With 53,000,000 girls in developing countries being denied access to primary school, there’s no prize for guessing what type of future lies ahead for most of these young women. Gender inequality remains a massive issue, so Intrepid has partnered with Plan for project SAMA. Our aim is to bridge the gender gap through education and our first focus is establishing parenting and community learning groups in up to 45 villages in Laos.
Plan has had encouraging results with other programmes that instil gender equality at an early age and their initiative in El Salvador is an example of how education early in life is a great foundation for a more equal and violence-free society…
“Samuel has put on a blue apron to protect his clothes and is standing at the stove cooking a yellow pot full of beans. He carefully fills the pot from another metal container and then shakes the beans so they will not burn. This will be frijoles refritos, (a dish of cooked and mashed beans), he tells me. Samuel is not a famous chef or – as yet – a man who likes cooking.
But Samuel probably has more chance of being either of these than his father or brothers, because he is only four. He attends a nursery in Cabanas, in northern El Salvador, where early learning provisions is minimal. Only 1.8% of children from birth to 3 years and 57% of those from 4-6 years attend any kind of early learning. And the early learning centre that Samuel attends is not just any centre, but one of 56 in the country that is trying to promote gender equality from an early age.
“People don’t understand the importance of providing early years services – but we believe that we can challenge the stereotypes of what it means to be a boy or a girl by providing different possibilities in our nurseries,” says Beatriz De Paul Flores, Plan’s Adviser for Gender and Child Protection in El Salvador.
The program also works with parents so they understand what the early learning centre is trying to do. For example, they talk about non-sexist language and discuss the ways that boys and girls are expected to behave. Beatriz says they meet little resistance, although it is easier to get mothers than fathers to attend the meetings.
Of course, some little boys will want to wear hard hats and bang hammers and be builders or truck drivers and the girls still want to dress as princesses, but in this centre it is acceptable for the children to role play with whatever they feel comfortable. It will be interesting to see if Samuel and his friends are able to forge the beginnings of a more equal and less violent free society.”
Give SAMA a High-5 – $5 might not sound much, but it can go a long way
Our goal is AU$60,000 to help the girls and boys of Laos and whatever you can afford will make a difference!
Photo: Samuel and his friend learning to cook at an ECCD centre. © Plan