Inclusive Curriculum and Teachers needed!!

I think it is so amazing to see that curriculum is being developed to support the students within schools. Too often, students of color are disenfranchised and not represented in the curriculum of their schools. Additionally, students who are not  of color may not be conscious of the experiences of people beyond their own experience.

For example, look at this image that has gone viral for a student of color’s response to a teacher’s instruction regarding Christopher Columbus.

King CC.jpg

First of all, this teacher clearly needs serious sensitivity training when it comes to teaching cultural topics. At this point in time, is there anyone denying the atrocities committed by European “explorers” or more appropriately conquistadores! Even if the colonization of America (or more accurately, the Caribbean) by Christopher Columbus is part of the curriculum, why is the violence and oppression and genocide of the indigenous people he imposed also not included? And then when a child obviously has knowledge of that information… why is there not a validation and acknowledgement of that?

That is why more room needs to be made for alternate voices of history. Alternate perspectives. As the famous quote goes “History is written by the victors.” we know this, and if we want to truly be informed, and what our children to truly be informed, we need to include multiple perspectives on issues, even at the elementary school level.


You can help starving people in Somalia

Please donate now to this amazing effort! I just found out about this simple and quick way that you can help make a difference in Somalia!

This campaign started only a few days ago, March 15th, by Casey Neistat, You TuberBen Stiller, actor, Colin Kaepernick, American football quarterback, Juanpa Zarita, YouTuber, Jerome Jarre, entrepreneur and Social Media Star via social media. Their campaign was an effort to get Turkish Airlines to fly food to Somalia in an effort to prevent catastrophe from famine. Turkish Airlines was chosen because they are the only major airline that flies to Somalia that could accommodate sending such large shipments and on  March 16th they agreed!! They have already surpassed their goal of $2 million but you can still contribute!

See the depth of the problem here.

The Era of Empathy

So much happened in 2016…

So much.

And powerful message that I am seeing emerge is the message of empathy. Individuals are taking it upon themselves to spread kindness to those in their immediate community and are even forming organizations or messages for people to share to promote this inclusive message that essentially, we are all humans and all deserve respect and kindness.

Some examples of this action of empathy have been…

The Free Hugs Project started when Ken Nwadike went to the 2014 Boston Marathon Race to spread positivity and hope at the 1st race after the 2013 bombing and has been actively distributing Free Hugs ever since. He visited several campaign rallies in 2016 and had an increased interaction with police given the increased attention on police brutality and violence.

A mother and her child using chalk to share messages of inclusion, acceptance and love in front of a mosque in her community in Tennessee post November election results. I also saw this was done in several different states including, Arizona, Virginia and California.

We have seen an increase in acceptance of young mothers into society and other places where they typically would have been either excluded from. There were several examples of professors welcoming women and their babies to class. Or offering help on airplanes.

Jeremy Rifkin published a book in 2010 The Empathic Civilization in which he details the history of empathy in the fields of psychology, biology and philosophy, he then looks at history and the trends of the rise and fall of civilizations and the last part of the book predicts that we will merge towards a civilization with a more empathetic view of the Earth, with moves towards more sustainable lifestyles and energy sources as well as a form of capitalism he calls “distributed capitalism” to avoid the damage caused to the “have-nots” of an unbridled capitalism. In essence, we will transpose our individual concepts and value of empathy onto the institutions that make our society.

This may seem unlikely given the political environment we are now in, but I think more than anything, it shows us the importance of “being the change we want to see.” We have a responsiblity to create lifestyles that reflect our values and take actions in our own lives and our own communities to make change, we can’t rely on others to do it for us. This is a time for action… more than ever.


What can you do?

Yes, day-to-day random acts of kindness are important and they can have huge impacts on morale and an individuals experience, however, we also need to organize as a community more. Our modern society with all its technological advancements make it very easy to communicate but not always to make connections. We should be using technology to help us advance our causes and ways to help and build networks.

Individual Level

First we do have to start with ourselves and our household. Check out this  ScaryMommy empathy article about teaching our children empathy. Evaluate your empathy for the earth and see what ways you can reduce your waste. Check out Trash is for Tossers or The Minimalists for inspiration. Again, you have to evaluate your own thoughts and values and create a plan based on that and your needs.

Community Level

Alicia Sparks has the most concise list I have seen, read her article on the link provided, but the short list is here:

  1. Look for Local Events.
  2. Volunteer Your Time.
  3. Donate Your Resources.
  4. Shop Locally.
  5. Join a Class or Group or other organization (including religious).
  6. Support Your Local Sports Teams.
  7. Organize Your Own Event.

Check out VolunteerMatchIdealist or Points of Light to find organizations in your local area you can join.

Political Level

  1. Join your neighborhood council or school board.
  2. Start a petition
  3. Attend community meetings, hearings, school board meetings and speak up!
  4. Get involved in expressing yourself in public forums, it could be in person, online or in print.
  5. Contact your representatives and advocate for your views and your community – for local, state and national level.
  6. Run or support local politics


Here’s to empathy and action in 2017!!


