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Gender, Education and Drop Outs

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Wonder Woman, DC ComicsOpinion by Jan Lundius (stockholm / rome)Friday, November 26, 2021Inter Press Service

Wonder Woman, DC ComicsThe global plight of girls and young women has for several years been rightly emphasized. However, this focus may overshadow a phenomenon that increasingly is occurring in both developed and developing countries – boys are increasingly dropping out from schools, while young men to a higher degree than young women are not attracted by higher education. A recent article in the magazine The Atlantic pointed out that US colleges and universities currently enroll six women for every four men, a gender gap that is getting wider with every year.

The phenomenon is far from unique to USA. All over the world, more women than men are currently entering tertiary education. In all OECD countries with available data, women have a higher degree frequency than men. The average is currently 72 percent among women and 61 percent among men and everywhere the gap is widening. Several reasons have been put forward for this trend, most common is to emphasize that young men might value connections and contacts more than higher education, while female students usually view education as more than a means to make money. It has been found that more young women than men assume that education is an essential part of their development and personal independence, something that generally has been related to the clearing away of barriers to women’s education and an opening up for their access to professions requiring advanced higher education. Women are increasingly competing with men for advanced professions. Skills are becoming more crucial than gender. Still, the gender gap in remuneration continues to persist.

However, the connection between gender and education continues to be complicated. In several countries, the importance of gender roles is more pronounced in schooling at first – and secondary levels, than at the tertiary one. Economic concerns tend to be decisive for children’s schooling. Even if poor parents don’t pay school fees, money is spent on transportation, textbooks and clothing. Since schooling could mean that a girl will spend less time helping at home, a poor family might consider sending her to school as detrimental to its well-being. To a higher degree than boys, responsibilities like, cooking, cleaning and taking care of sick parents and babysitting siblings, still tend to fall on girls.

Furthermore, schools may be far from home and if lessons take place in the evenings, roads, schools and homes may have limited, or no electricity and light at all. All over the world, girls and boys are harassed and abused on their way to school and girls are disproportionately targeted. The school might also be a place of discomfort and danger, and not only fellow students but even teachers may behave like predators. A situation worsened in conflict and crisis-affected areas. Schools are often targeted by rebel groups; education suffers, schools stop functioning. During such, and other, emergencies, gender is an important factor. In several areas, schools providing education for girls are particularly targeted and refugee girls are half as likely to be in school as boys in the same situation.

Some poor parents may assume that it is not worth the effort and loss of earnings to educate their daughters – they might be married off to a man who will take responsibility for them. It is thus common that poor parents consent that their daughters marry before they reach the age of 18, explaining that this will protect them from harm and social stigma. However, an uneducated child bride is more likely to experience early pregnancy, undernourishment, domestic violence, and pregnancy complications. Furthermore, she will generally, due to dependency on her spouse’s whims and needs, as well as lack of education, be unable to gain financial independence. Girls’ lack of schooling is detrimental to national growth and general health. Providing efficient and free education to girls benefit the entire society, fomenting not only equality and general well-being – child marriage rates decline, but family health also improves, while child and maternal mortality rates fall, and child stunting drops.

In developing countries drop-outs from school tend to be most common among girls and early marriages and pregnancy are the main reasons for this. Teen mothers may find it impossible to continue their schooling due to lack of daycare, while other young women may decide that it is preferable to leave school and start a family early. If they lack a spouse and/or support of a family it is even harder for them to continue an education and survival becomes their main goal. If opportunities in the labour market, not the least in the “informal” sector, are attainable any desperate person may choose those earnings which in the short term are preferable to a continued investment in schooling.

More recently, it has to a higher degree than before been noticed that gender roles might also be detrimental for boys’ education. Social change affects them as well as it affects girls. For example, in Mongolia poor families depending on cattle herding tend to take their boys out of school and as farm lands and rural economy evolves, families find it more economically rewarding to keep boys in farming, rather than sending them to school. In Mongolia, 65 percent of those children not finishing secondary school are boys and the trend continues, while female domination is reported in the entire education system.

In many poor countries, opportunities for jobs after graduation are limited, making alternative lifestyles more attractive, even if they might go against accepted values and behaviour. There is always an allure of rapidly and easily gained money through unskilled work and illicit activities, instead of dreary and unpaid schooling, combined with the risk of not obtaining a job answering to skills developed through education. Just like girls might be needed for household chores, boys and young men may be expected to support poor, often single-headed households with work that cannot be obstructed by schooling. Such a situation might in poor districts with an inadequately supported school system be worsened by violence in and around schools, making it untenable for youth to continue attending, while illicit activities may offer more attractive alternatives than staying in school. Predators are lurking to abuse and exploit boys – criminal gangs and militia recruit youngsters, supported by prevalent myths about male superiority and temerity.

