The situation

Research shows that just one-year of extra education in Tanzania can increase a child's future income levels by 30%. However, in one of the world's poorest countries, this is no simple task. As a direct result of negative attitudes towards gender, girls across Tanzania are missing out on an education and the chance to achieve their potential.

Girls face huge barriers to accessing school - it is estimated that 1 in 10 fail to complete their education with over 40% dropping out before they complete primary school. Girls are at huge risk of early marriage, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, HIV/Aids and general exclusion from everyday decision making processes. 

 

Obstacles to girl’s education

Poverty 

Poverty is a huge issue for communities in Tanzania and often restricts children’s educational opportunities. Due to cost, many Tanzanian families will only be able to choose one child to support through their education with boys favoured so girls often miss out. Livelihood also plays a part so when families need help with farming or looking after younger siblings it is the girls who are taken out of school.

Child marriage and teenage pregnancy

More than 1/3 of girls in Tanzania are married before they are 18 with girls from poorer families twice as likely to be married early as girls from wealthier homes. The reasons why child marriage is still happening are complex stemming from cultural traditions and the perception that women are of lower value than men.

Getting married at this young age leads to pregnancy and school dropout. Teenage pregnancy led to almost 3,700 girls dropping out of primary and secondary education in 2016 Controversially, legislation in Tanzania allows schools to expel young mothers - a law fully supported by President John Magufuli who is quoted as saying '“As long as I am president ...no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. After getting pregnant, you are done".

Attitudes towards women

One of the biggest obstacles for girls' education is attitude and mind-set. Boys are often seen as ‘workers’ and that education is essential for them. Changing how people think is incredibly difficult but it is the only way to achieve lasting change.

Puberty

Menstruation is a natural process that are a part of every girl’s life. Despite this, poor access to toilets, washing facilities or sanctuary products create huge barriers to girls’ education. It is estimated that a shocking 1 in 10 girls in Africa will miss school just because of their period. Missing days at school means falling behind which often results in children dropping out of school altogether. As a menstruation is very much a taboo subject, girls are often left confused and traumatised when they reach puberty as they have no idea what is happening.

The cost of, and limited access to, sanitary products means that menstruation is a serious obstacle to a girl's education. In poor rural areas where it can be a challenge putting food on the table, such products are out of the question for most girls. In the place of commercial sanitary products, they will use other materials including leaves or paper. Apart from the obvious discomfort, the risk of infection is high and the likelihood of leakage is very high. In addition, toilet facilities, particularly in rural schools often have no doors and are dirty which makes them an unsafe and undignified environment for a young girl already struggling.

Fetia’s Story

“I was 11 when I noticed blood in her pants – I was scared and thought I was dying.  My mother died having my younger sister and I remembered there was a lot of blood. I told my father who said I should be ashamed. I have to use leaves and mud to stop the bleeding from staining my clothes.”

What can we do?

There are a number of actions charities like EdUKaid can take to increase the possibilities for girls' education in Tanzania. Some obstacles, such as attitudes towards women are complicated and hard to change. Simple conversations about a taboo subject such as menstruation can help to dispel myths and normalize it. 

Left: A latrine before renovation. Middle & right: Clean, safe latrines.

By providing access to reusable sanitary products we can help struggling girls who cannot afford to purchase items themselves. Improving latrines at schools, making them cleaner and more private reduces the embarrassment many young women in Tanzania face when they are on their periods. And providing a Tippy Tap hand washing devise next to latrines means girls can wash their hands.

Research has clearly demonstrated that, for girls who report having received training or information at school are more confident and empowered to overcome obstacles and significantly more likely to achieve their desired level of education. Changing attitudes and behaviours is a long process however, access to education will give girls in Tanzania the opportunities they need to make this change happen.  

Education is one of the greatest resources to lift people out of poverty, whatever their gender. By ensuring that girls have the same opportunities as boys everybody benefits.

Later this year EdUKaid will be launching The Heshima Project - a 2 year menstrual health management programme across some of our most remote schools. If you want to know more about this project and our wider efforts to give girls a chance then follow us on Facebook Twitter and sign up for our e-newsletter.