Educational Development: NGOs vs. IGOs

Education is a crucial aspect of development and growth, not just for an individual but also for a country. Most accept this a given, however education is rarely prioritized and when funds are limited and needs are great, education very often gets neglected. “National budget priorities are formulated with attention to immediacy of impact and severity of consequences. The most immediate and catastrophic threats are generally given priority. In this equation, education tends to lose.” (Chapman 463) In this paper, we will examine the current status of educational development goals in the international community and compare the efforts of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) as well as those of Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and we will conclude by comparing their efforts and efficiency in improving the conditions for education.

Intergovernmental Organizations

Out of the many IGOs that exist, the only one dedicated to the development of education is UNESCO, and even it has other foci. UNICEF is another organization with the most direct objective of improving educational quality and access specifically to children. All other organizations work towards many types of development within countries and education will be one aspect under the umbrella of development. The two IGOs I will examine are; UNICEF and UNESCO. Other organizations that work toward development in general and support educational development are: USAID, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Bank.

One of the major efforts by the UN to improve education has been the Education for All (EFA) movement. This movement began in 1990 as a joint effort by UNESCO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and the World Bank. “Participants endorsed an ‘expanded vision of learning’ and pledged to universalize primary education and massively reduce illiteracy by the end of the decade.” (UNESCO) UNESCO is the agency responsible for managing and coordinating efforts around EFA. In 2000, the UN established the Millennium Development Goals with a 15-year time frame to achieve them; achieving universal primary education was one of the eight goals established as well as to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2015.

UNESCO is “the only UN agency with the mandate to cover all aspects of education. UNESCO’s work encompasses educational development from pre-school through to higher education, including technical and vocational education and training, non-formal education and literacy.” (UNESCO) In the year 2000, UNESCO held a World Education Conference in Dakar for the EFA movement. Six goals were set regarding education during this conference with the year 2015 also as a goal. The six goals were: (1) expand early childhood care and education, (2) improve access to complete, free schooling of good quality for all primary school-age children, (3) greatly increase learning opportunities for youth and adults, (4) improve adult literacy rates by 50%, (5) eliminate gender disparities in schooling, (6) improve all aspects of education quality. (UNESCO)

UNICEF’s focus regarding education is obviously education for children specifically. UNICEF work emphasizes (1) Early childhood education and school readiness, (2) Equitable access (3) Quality of education and child-friendly schooling, (4) Education in Emergencies and Post-Crisis Transition, and (5) Girls’ education and gender equality.

Non-Governmental Organizations

NGOs are not only an active partner with the UN’s and other IGO agencies which work towards actualizing the goals set forth by the UN, but also operate on their own outside of coordination with an IGO. The NGOs we will evaluate in this section are: The Clinton Global Initiative, The Aga Khan Foundation, BRAC, and Save the Children. There are so many NGOs working towards improving education across the world, some are giant organizations such as the Aga Khan or Clinton Global Foundation to very small organizations run by only one or two people who work with other individuals across the world to organize direct efforts to a specific school or village, such as Education without Borders.

One of the points of focus within the Clinton Global Foundation is The Education & Workforce Development Track. This track “focuses on education as a powerful instrument in poverty reduction and a principal component to achieving lasting social and economic development.” (Clinton Global Initiative) The construction of this branch is intelligently designed, recognizing that education leads to work, which leads to improving the economic position of the individual that will contribute to the country. “CGI members in this Track discuss efforts to build effective education systems—ranging from early childhood education to work-ready skills programs—while exploring how education can provide the knowledge and skills necessary to lead healthy, satisfying, and productive lives.” (Clinton Global Initiative) In the realm of education, CGI focuses on: Early Childhood Education, Financial Inclusion for Youth, Girls’ Education, Designing an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Emerging Technology for Education and Skill Development and Investing in Human Capital.

Save the Children is an NGO that works to improve the lives of children holistically so they focus on health, education, poverty reduction, nutrition etc. In their education work they: (1) train teachers to engage their students through more effective teaching practices. (2) Coach parents and caregivers to help their children learn early on, so they are prepared to enter school. (3) Offer ways for parents and community volunteers to get kids reading and doing math outside of school hours. (4) Introduce children to the power of artistic expression — drawing, painting, music, drama, dance and more — to help them heal, learn and do better in school. (5) Make sure that children don’t stop learning during a crisis, and we help to keep kids healthy so they don’t fall behind or drop out. In 2012, Save the Children’s education programs reached 9 million children. (Save the Children)

BRAC is a fascinating organization. It is a development organization based out of Bangladesh and as of November 2012, it is the largest in the world (based on number of employees and how many people it has helped). (Dhaka & Shilbaloy) It was created in 1972 soon after the independence of Bangladesh. Their vision is, “A world free from all forms of exploitation and discrimination where everyone has the opportunity to realize their potential. “ (BRAC) And their mission is, “To empower people and communities in situations of poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice.” (BRAC) BRAC’s results are impressive, over 700,00 students are enrolled in primary schools worldwide. BRAC focuses specifically on disadvantaged students, who are unable to enroll in formal educational systems such as those living in extreme poverty, victims of violence, displacement or discrimination. BRAC offers educational services as well as skills development training, saving and financial services to adolescents and youth. They even have mobile libraries to bring literacy skills and access to reading materials to those who have no access to such services. With nearly 5 million graduates, worldwide BRAC has successfully opened 410 schools in Philippines; of which, 292 are pre-primary schools and 118 are primary schools. (BRAC)

