Building a Better Future for Vulnerable Female Youth in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Partner: War Child Canada
In line with 60 million girls’ mission of increasing access to education for the most vulnerable and marginalized girls, this project, in partnership with War Child Canada (WCC), will strive to increase educational participation and retention rates for female youth in the Fizi District of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).Girls and young women are empowered when they possess the knowledge and skills to improve their future opportunities, and when they can confidently engage the community on issues that affect them, while at the same time participate in important decisions that affect their lives. It has been proven that educating a young girl and equipping her with practical skills and knowledge can have ripple effects within the community, on maternity and child health, and on the overall economic and political stability of society.
The DRC is struggling to find peace after years of conflict, which has left 5.4 million people dead and forced millions from their homes. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 80% of the population live in conditions of extreme poverty. In 2010, the DRC ranked 168 out of 169 countries on the Human Development Index. The region also has a very high concentration of both youth and ex-child soldiers. As a result of conflict, 5.2 million children do not have access to formal education. Retention of students, due to economic pressures, also remains a problem. Girls face additional obstacles when it comes to education, such as early marriage, domestic chores, poverty, and families prioritizing male education. The gender gap is seen in that only 46% as opposed to 67% of boys complete primary school, while only 29% of girls as opposed to 51% of boys complete secondary school. The long terms effects include the fact that only one out of every two women in the DRC is illiterate. To cause further vulnerability, the DRC is among the 10 least gender-equal countries in the world and has been called the worst place in the world to be a woman due to the overwhelming instances of sexual violence towards women and girls.
Support from the 60 million girls Foundation in the form of a $100,000 grant will be guided by the following objectives and activities:
- Education: Increase participation of female youth in educational opportunities. The Accelerated Learning program (ALP) and Functional Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) programs provide catch-up skills and knowledge to children and youth affected by war.
- The ALP program delivers a condensed basic school curriculum to prepare girls to re-enter the formal education system. The FLN program provides female youth with the knowledge and skills to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities. War Child offers both of these programs because thousands of school age children and female youth have massive gaps in their formal education or have missed out entirely on attending school due to the conflict. During the war, schools and teachers were specifically targeted.
- Teacher Training in ALP and FLN: To teach these programs, teachers certified by the Ministry of Education are identified and trained in ALP and FLN curriculum. Due to the conflict, many teachers have not taught in years. War Child’s teacher training program offers teacher training refresher certification courses, which allow teachers to teach in the formal education system as well as ALP and FLN programs. The teachers are also trained in ‘Le Bon Enseignant’ program, which is a teacher-training curriculum that specializes in child-friendly and child-focused teaching techniques. The manual (created by War Child) covers topics from classroom planning to student motivation and outdoor education planning. The manual trains teachers in techniques of pedagogy. For example, it trains teachers in classroom management and constructive ways to discipline children without using corporal punishment and abusive language (and, sometimes, even sexual assault).
- Youth Education Committees: In order to increase participation in ALP and FLN programs, Youth Education Committees, composed of youth, teachers and parents, are formed to open dialogue with local chiefs, elders and the community on the importance of education for girls and female youth. This aspect of the program is of utmost importance and is very simple in design: community members gather in informal circles and discuss education and girls’ rights in the community. These discussions allow for the sharing of knowledge and airing of concerns. This will result in a strengthened supportive environment for vulnerable girls and female youth within their communities. The Youth Education Committee also selects the girls and youth who participate in ALP and FLN programs. Girls and female youth can also approach the Youth Education Committee or War Child with their interest in enrolling in the program.
- Capacity Building: Increase action taken by female youth to protect themselves and reduce violence, exploitation and gender-based discrimination in their communities.
- Capacity Building Programs: The Capacity Building programs consist of life skills training for girls and female youth and community sensitization on critical issues facing girls and female youth. The objective of the Capacity Building Program is to increase action taken by girls and female youth to protect themselves against violence and reduce exploitation and gender-based discrimination in their communities.
- Life Skills Training for Girls and Female Youth: Life skills training is delivered to girls and female youth over three-month periods and includes modules on Child Rights and Protection, Conflict Management and Peace-building and Effective Communication for Peace. The life skills training provides girls and female youth with a well-rounded knowledge of themselves, their rights, their role in both conflict and peace, and how to make their voices heard. The life skills curriculum involves participatory discussion, allowing youth to learn and hear from each other.
- Leadership Development: Increase community leadership roles taken on by female youth through multi-media projects, including radio and journalism.
- Leadership Development and Community Sensitization: Girls and female youth receive training on sensitizing and engaging the community on issues that they face, and especially on sexual and gender-based violence. Youth identify issues and plan sensitization activities relevant to them and to their community, through events, radio, culture and art. Youth raise awareness on child rights, sexual violence, the importance of educating girls and the problems associated with early marriage of girls, among other topics. These youth act as peer educators and awareness-raising agents.
Why a partnership with War Child Canada?
60 million girls has chosen to partner with War Child Canada because of the grassroots, community-based program it has developed that looks at education as a means to also empower and protect girls and women so that they may become strong partners in the development of their communities and their country. The proposed program not only offers education to girls and female youth, where few schools are left standing after the war, in order to improve their future opportunities, but also equips them with knowledge and skills which they can use to engage the community on issues that affect them. Some of these issues include the ending of sexual and gender-based violence (which is rampant in South Kivu with 40 women sexually assaulted every day), awareness on the urgency of girls’ education, and other issues such as the harm caused by early marriage. Girls and female youth are therefore engaged beyond formal education and literacy and numeracy courses; they are offered a safe space where they can talk openly about the issues that affect them and share experiences. Together, they plan community engagement and outreach events to change attitudes, harmful cultural practices and, most importantly, patriarchy and discrimination against them.
60 million girls appreciates WCC’s lean administrative costs, its interest in long term and sustainable development of the communities it works with and its clear striving to learn from past projects and improve its support of children in violence-filled environments.