Marginalized areas in both wealthy and poor nations suffer from boys dropping out of school and ending up in illicit activities, which make them prone to violence. Jamaica is for example struggling with boys from poor families increasingly dropping out of school, ending up in unemployment, idleness, reckless behaviour and even worse – criminality. In Jamaica, boys’ participation in secondary schooling is rapidly declining. At all levels, girls are outperforming boys and young women are more than twice as likely as young men to enter tertiary education.

It is in higher education that differences between young men’s and women’s attendance is becoming even more apparent than at first – and secondary levels. The latest OECD report on education states that the gap between female and male attendance at tertiary levels of education is with every year increasing with at least one percentage point. In 2020, overall education levels combined, enrollment rates were on average 7 percentage points higher for 20-24 year-old women than for men. The largest gap in this age group was found in Slovenia (20 percentage points) and the gap was at least 15 percentage points in Argentina, Israel and Poland. On average across OECD countries with available data, boys are more likely to repeat a grade than girls and represent 61 percent of the number of repeaters in lower secondary education.

These ratios are even wider in the Gulf Emirates, where boys are dropping out of secondary school at a rate of up to 20 percent in a single year. This while girls and young women surpass their male counterparts in attendance and outperform them at all levels and across all subjects. In the Emirates this tendency may be explained by the fact that men are privileged and may to a higher degree than women count upon good connections and general support. Even in a country like Saudi Arabia, the only Islamic country (so far – Afghanistan is moving in the same direction) that has a separate system of female education and where women’s access to the labour market is restricted, more than 60 percent of higher education graduates are women.

These are just a few examples of how education, both positively and negatively, is affected by gender and socioeconomic change. Equality is beneficent for any social system and while addressing an area like education the entire spectrum of gender and access must be taken into consideration, meaning that different needs and prerequisites for boys and girls must be part of the equation. Society is constantly changing and education changes in close symbiosis with it. Nevertheless, for the benefit of us all we must strive for guaranteeing that this change fosters equal rights and general well-being, something that will not be achieved if gender aspects are ignored.

Sources: Thompson, Derek (2021), “Colleges Have a Guy Problem,” The Atlantic, 14 September. https://www.unicef.org/education/girls-education and https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance_19991487


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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Article: globalissues.org

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When Will Countries Ever Learn How Well to Do Fuel Subsidy Reforms?

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View of downtown Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Credit: World Bank/Shynar JetpissovaOpinion by Alan Gelb, Anit Mukherjee (washington dc)Friday, January 28, 2022Inter Press Service

Amid alarming reports of deadly violence in Kazakhstan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Asia called for restraint and dialogue. 6 January 2022

Protestors are out on the streets, clashing violently with security forces called in to maintain law and order. They vent their frustration not only with rising fuel prices but also with living costs, lack of social services, crumbling infrastructure, corruption and political repression.

Faced with the prospect of a popular uprising, the government backtracks on reforms and re-institutes subsidies, postponing the hard decisions for a later date.

This is Kazakhstan in 2022. It is also Ecuador in 2019, Nigeria in 2012, Bolivia in 2010, Indonesia in 2005 and several other energy exporters which have tried to end, or at least reduce, fuel subsidies over the last two decades.

The list will grow significantly if we include importers who are more exposed to the vagaries of international energy prices. What is interesting is that the story plays out in almost exactly the same way, and the consequences of both action – and inaction – are very similar as well.

For resource rich countries like Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nigeria, subsidized energy, especially from fossil fuels, is one of the few tangible ways by which citizens can feel that they have a claim to a national resource.

While the level of subsidies varies, at some $228 dollars per head or 2.6% of GDP in 2020, those of Kazakhstan are high but not the highest among exporters. In a situation where the government is generally perceived to be repressive, incompetent and corrupt, food and fuel subsidies keep a lid on deeper grievances. It is economically damaging but politically expedient, a delicate equilibrium that many countries have sought to manage over the last several decades – with little success.

Our research has shown that there is a better way to do energy subsidy reform. Providing direct cash transfers to compensate for the rise in energy prices can be a “win-win” solution. To put it simply, energy compensatory transfers (ECT) enable households, especially the poor and the vulnerable, to absorb the shock and reallocate resources as per their needs.