The Aga Khan Development Network is a huge organization and offers development assistance in every aspect of life to countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There are five agencies within the Foundation 5 devoted solely to educational aims. They are; Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), Aga Khan Academics (AKA), Aga Khan University (AKU), Aga Khan Academies, University of Central Asia (UCA). (Aga Khan). AKES has more than 300 schools and serves more than 54,000 students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Tajikistan. The Aga Khan Foundation, “strives to improve the quality of basic education by ensuring better early caring and learning environments for young children; increasing access to education; keeping children in school longer; and raising levels of academic achievement. Girls, the very poor and geographically remote populations receive special attention.” (AKDN) The Aga Khan Academies is described as having a dual mission: “to offer exceptional education to girls and boys from all backgrounds – irrespective of their families’ ability to pay – an international standard of education with a rigorous academic and leadership experience; and to strengthen the profession of teaching by investing substantially in the professional development of teachers, locally and regionally.” (AKDN) AKU began in 1983 and was Pakistan’s first private university and has since expanded into Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania and the UK as well. The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000 to offer courses and advanced education in Central Asia and was founded by the governments of 
 Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan, and His Highness the Aga Khan.


Effectiveness: Ethnocentrism, Local Demands, Financing and Government

So which approach has been the most effective? First we will evaluate the IGOs efforts. One of the criticisms of the IGOs, such as UNESCO and USAID, instituting educational norms is that they are originating from the West and based on Western ideologies, and are being turned into global norms and the world is expected to institute them. “Thus, […] bilateral and multilateral activities appear to have worked in tandem to spur the governments of developing countries to adopt programs of educational expansion modeled on the western world.” (Mundy 346) Mundy asks,

“Are forms of transnational private authority overshadowing the educational decision-making power of states? Is supranational elite or expert authority in education thickening, or has the expansion of relatively homogenous educational systems and of popular faith in the liberal promise of schooling generated new opportunities for popular political contest on a transnational scale?” (Mundy 351)

Mundy’s questions reflect concern, which others are starting to investigate. Is there an “elite dictating the educational system? Are local cultural preferences and identities being eroded due to Western (or other) influence on what education should look like? In Brock-Utne’s book, she “shows how global power relations shape educational provision, language of instruction, and curriculum content of African schools and universities.” (Herman 131)

Matthew Nelson’s conducted research in Pakistan where he surveyed those running the IGOs providing educational services in Pakistan as well as the citizens. He wanted to see if the local demands of the people were in line with the perceptions of the donor agencies, as to what locals wanted for their schools and options. He found that consistently the preferences of the people did not correlate with the agencies. “The data we collected also allowed us to better ascertain the terms of local preferences regarding two important issues for local policy makers- namely (a) language of instruction and (b) religion. These are important issues to examine especially because our data pointed to conclusions that contradict the expectations of those working in prominent donor agencies and think tanks.” (Nelson 712-713)

This brings us to the issue of the alignment of global norms with local demands. In Nelson’s study, “… the substance of local educational demands did not point to any patter of convergence with any specific global norms.” (Nelson 701) The World Bank and USAID initiatives in Pakistan claim to utilize a bottom-up strategy to focus on the local level. “Yet, precisely because their attention has shifted to the local level, reformers routinely find themselves confronted with a wide range of difficult questions concerning (a) the nature of local demands, (b) the role of market forces when it comes to satisfying these demands and perhaps most importantly, (c) the extent to which the international agencies are prepared to reinforce ‘demands in favor of religion.’” (Nelson 707) The issue of ethnocentrism of Western ideologies creeping into educational structures gives way to the issue of the opinions of the state or local level to have a say in education. “The extent to which communities were allowed to participate in education and the nature of the structures of governance has been a major source of conflict in recent years.” (Johnson 225) It is a complex point, how can decision-makers in France or the UK determine the best educational system or plan for those in an Asian or African nation? Or how comfortable is the US with providing for more madrasas or Islamic education oriented schools in the Middle East? “In fact, those interested in international educational reform increasingly find themselves confronted with a truly complex global marketplace of ideas.” (Nelson 705) According to Nelson based on his research in Pakistan, “Prominent education-sector donors in Islamabad including the largest, ‘Educational Sector Reform Assistance (ESRA) funded by USAID, have made little discernible attempt to publish any systematic or disinterested assessment of local educational demand even though they claim that their work is ‘demand-driven.’” (Nelson 719)

Therefore we can see the positive efforts of the IGOs efforts to make universal primary education and increase the quality of education in world. The criticism emerges on how states should implement these goals and what the state or local curriculum should look like. This is an aspect in which the NGOs are more on track and in tune with the local demands. It is NGOs who are working more with the local people and with a specific mission. NGOs work directly with the people, not through government agencies or workers, therefore have a better impact on the individual rather than the system. “Many NGOs were viewed as being more in touch with the real needs of citizens and better structured to deliver services at the grass-roots level.” (Chapman 466)

