. In a country where 41% of the population is under 14 years old, education is critical.

That’s why I am so excited by the work that Plan International is doing for girls in Zimbabwe. Real change starts when people support initiatives like SAGE.

Plan International is working with communities in 11 districts across Zimbabwe to offer out-of-school girls a way back into education. They do this by listening to girls and tackling the issues that lead them to drop out of school. They also challenge harmful attitudes in communities about girls’ worth and abilities.

Plan is establishing 110 community Learning Hubs, where girls can attend flexible classes in a non-judgmental environment. By working with communities, they are creating support structures for girls who have dropped out. They engage with community leaders, families, and schools to help girls achieve their potential without barriers.

For example, at all Learning Hubs, there are Positive Masculinity Clubs for 1,014 fathers and husbands in total. This is particularly exciting because it’s so important to include men in any initiative whose aim is gender equality.

So far, 7,340 girls are enrolled in Plan International’s SAGE programme and 88 Learning Hubs are up and running safely. Some Hubs are even trialling digital learning! In addition, 271 Hub volunteers are trained in disability inclusion and 132 in mental health first aid.

The SAGE programme is giving girls a chance to dream again and finally discover what it is they really want to be.

In conclusion, educating girls is simply saying no to poverty, no to child marriages, no to inequality. And it’s saying yes to safety, yes to strong and prosperous nations, and yes to giving women a voice.

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