10 CountriesAfghanistanNo country is more associated with the struggles surrounding girls and education than Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is in the midst of massive changes and, after decades of exclusion, girls are getting back to school across the country. The tragedy and hope of girls education is writ large in the mountains of Afghanistan.
10 CountriesCambodiaCambodia's children are suffering for the sins of their fathers. In the 1970s, the Khmer Rouge regime wiped out nearly every modern advance in health care, civic life, and literacy, leaving the country hamstrung by this tragic period ever since. But you can't help but believe if a girl like Sokha can rise from the dumps, so too can Cambodia.
10 CountriesEgyptEgypt is a place deeply in flux due to the changing roles of women. And that was before the Arab Spring. We are excited to tell a story from this bellwether nation in the midst of monumental change. Girls are poised to reap the rewards of a modern Egypt, but only if they succeed in gaining the access to education and freedom from gender violence they deserve.
10 CountriesEthiopiaA land of vast skies and an ancient, rich culture, Ethiopia consistently ranks as one of the most difficult places on earth to be a girl. In a country of nearly 90 million people, girls rank at the very bottom of the social structure--and, sadly, anything but the most rudimentary education remains out of reach for most.
10 CountriesHaitiWhile in Haiti, we saw dirt cookies being sold because food is so scarce. Let that sink in. A country that is just a stone's throw from Miami has been shackled by extreme poverty for generations. And then the earthquake of 2010 happened. Our own cameraman said of his country, "Haiti has a chance, but it's Haiti's last chance."
10 CountriesIndiaThe complexity and scope--problems and opportunities--found in India are as vast as its size. We could not make this film without including India. Few places present disadvantaged girls with the number of extraordinary challenges, and extraordinary opportunities, as India.
10 CountriesNepalThe geography of Nepal is at once the source of its mystique and its indomitable challenge. The towering Himalayas, running through Nepal like a spine, have created villages isolated from one another and the world. Life in Nepal is especially hard for girls, who continue to lag far behind boys in educational opportunity.
10 CountriesPeruPeru is the most prosperous country in the 10x10 project. But that fact can be deceptive. For many indigenous Peruvians, education remains a luxury. This is especially true for girls in the mountains and jungles where so much of Peru's prosperity, in the form of natural resources, is being pulled from the ground.
10 CountriesSierra LeoneChildren in Sierra Leone suffered in so many ways during the ten year civil war. In a country where two thirds of the adult population are illiterate, the war resulted in the destruction of 1,270 primary schools. By 2001, two thirds of all school-age children were out of school. The majority were girls.
10 CountriesUgandaLike many of its continental neighbors, Uganda's recent history has been marred by civil war, chronic poverty, and a generation-depleting HIV/AIDS epidemic. But with more youth per capita than anywhere in the world, its future lies in their success.
The notoriously conflict-ridden country of Afghanistan has suffered serious injury to its infrastructure, particularly in education, during several decades of war. In the mid-1990s, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan and subsequently imposed extreme interpretations of Islam on the country, significantly harming the status of women and girls who were refused access to education and subjected to severe violence. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the U.S. launched a military campaign in Afghanistan, which eventually led to a shift in political power from the oppressive Taliban regime to a newly formed government led by Hamid Karzai. While the Taliban were in power, no girls were registered in school. Today, roughly 36% of students are girls. Serious barriers to education remain, including the high cost of education, the lack of trained female teachers, limited resources including school buildings, and persistent conflict within the country. Due to this conflict, many Afghanis remain internally displaced or reside outside of their country as refugees. Any gains made by women and girls in the last decade hang in the balance amidst ongoing power struggles.
- Afghanistan has one of the highest proportions of school-aged children in the world.
- The female literacy rate in Afghanistan is 12%, compared to 43% for males.
- After the age of 13, female students must be taught by female teachers. Only 30% of teachers are female.
- Primary school completion rate for boys is 32% compared to 13% for girls.
- A major barrier to education for girls is early child marriage. Child marriages account for 43% of all marriage and the mean age at first marriage for girls is 17 years old.
The Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975. During the regime’s brutal four-year hold on power, an estimated 2 million Cambodians died from torture, disease or starvation. The Khmer Rouge sought to eradicate traces of Western cultural influence and intellectualism, and therefore targeted educated middle and upper class Cambodians. As most of the urban population was exiled to the countryside, Cambodia’s economy suffered significantly. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December of 1978, and the regime was stripped of power soon thereafter. A UN-brokered deal in 1991 created a democratic government.