Another way in which the NGOs seem more effective are in the aspect of funding. When it comes to government funding, “Urgent needs in health and environment and financial downturn being experienced in some countries, a decline in the percent of the national budget being allocated to education.” (Chapman 460) Additionally, government inefficiency or corruption oftentimes counteracts potential positive effects from the IGO level. “International assistance agencies have been repeatedly criticized for the limited impact and effectiveness of their development assistance. […] Working with NGOs increasingly was seen by international and bilateral development agencies as a way oaf delivering assistance directly to the target groups of citizens while by-passing the problems encountered in working through some recipient governments” (Chapman 466)

However, that doesn’t mean that the NGO operations are without their own problems when it comes to financing. “Working with NGOs sometimes puts international organizations at odds with Governments, […] working outside official channels can result in lack of coordination with countries’ own efforts. It is also becoming clear that NGOs do not always have the capacity to effectively program and manage sudden, large infusions of external funds.” (Chapman 466) BRAC offers us an interesting example as an NGO because they generate all of their own funding and use it to fund their development efforts. They have also experienced highly effective results in the area of education. They results have been so good, that government schools are beginning to model their methods.

In 2012, 207,000 children from BRAC primary schools participated in the primary school completion exam (PSCE) along with children in the government and private primary schools, and achieved a success rate of 99.99% with 11.6 % scoring A+. Students from 120 schools, operated by our local partner NGOs, took part in the primary school certificate examination (PSCE) for the first time in 2012. A total of 3,318 students, 69% of whom are girls, appeared in the exam and 3,311 amongst them passed the exam, with 325 of them earning GPA 5 or A+. (BRAC Annual Report 2012)


Overall, in terms of funding, it really varies as to who is more efficient. One situation may reveal a highly efficient government and an inefficient NGO but in another case it may be the opposite.


Education and Gender

Stromquist researches the effectiveness of Women In Development (WID) government agencies. She finds that most nations have established such WID units due UN conferences and initiatives, however “many states do not feel bound to deliver domestically on international promises after the public scrutiny has subsided.” (Stromquist 96) Stromquist also found that although policies and plans of action have been created for WID agencies, “human and financial resources have not been assigned in adequate amounts.” (Stromquist 95) So although IGOs have done a good job of creating an international norm many countries agree to abide by, states may not be able or willing to dedicate more resources to international initiatives. For instance, Stromquist addresses the EFA, “Further reflecting the limited importance bestowed upon formal education and the education of girls is the degree of WID unit attention the Education for All (EFA) initiative. This initiative- a major effort by donor agencies and governments to bring equality, quality and efficiency to basic education- was unknown to 15% of the responding WID units. Among those who acknowledged it, more than half (54%) reported not to be involved in it.” (Stromquist 94) In spite of all the efforts and idealist goals of the EFA, and considering how many countries have signed and how long it has been working, the results of this data are disheartening.

Stromquist’s data regarding educational improvements on the parts of governmental WID units does not fare any better. Here are a few of her findings:


“Surprisingly, several of the WID units (14%) reported no activities at all in the area of education.” (Stromquist 93)

“[…] this combination of gender issues with issues concerning children and youth is part of the state’s persistence in bracketing women with children in both administrative structures and development plans. Educationally, this bracketing brings attention to adult women in their role as mothers and family managers and away from a critical view of the educational system in its formal version – schooling.” (Stromquist 89)

“It is important to observe that stand-alone literacy programs constitute a very minor activity.” (Stromquist 93)

“The WID units dedicate more effort to the education of adult women than to that of young girls in the formal system, since a rather small number of WID units address primary and secondary schooling (17 and 20% respectively). Despite its considerable importance, higher education is also an activity only engaged in by a modest proportion (27%) of the WID units.” (Stromquist 94)

Even UNESCO’s own reports show that, “although the world has witnessed impressive progress in some countries, the prospects for achieving the EFA goals are failing.” (UNESCO 187 EX/8) This report identifies six ways in which EFA coordination and implementation needed to be improved. Weaknesses included: (1) Lack of evidence-based advocacy outside of the educational sector, (2) insufficient linkage between the coordination at national, regional and global levels, (3) uneven involvement of the five EFA convening agencies, (4) absence of clear lines of accountability with regard to the Member States’ representation and participation at meetings […] as well as their follow-up commitments made, (5) difficulty in capturing and reflecting all aspects of the EFA movement only through the annual EFA Global Monitoring Report and (6) Insufficient knowledge-sharing. (UNESCO 187 EX/8)

In summary, there are pros and cons to both IGO and NGO efforts. IGOs have been instrumental in creating global norms and getting countries to commit to initiatives and monitoring progress. However, NGOs have been more effective in getting services directly to the people in the community as well as providing services more in line with the preferences and norms of the community. Financially, efficiency is varied, although it is there is generally less corruption or diversion of funding through NGOs than governmental agencies, however, depending on the size and capacity of the NGO, they may not be prepared to handle a large amount of inflow. NGOs also wouldn’t be subject to limiting services based on government budget cuts, although they are subject to donor’s monetary commitments. Ultimately, it depends on the country, the agency and the NGO as to how efficient they will be at utilizing money. Ultimately, both types of organizations are vital to the continued development of educational norms and systems throughout the world.