By removing the arbitrage between subsidized and market prices, ECTs can also reduce corruption, improve distribution and incentivize efficient use of energy. Countries like Iran, India, Jordan and the Dominican Republic have been relatively successful in this type of reform, and their experience holds lessons for other countries that choose to embark on this path.

Digital technology can help significantly to identify beneficiaries, provide them necessary guidance and information, and transfer payments directly to individuals and households. Three key enablers of ECTs are an identification system with universal coverage of the population, strong communications and wide access to financial accounts.

Multiple databases can be cross-checked to verify eligibility norms and grievance redressal systems can help reduce exclusion of genuine beneficiaries. As shown, for example, by India’s LPG subsidy reform, countries can progressively tighten the eligibility criteria over time to target the poorest sections of the population.

Finally, ECTs can provide the impetus for a more transparent and accountable system of subsidy management, helping improve public confidence and support to the government’s reform agenda over the long run.

So, why don’t more countries follow this approach? For one, most energy subsidy reforms are pushed forward in times of economic crisis. ECTs require political commitment, openness to engage in public dialogue, building consensus among stakeholders and powerful vested interests, setting up implementation systems and working across different government ministries, departments and agencies.

Direct compensation is also more transparent than the frequently opaque systems of price subsidization that favor the rich, with their higher energy consumption, even if justified by the need to protect the poor.

ECTs are not simple solutions and often require time to be put in place. On the surface, it may seem simpler to just raise energy prices overnight through an administrative order. But the payoffs are significant in terms of sustainability, economic outcomes, social cohesion and political stability.

The sooner countries can take a longer term approach, the better will they be able to manage the transition to a more sustainable system that supports those who need it most.

Kazakhstan is the first country in 2022 to see popular unrest due to fuel price hike. It almost certainly would not be the last.

Anit Mukherjee is a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. Alan Gelb is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.


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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service


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Griffiths to Security Council: ‘Your Responsibility Is Not Over’ to Syrian People

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© UNICEFChildren sit outside their family tent at the Alzhouriyeh makeshift camp in east rural Homs, Syria.Thursday, January 27, 2022UN News

“It is not over for the Syrian people,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths, as he outlined the myriad challenges.  “And your responsibility is not over either.”  

As I’ve said before, we’re failing the Syrian people, young and old. Failure each year can’t be our strategy.

This year, we have to lighten the load on Syrian civilians.

I urge Member States to work with the UN and other key humanitarian agencies on a new approach.

My remarks:

— Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief)

January 27, 2022

Early recovery essential 

The humanitarian affairs chief said it was essential to scale up early recovery programmes – aimed at addressing needs that arise during the humanitarian phase of an emergency – which can offer a pathway to more self-sufficiency and restore basic services.  

Perhaps most immediately, he drew attention to the hundreds of children who this week, have been trapped in a terrifying prison siege in Al-Hasakah, in Syria’s northwest. 

He cited reports announced by Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on 25 January, of fatalities among children besieged inside the Al-Hasakah’s Ghwayran military detention facility, and of children trapped as ISIL-affiliated inmates battled Kurdish-led Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), being forced to take part in the fighting. 

News reports indicate the siege is now over with the Kurds regaining control of the prison, but Mr. Griffiths told ambassadors that it was of “critical importance that all children are accounted for, evacuated to safety, and supported,” he insisted.   

Their predicament echoes that of the country, Mr. Griffiths stressed.  He described Syrian girls and boys shivering in tents in the snow, while others are stuck in displacement camps or detention facilities, and millions more – lucky enough to have housing – are still missing out on a healthy diet and reliable schooling. 

Failing the people 

We are failing the Syrian people, young and old,” he said.  “I urge you to work with the United Nations on new approaches.”  

The Under-Secretary General recalled that six civilians were killed on 20 January when missiles landed in Afrin city, while another airstrike in early January, severely damaged the main water station servicing Idlib city.   

Alongside security concerns, unusually bitter winter storms last week damaged thousands of tents in camps in the northwest, forcing those displaced to burn garbage to stay warm and risk asphyxiation, sheltering from sub-zero temperatures. 

Just not enough 

With the cost of a food basket reaching new highs in each of the last four months, and international aid declining, “the food aid we provide to millions of people each month is just not enough,” he warned. 

He called for ongoing support for the UN’s six-month plan for humanitarian operations, drawing attention to early recovery projects to support food production and the cross-line delivery of aid to Syria’s northwest.  Two such operations have been completed and a third is expected to take place soon, he added. 

