Stories of the horrific injustices relating to girls’ education are well known but there is an example of hope: a sparkle of success emerging for the world to see.
One-third of the girls in the developing world who are out of school, live in South Asia. Yet, in UN reports Sri Lanka is highlighted (along with India) as an exception. There, 90% of women are literate and 97% of girls are in enrolled in primary school (2010).
In this article on the Huffington Post blog, Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona discusses Sri Lanka’s long history in policies of gender equality and women empowerment. Child labor is outlawed, maternity leave is generous, widows are supported− each of these policies demonstrate the value of women and children in the society. Education as a whole is also extremely valued in Sri Lanka. Luke Smolinski describes how education was esteemed even during the civil war when terrorists ransacked the North. Luke (2013, Oct 4) writes, “Classroom tables and chairs were dragged from village to village so as to maintain some form of education”.
It seems Sri Lanka’s support of girls and their education is paying off. Infant and maternal mortality are down, absolute poverty is down, unemployment is at 3.9 %. All fantastic results compared to the regional statistics.
Where as in many developing countries educational enrollments plummet after primary school, Sri Lanka maintains high and rising enrollment rates in secondary and tertiary school. Girls are now the ones leading the way in the nation’s universities, making up the most number of graduates in medical, teaching and nursing schools. Sri Lanka ranks ‘medium’ in the Human Development Index, a ranking achieved mainly by countries far above Sri Lanka’s in middle class income and economic wealth.
Last week in class we learned about the different approaches to feminism (WID, WAD AND GAD) Ambassador Kohona would make an excellent spokeman for the Women In Development campaign. Like the WID approach, he mentions all the capitalist benefits to including women in development. However, there is nothing in his discussion of gender “equality” about how girls are actually treated in school or women in the home. He mentions that girls are the majority of graduates in medicine, teaching and nurses. Two of these are female dominated professions everywhere. Is Sri Lanka also graduating rising numbers of women in the areas of Science, business and computers? It seems to me that Sri Lanka probably is promoting equality across all areas in order to get these kinds of results but I would like to have read about that more in this article.
Still, with all the news articles circulating out there about the lack of girls’ education I have to say this one makes me hopeful. It’s a bit troubling to me that I couldn’t find any other newspapers writing about Sri Lanka. So many articles cover the inequality in gender education and make loud calls for something to be done but often stop there. No one ever really proposes solutions. Here is a case of one country who is doing it right and reaping the benefits. Take note world!
Kohona, P. (2013, September 25). Sri Lanka: advancing gender equality with carefully calculated strategies. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ambassador-dr-palitha-tb-kohona/sri-lanka-advancing-gende_b_3991231.html
Smolinski, L. (2013, October 4). S Asia education Pt2: Sri Lanka’s schools offer hope. Retrieved from http://blogs.ft.com/beyond-brics/2013/10/04/s-asia-education-pt2-sri-lankas-schools-offer-hope/#axzz2hnjpNN94