Ghana’s success in closing the gender gap

Ghana is an excellent case study for progress made in closing the gender gap and increasing equality. Ghana has prioritized human development, particularly education and gender equality and circumstances that have impacted the capacity, or will, of the state to focus on education. Obstacles to human development can be military conflict or violence, natural disasters, levels of economic development and funding. Here I examine the rankings and indicators of Ghana under the UN Human Development Index as well as other research and statistics on Ghana’s investments in economic development and the prioritization of human development issues.

UN Human Development Index

Ghana is ranked 140 out of 188 countries (where 1 is the best) and is within the medium level of development. Ghana’s overall Human Development Index (HDI) is 0.579. Life expectancy is 61.4, with 11.5 expected years of schooling with mean years of schooling at 7 years (this will be analyzed more in depth below). Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is $3,852 and GNI per capita rank minus HDI rank is -1. Since 1990 Ghana’s’ HDI has continued to trend upwards although at a slow rate.


In terms of health life expectancy at birth is 61.4 years. The male and female adult mortality rate is comparable at female 222 and 261 per 1,000 people respectively. The largest risk of disease is malaria with 67 deaths a year per 100,000 people. Tuberculosis is much less of a threat with only 6.9 per 100,000 people per year. The prevalence of HIV in adults aged 15-49 totals 1.3%. The infant mortality rate is 52.3 per 1,000 live births. Six per-cent of one-year-old infants lack immunization for DTP and 11% of the same population lack immunization for measles. The under-five mortality rate is 78.4 per 1,000 live births and public health expenditure is 5.4% of GDP.


The expected years of schooling is 11.5 years and the mean years of schooling is 7 years, which is reflected in the high adult literacy rate of 71.5% of people aged 15 and older. Education is a clear priority in Ghana as the gross enrolment ratio of pre-primary preschool-aged children is 116.9%, for primary it is 106.9%, secondary school-age population drops to 67.1% and tertiary is significantly lower with only 12.2% of that age population. Overall, the population with at least some secondary education is 54.3% of individuals age 25 and above. The primary school dropout rate is 16.3% of the primary school cohort. In terms of the teachers, 52.4% of primary school teachers are trained to teach and the pupil-teacher ratio in primary school is 30 students to 1 teacher. Public expenditure on education is 8.1% of the GDP.

Income Inequality

Inequality-adjusted HDI is 0.387 with a coefficient of human inequality of 33.1%. Given the Gini coefficient the income inequality is 42.8%, in terms of the given the Palma ratio it is 2.2 and the Quintile ratio is 9.3%.

Inequality in education is 36.7%; inequality in income is 31.7%. Inequality in life expectancy is 30.8%. The overall loss in the human development index due to inequality is 33.1%.


Ghana ranks fairly high on the gender development index with 0.885. The adolescent birth rate is 58.4 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19. The estimated gross national income per capita for females is $3,200.40 while it is significantly higher for males at $4,514.70. The educational gap is not very dramatic with the expected years of schooling at 11 years for females and 12 years for males. However, the mean years of schooling for females is 5.6 while males have 7.9 years. Of all females ages 25 and older, 45.2% have at least some secondary education compared to 64.7 of all males in the same age group. The gender inequality index is 0.554. The overall HDI for females is 0.54 while it is 0.61 for males. Labor force participation rate for females is 67.3% ages 15 and older and 71.4% of males for the same age group. Females have a slightly longer life expectancy at birth of 62.3 years versus 60.4 for males. Maternal mortality ratio is 380 deaths per 100,000 live births. Women’s share of seats in parliament is 10.9%.


In Ghana, 30.5% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty, which is 7.559 million people in the country, with 18.7% living near multidimensional poverty. The population living in severe multidimensional poverty is 12.1%. The population living below income poverty line at $1.25 a day is 28.7% and the working poor at $2 a day is 44.3% of all people working. The population living in multidimensional poverty, with an intensity of deprivation is 47.3%.


The population of those employed is 66.2% of those ages 15 and older. Child labor is quite high at 33.9% of children ages 5 to 14 working. Domestic workers that are female total 0.3% of total employment and males in the same field total 0.4%. The percentage of the population that is employed in agriculture is 41.5% and 43.1% of the population work in the service industry. For those 15 years and older 69.3% are participating in the labor force and the long-term unemployment rate is not available. There is mandatory paid maternity leave for new mothers requiring 84 days. The total unemployment rate is 4.2% of labor force with 76.8% of the population having vulnerable employment.

Human Security

In Ghana the homicide rate is fairly low at 6.1 per 100,000 people. There are no homeless people as a result of natural disasters documented in the HDI. The birth registration is 63% under age five. The old age pension recipient’s rate is 7.6% of the statutory pension age population. The prison population is 54 per 100,000 people and there are 22,500 refugees from other countries currently residing in Ghana. The suicide rate for females is much lower than for males at 2.2 per 100,000 people. The male suicide rate is nearly double at 4.2 per 100,000 people. However 44.5% of women have reported experiencing gender-based violence.