‘From war to hell’ 

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, agreed that conditions have grown “dramatically worse,” amid renewed armed conflict in Dara’a, Damascus and Eastern Ghouta. 

Mr. Egeland – who was formerly UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, from 2003 to 2006 – said the economic crisis, exacerbated by drought, is now so deep that families he had met during his recent visit described their journey as one “from war to hell”. 

He implored the Council to end this “suffocating paralysis”, requesting “help from you as members of the Security Council, and from you as influential powers with parties and actors in the region.  “The situation demands it.” 

Humanitarian diplomacy 

Specifically, Mr. Egeland called for help to end access restrictions on all sides of the conflict lines, stressing that humanitarian work is still too often held back by administrative, logistical, legal and physical barriers.  More effective humanitarian diplomacy is needed.  

For example, he said the Russian Federation can help on the Syrian Government side, where the Norwegian Refugee Council is still unable to provide legal aid to displaced people and returnees, while Turkey and the United States can help with de facto authorities in opposition-controlled areas.  

He also called for help in negotiating solutions to conflicts in Idlib and elsewhere, emphasizing that “we cannot allow a war to rage in what is, in reality, a gigantic string of displacement camps.” 

A call for solidarity 

Meanwhile, he said civilians must be able to seek protection and emphasized that “now is not the time to close borders.” 

It will also be essential to resume a deconfliction system, ensure cross-border and cross-line relief, secure access to water and agreement around waterways from the north, support the rehabilitation of civilian infrastructure, enable durable solutions for refugees and close the funding gap for humanitarian operations. 

“2021 was one of the worst years on record for civilians in Syria,” he said. “We urge donor countries not to turn their backs in 2022.”

© UN News (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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In Central Sahel, ‘needs Are Growing Faster Than Generosity’

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© UNOCHA/Michele CattaniA portrait of a Malian refugee in Tillaberi region, Niger.Thursday, January 27, 2022UN News

According to Martin Griffiths, nearly 15 million people in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, will need humanitarian assistance this year. That’s four million people more than a year before. 

The UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA) led by Mr. Griffiths, and its partners, will need close to $2 billion for the humanitarian response in these three countries alone. 

In the Central Sahel, needs are growing faster than the support that is available.

Yet, the Sahel is also a region of enormous potential.

Working together, we can reverse the trend with more efforts focused on resilience, sustainable solutions and cooperation.

My full remarks:

— Martin Griffiths (@UNReliefChief)

January 27, 2022

It is a grim picture. Conflict, drought and food insecurity, gender-based violence – all growing more quickly than the support that is available”, the Emergency Relief Coordinator explained. 

The online meeting was a joint effort by the United Nations, the European Union, the German Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Denmark. 

Fact-finding mission

Last week, Mr. Griffiths visited Nigeria and met people affected by the Lake Chad Basin crisis. 

“The stories they told me are emblematic of the struggles people across the central Sahel face: violence, repeated displacement, and difficulty finding sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families”, he recalled, saying he hopes to visit Mali and Niger in the months ahead.

Together, conflict, climate change, political instability, lack of sustainable development opportunities, and poverty, are driving millions into increasingly desperate conditions. COVID-19 has only made the situation worse.

Violent attacks went up eight-fold in the central Sahel between 2015 and 2021. In the same period, the number of fatalities increased more than ten-fold.

Millions displaced

“The result is more than two million people displaced including half a million internally displaced last year alone”, the humanitarian chief said. 

In the meantime, insecurity and attacks continue to disrupt already weak basic social services.

More than 5,000 schools are closed or non-operational. Many health centres are not working. Displacement and increased insecurity have disrupted access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. 

According to the last estimates, the number of people facing severe food insecurity has tripled in Mali and doubled in Niger compared to November 2020.

During the lean season, more than eight million are expected to be affected.

Obstacles to aid

While needs grow, the central Sahel remains “one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers”, said Mr. Griffiths, noting that one-third of all abductions of aid workers in the world in 2020, occurred in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.

“Despite these difficulties, humanitarian organizations reached more than seven million people in the region in 2021 and raised $700 million”, he added. 

Unfortunately, the UN relief chief informed, this is not even halfway to meeting the needs of people in the Sahel.

To help bridge that funding gap, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)released $54.5 million in 2021 for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In the same year, OCHA established the first-ever regional pooled fund, last totalling nearly $33 million.

The humanitarian chief concluded on a positive note, noting that the Sahel is “a region of enormous potential” and that, working together, it’s possible to reverse the current trend. 

© UN News (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: UN News

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