- 50% of Cambodian girls work instead of attending school. Only 20% of Cambodian children attend secondary school (only 2% of villages even have a secondary school); of those, only 25% are girls. Extreme poverty often dictates that girls assist their families in the field rather than attend school. Poverty is also a root cause of the large numbers of Cambodian girls who are at high risk for sex trafficking and domestic servitude.
- Approximately 50% of Cambodia’s population of 12 million are under 16 years old.
- 45% of Cambodian children suffer from malnutrition and lack of medical care.
- 66% of Cambodian children lack access to clean water.
- As of 2010, there were an estimated 142,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East, with half its population living in urban areas. To appropriately serve its dense urban population, Egypt has the most robust education system in the region. While basic education is free and compulsory, the quality of educational offerings is still relatively low and unevenly distributed. While Egypt is seen as being relatively progressive in its region with regard to women, Egyptian society remains deeply entrenched in customs of patriarchy, including genital mutilation and early marriage. In January of 2011, a popular uprising based in Cairo launched a revolution that precipitated the end of Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year regime, but left the country in political instability and uncertainty.
- In Egypt, the literacy rate for females is 59% compared to 83% for males.
- The net school enrollment rate in Egypt is estimated to be 86%. However, gender gaps in enrollment remain a challenge.
- Over 90% of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation.
- In Egypt, about 13% of adolescent girls are married and 29% of married adolescents have been beaten by their husbands.
In addition to its ancient status as the “Cradle of Humanity,” Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country and host of the African Union. Landlocked and a predominately agrarian society with 80 percent of the population working in agriculture, the country’s landscape and climate are particularly susceptible to severe droughts and desertification. Beginning in the late 1970s, Ethiopia suffered from a series of famines that devastated its population. During the 1980s, an estimated 1 million Ethiopians perished as a result. Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with 81% of its population living on less than $2 per day. As a result, educational opportunities are limited, especially for girls who are more likely than boys to be forced to drop out of school in order to work. Although early marriage was outlawed in Ethiopia in 2005 (the legal age for marriage is now 18), the centuries-old tradition stubbornly persists in rural villages and remote areas. Parents may consent to their daughter’s marriage as early as age 10. Early marriage puts Ethiopian girls at risk for HIV/AIDS and obstetric problems due to immature bodies and undernourishment. Unsurprisingly, early childbearing has been shown to increase a woman’s vulnerability to poverty and decrease her chances of completing her education.
- More than 70% of Ethiopian children ages 8-15 are working.
- 65% of Ethiopian women are illiterate as compared to 50% of men.
- 70-90% of girls and women (depending on the region of the country) are married by “abduction,” which can involve rape.
- In some regions of the country, 50% of girls are married by age 15.
In 2010, already staggeringly poor and under-developed, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake which, in less than a minute, destroyed more than 3,000 schools and killed hundreds of teachers. Today, many children are still out of school and forced to work to survive. But the problems of education in Haiti existed long before the earthquake hit. The country has no government-funded public education system. Instead, students must rely on a network of private schools, which are too expensive for many children to attend. Of the children who do go to school, few complete their secondary education. Beyond issues of access, girls and women in Haiti face serious risks of gender-based violence and human trafficking. In the aftermath of the earthquake, safety has become an even greater concern, since many families have been placed in insecure and informal housing situations.
- An estimated 80% of schools in Port-au-Prince were damaged or destroyed during the earthquake.
- Prior to the earthquake, about 40% of children were unable to afford school fees.
- Only 60% of Haitian children will have a chance to attend primary school; only 20% go to secondary school.
- Literacy levels hover around 50%.
India has become an economic powerhouse over recent decades with one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, as India’s economy continues to grow, so does its population, resulting in one of the world’s lowest per-capita incomes. Such systemic poverty inevitably has an impact on education.
- More than 8 million children are not in school.
- Indian girls are much less likely to enroll in school than boys. Girls from the “scheduled tribes” (formally recognized indigenous people groups) and castes are even less likely to attend school.
- Schools in poorer rural provinces are more likely than their urban counterparts to lack access to clean water and sanitation. This places a greater burden on female students entering puberty as they learn to deal with their physiological changes—the lack of clean and private facilities can lead to missed days or even dropping out altogether.
- Regional differences are very pronounced in India, with poor provinces fielding just one teacher for every 80+ pupils. Closing the gap will require the training of a minimum of 1 million new teachers.
- Indian girls face challenges such as forced prostitution and trafficking. Some girls are devadasi, a traditional form of religious prostitution. Although illegal, the practice persists and provides a front by which sex trafficking can be legitimized.