Overall violence and instability in Ghana is not an issue. Ghana is a stable democracy and has had six elections since 1992 and two peaceful transitions of power between political parties. “There have been numerous peaceful protests and occasions where isolated violence has broken out, particularly between rival ethnic groups in northern Ghana.” (OSAC: US Dept of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security) As I will discuss later, it is important to note that northern Ghana is the region that experiences the most poverty and lowest level of human development. “There is tension between and within certain ethnic groups in northern regions in particular that can, at times and on short notice, become violent. “(OSAC: US Dept of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security)

The major ethnic groups of the region are the Mole Dagbon, (52.2%) the Gurma, (21.8%) the Akan and the Guan (8.7%). Among the Mole-Dagbon, the largest subgroups are the Dagomba and the Mamprusi, while the Komkomba are the largest of the Gurma, the Chokosi of the Akan and the Gonja of the Guan. The Dagomba constitute about a third of the population of the region. (Government of Ghana)


As mentioned, the overall trend in poverty in Ghana has been declining over the past few decades. “The overall trend in poverty shows a decline in poverty levels from 51.7% to 39.5% from 1991/1992 to 1998/1999. Extreme poverty declined from 35.7% to 29.4% in the same period.” (Awumbia 150) However, “Despite this, the period also shows evidence of the intensification of vulnerability and exclusion among some groups, particularly in the rural and urban savannah, and in the urban coastal regions, which experienced increases in poverty over the period.” (Awumbia 150) Awumbia cites that 80% of those classified as poor reside in the rural areas (150). Furthermore, women have a higher rate of poverty and more severe poverty than men. (Awumbia 149-150)

For those families who are living in poverty, the experience and access to resources can be dire. According to UNICEF, “the major drivers of child deaths in Ghana stem from poverty, discrimination, quality of care and unequal access to basic services. Children from Ghana’s poorest families are nearly 40% more likely to die before the age of five, compared to children from Ghana’s richest families.” (UNICEF Ghana)

UNICEF has identified four primary factors which impact child mortality and morbidity in Ghana as (1) Poor access to quality services, (2) Poor start to life, (3) Risky Environment, (4) Intergenerational poverty. In terms of access to quality services, UNICEF cites that only 68% of women deliver with a skilled birth attendant. Interestingly, this number actually drops to 37% in the northern region where the poverty rate is higher. Impediments to accessing adequate care are cost, distance and quality of services. (UNICEF Ghana) Stunting and other forms of malnutrition in the early years of the child’s life increase their vulnerability to diseases and infections. The leading cause of death for children under five is malaria, as reflected as the greatest threat from the UN HDI and diarrhea. Open drainage and lack of waste management systems are the major causes of these diseases. Finally, in regards to intergenerational poverty, “children’s health and development is inextricably linked to the wellbeing and health of their mothers, and no less crucially, to their mother’s level of education.” (UNICEF Ghana)


UNICEF touts Ghana as a “regional leader in the delivery of Education for All, reaching the education Millennium Development Goals well ahead of the 2015 deadline.” (UNICEF Ghana) Even though remarkable strides have been made, there are still some gender inequalities and again, these intensify by region and by the experience of poverty. “Girls from northern Ghana average only four years of education, three years less than the national average. And 20% of children with physical disabilities are not attending school, according to the 2010 national census.” (UNICEF Ghana)

In 2008, Ghana organized, implemented and published a New Reform program for their educational system. The identified importance of education for the development of the state, community and individual is articulated in the executive summary of the initiative.

The philosophy underlying our educational system is to create a well balanced individually (intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically) with the requisite knowledge, skills values and aptitudes for self-actualization and for the socio-economic and political transformation of the nation. Beyond every reasonable doubt, education contributes to improving security, health, prosperity and ecological equilibrium in the world. (Ghana National Commission for UNESCO 5)

The table of contents issued for the commission report include: new reform of the educational system and structure for all levels of education including teacher education, accounting for inclusive education, students with special needs for physical and mental disabilities, gender parity, co-operative and interactive learning, inquiry based learning, technology and more. It is very comprehensive and inclusive of modern educational concerns and reflections.

Although Ghana has prioritized inclusive education there is still more work to be done. Inequalities that stem from education ripple across all aspects of society. “Gender differences in educational levels, access to economic opportunities and resources, as well as unequal gender relations, which make women subordinate and subservient in marital and pre-marital relationships translates into disadvantages for women and disempowers them […]” (Awumbia 156)

Gender Inequality

In spite of the gains made, gender inequality is still persistent. Women make up half of the workers in agricultural activities, yet, “despite their prominent presence in agricultural activities, only 26.1 percent of women are farm owners or managers.” (Prah 412) Given the importance of agricultural activity, land is extremely important both for productivity, livelihood and social and political status.

Women are not only less likely to own land but “size of landholdings also shows that households headed by women tend to own on average lower hectares of land (35 ha) than do households headed by men (47 ha).” (Awumbia 154)

Similarly, although labour participation is fairly equal, “there is gender segregation with about 91% of economically active women employed in the informal sector as own-account workers in agriculture or non-agriculture or unpaid workers on family enterprises.” (Awumbia 155) This means that although women are participating as much as men in the labor force, they tend to work in smaller scale ways than men, and sometimes they are not even receiving a wage. There is also a discrepancy of opportunities between types of jobs available to women in the non-agricultural sector. The most popular types of jobs for women are hairdressing and dressmaking. However men have many more options for work such as “carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, mechanics, painters, repairers of electrical and electronic appliances, metal workers, upholsterers, car sprayers, to name a few.” (Awumbia 155)

Women in Ghana are disproportionately concentrated in the informal sector of the economy, where they are generally self-employed. “Their main activities in this sector are petty trading, food processing, and marketing food crops.” (Prah 412) “About 85 percent of traders in the major towns of the southern regions of the country are women. Although this arrangement makes women highly visible, women’s business tend to be small-scale and loosely structured, with limited management expertise and weak infrastructural support.” (Prah 412-413)

Political/Systemic Efforts

A unique aspect of Ghana’s pursuit of gender parity is that there has been an effort by women’s groups as well as the government itself, to empower women and achieve equality. Making gender equality a specific objective of institutions and systems that drive society is a crucial part of advancing women. In February 1975, the government created the National Council on Women and Development (NCWD). In 2001, they created the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs (MOWAC) and they organized a social analysis with a focus on women and children from 2003-2005 called the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) 2003-2005. Furthermore, the First Lady Mrs. Agyeman-Rawlings led the 31st December Women’s Movement. The state also created gender desks at various state institutions. Other prominent and active women’s organizations are International Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) and the Christian Mothers’ Union (church affiliated).
“The majority of women’s groups tend to focus their activities on two main areas: the creation of income-generating projects for women and advocacy for women.” (Prah 414) Another system difference for women is that law in Ghana recognizes women’s rights to property, separate or non-dependent on men and their freedom to enter into transactions independently. (Prah 412) However, this is still not practiced widely due to the traditional norms that state only males can own property. Additionally, women hold important cultural, social and religious roles in society. “Women are dominant in the religions and cultural life of communities, […] In these positions they are held in high esteem by the society.” (Prah 413) Yet, the long-term traditional role of the chieftaincy system practiced in Ghana still reserves the position of chief for males.


Women and Development

A lot of research has recently been conducted to evaluate the impact of women on development. This chapter will be divided into two sections. First I will detail all of the factors that prevent women from fully contributing to society and the economy at large. The second section will specify how and why it is so important for women to be fully participating actors to increase development.

            The primary factors that impede women from contributing fully to economic development are: un-waged labor, inequitable access to educational achievement, gender-based development and conflict/instability of the state.

Un-waged Labor

Women tend to do a large amount of work in the home and in society that contribute to the advancement of the family or the community. However it is often un-waged, meaning that the woman does not get paid for the work she is doing. The 1995 Human Development report was the first to assess and give a monetary value to this type of work on a global scale. It estimated that unwaged and under-waged work is worth $16 trillion internationally. Over two-thirds of this, or $11 trillion, is the non-monetized, invisible contribution of women.  This type of work includes, laundry, childcare and housework that are necessary for the functioning of the house and home life.


Women are still lagging behind men in terms of literacy level and academic access and equality. This inequality reflects in all aspects of a women’s life. “If a girl finishes elementary school and particularly if she has some secondary education, she marries later, ‘better’ and has fewer children. Her children are healthier and better educated. She often earns income, which is very empowering because it gives her added status. She also participates more in her community.” (Roberts, 37)

The SDG 4 is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. And SDG 5 is achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls focuses on improving this situation for women and girls. “Literacy is perhaps the greatest tool for empowerment. It changes the lives of individuals and of whole communities.” (Roberts, 37)

Gender-Based Violence

Another impediment to women’s equality and empowerment is violence. The WHO defines violence against children as “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” (WHO) Hyder and MacVeigh describe how discrimination and violence against girls begin before they are even born because thousands of female fetuses are aborted every year due to a preference for boys. (Hyder and Mac Veigh 82)

Population statistics also demonstrate that millions of girls are killed shortly after birth. Discrimination against girls persists into early childhood, when girls may be subject to neglect, malnutrition, and inadequate health care. Later in life, girls may experience genital mutilation/cutting, early marriage and other forms of gender-based violence. (Hyder and MacVeigh 82)

Violence against girls is related to access to quality education, as many of these issues can be addressed through awareness programs.