Nepal is a land of rocky plains and deep valleys, surrounded by the towering Himalayas. Amidst the country’s natural beauty exists a harsh economic reality: roughly half the population subsists on less than $1 a day. Primary education is free—when you can get to it. Many areas of the country don’t have a single school. Where schools do exist, classrooms are overcrowded and under-resourced, lacking necessities, such as furniture, books, and teaching materials. Nepalese girls have even less access to education than boys, a fact underscored by the 60% illiteracy rate for women as compared to 35% for men. The United Nations Girls Education Initiative outlines the following barriers to girls’ education in Nepal:
- In Nepal, 44% of primary school students and 41% of secondary school students are girls.
- 47% of primary school aged girls in Nepal are out of school.
- 59% of public schools in Nepal do not have toilets. As a result, the dropout rate for girls is significantly inflated. The lack of facilities in schools proves a particular challenge for adolescent girls at the beginning of their menstrual cycles.
- Due to economic necessity, many families in Nepal are forced to sell their daughters into a form of domestic slavery called Kamlari, disrupting their opportunity for education.
In the last thirty years, after decades of military rule and violent insurgencies, Peru has emerged as a formidable South American economy in its move towards democratic rule and meeting with success in quelling guerrilla insurrections. A resource-rich land, Peru has experienced recent economic prosperity, mainly as an outgrowth of its fishing and mining sectors. However, in spite of such growth, significant inequality persists as Peru struggles to improve a weak infrastructure and distribute wealth to the country’s more rural, inland areas. Although Peru has been hailed as having Latin America’s best education system, with free and compulsory education across the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, vast discrepancies still persist in the achievement gaps between ethnic, indigenous communities and the majority of Spanish-speaking students. Indigenous peoples in Peru generally reside in rural areas, where poverty and harsh conditions make access to quality education problematic.
- While the number of persons with an indigenous tongue has increased, its percentage among the national population has diminished.
- Illiteracy rates in the over-15 population are more than twice as high for women as for men.
- Illiteracy rates for indigenous populations are almost twenty percentage points lower than for Spanish speakers. A majority of the illiterate population is women living in rural, indigenous areas.
- Across the primary and secondary levels, public rural schools, attended overwhelmingly by indigenous students, suffered from fewer resources, less access to basic services, and lower quality teachers and staff than their Spanish-speaking counterparts.
Bloody conflict and internal strife have marred Sierra Leone’s recent history. A decade-long civil war throughout the 1990s saw the destruction of the country’s infrastructure, the displacement of millions of its citizens (about a third the population), and disastrous consequences for its future generations. Sierra Leone’s future prospects hinge on the its ability to navigate a post-war landscape, to rebuild an economy (around its mineral-rich land) that currently suffers from severe income inequality and a populace undermined by the use of child soldiers and an imploded education system. Early returns have been favorable, though significant challenges remain in Sierra Leone’s reconstruction. As much as anything, education was one of the primary casualties of war. Schools were destroyed by the thousands and children found themselves out of the classroom altogether. In congruence with the continued restoration of other sectors of Sierra Leone’s society, the country’s education has seen some improvement, with a recent surge in student enrollment. And yet enrollment at the primary school level is still a feeble 43%. Severe teaching shortages, classroom overcrowding, frequently disrupted school years and, above all, a weak institutional system characterize the state of education in Sierra Leone today.
- Of the population aged 10 or older, only 39% is literate, with only a 29% literacy rate among women, compared to 49% for men. For women over the age of 15, the literacy rate falls to below 25%.
- Education attainment across Sierra Leone is low, with an average of less than four years for men and only two for women.
- In Sierra Leone, net education enrollment for girls at the primary level is just 37%, with less than a third of women reaching the equivalent of college.
- Across the primary and secondary and urban and rural levels, school completion rates for girls are always at least ten percentage points below that of boys.
Once called the “pearl of Africa” by Winston Churchill, Uganda is a country of startling natural beauty that borders Lake Victoria and is the source point of the Nile. However, Uganda’s more recent history has been characterized by many of the same problems that have beset the African continent: human rights violations (perpetrated most notoriously by the Idi Amin regime of the 1970s), mass poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and accusations of government corruption. Although Uganda has become relatively stable and has significantly lowered its HIV infection rate, it stands at a turning point in its own history. With the world’s lowest median age – half its population is younger than 16 years old – Uganda is a country fate rests on the education, growth, and potential of its youth.
- The average adult in Uganda has only 3.5 years of schooling.
- Less than 50% of girls who enroll in primary school complete it.
- Only 1% of all Ugandan primary and secondary schools have Internet access.
- There are an estimated 1.2 million people, including 150,000 children, living with HIV in Uganda.