Cultural traditions sometimes reinforce or perpetuate gender-based violence. Practices such as female genital mutilation and having child brides. “Some 80-100 million women have undergone female genital mutilation and this practice continues in more than 28 countries, predominantly in Africa.” (Chandran et. Al. 123) Chandran et. Al. argue that women’s empowerment is the key to change these deeply rooted cultural beliefs. “Respecting cultural values while protecting children against violence poses a major ethical dilemma.” (Chandran et. Al. 123)

Poverty is another factor that affects the prevalence of violence. “More than 90% of all violence-related mortality occurs in LMICs.” (Chandran et. Al. 123)In 2005, UNICEF estimated that one billion children, or 50% of the world’s children lived in poverty. When the parents or family supporting children are living in poverty there is more instability, stress and substance abuse, all of which contribute to an increased likelihood of violence against children, particularly girls. “Poverty increases vulnerabilities to gender-based violence and violence against children. Ultimately, prevention of violence against children will hinge on addressing these wider socioeconomic inequalities.” (Chandran et. Al.123)


Violence against women and girls becomes heightened during conflict when sexual exploitation such as rape, mass rape, forced prostitution, forced termination of pregnancy and mutilation increases. “During humanitarian crises, and armed conflict in particular, the potential for gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation, increases.(Hyder, Tina and Mac Veigh, 81) Children, particularly adolescent girls, are vulnerable. This is true for girls and women not matter what their role within the conflict is. “Evidence shows that the majority of girls recruited into fighting forces are subject to sexual violence by members of the armed groups in which they serve.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85)

Women and children are not just victims of the aggressors within a conflict but also from their own communities. “This is because conflict destabilizes community structures and social networks such as the extended family, schools or faith groups, leading to the loss of protective mechanisms that would normally contain and prevent violence.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 83) Conflict can further create vulnerabilities for children who may get separated from their families. Separation from family creates potentials for children to be kidnapped or abducted for human trafficking or fighting. “Most child soldiers are aged between 14 and 18. […] Some enlisted as a means to survival after family, social and economic structures collapse, or after seeing family member tortures or killed by government forces or armed groups. Others join up because of poverty and lack of work or educational opportunities.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85) Sometimes girls enlist with fighting factions to escape abuse (physical or sexual) or violence they already experience in their homes. “Girl soldiers are frequently subject to rape and other forms of sexual violence as well as being involved in combat and other roles. Ins some cases, when they return they are stigmatized by their home communities as a result of their experiences.” (Hyder and Mac Veigh 85)

How women can increase development

Women’s empowerment is necessary in order to overcome these issues that prevent women from participating fully in society and contributing to the economic development of their community. In addition, women’s access and control over resources, including finances influence their bargaining power within the household and society. In 2014 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development Initiative, which seeks to evaluate data and collect research on how to measure achievement of women’s and girls’ empowerment. It is an interdisciplinary effort to analyze how multi-sectoral projects “intentionally and effectively address gender inequalities and empower women and girls while improving outcomes in more than one sector.” (Impatient Optimists) Part of this initiative is trying to analyze the best way for women to be empowered financially, thus increasing their bargaining power within their circumstances. In the following sections I will details the types of micro-financing that have been initiated to try to increase women’s financial independence and thus move them and their families out of poverty and contribute to the economic development of their community.

Micro-financing is creating the availability of financial services to individuals or small groups who wouldn’t have easy access to them otherwise. There are several aspects of micro-financing, including, banking, micro-lending (also known as micro-lending or micro-borrowing) and savings assistance. The idea is that the provision of these services to the world’s poor will help individuals out of poverty, contribute to economic growth, and spur the creation of, or growth, of businesses.

The two schools of thought that exist today among MFIs [micro-finance institutions] can be summarized as: those focused on sustainability (or financial self-sufficiency) and those with a greater depth of outreach (or focus on assisting the poorest). The former is generally seen as having a greater emphasis on banking which also allows the MFI to offer the poor other financial services, such as savings, insurance and remittances and receive additional income streams from these products.” (O’Brien 105)


            These micro-efforts to improve the financial security for women alleviate poverty, provide more access to resources and reduce inequality between genders. This decreases women’s dependency on men and thus decreases the potential for violence against them. Women who can provide for themselves are less likely to stay in an abusive relationship. Women are also valued more in their relationships because they are producing something given external value. They are no longer providing un-waged labor. All of these effects empower women by increasing their respect in the community and productivity in the economy which in turn leads to a more stable community.

Micro-lending: The financing of the future

Informal systems

Since traditionally the poor of the world haven’t had access to credit and other financial services, they have had to rely on informal methods to save and borrow. “Collateral-free lending, proximity, timely delivery and flexibility in loan transactions are some of the attractive features of the informal credit system. In such a situation, formal credit still remains elusive for the rural poor.” (Vatta 432) Vonderlack and Schreiner list the following methods utilized. First, there are door-to-door collectors who come to their client’s doors daily to collect how much the client desires to save and then at the end of the month they give it all back to the client minus their fee, which for example could be two days worth of savings. The drawbacks to this method are that the money may not be safe and the client’s funds are not anonymous. Annual Savings Clubs and Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (RoSCAs) are both groups of people who all contribute to a fund on a monthly basis and the person who gets the total of the contributions rotates month to month, or on some scheduled basis. Members can also borrow against the value contributed. In Sub-Saharan Africa these groups are called esusu. Safety of investment and anonymity are the major downsides to these two types of savings groups. Finally, individuals may purchase small valuables that can easily be hidden and/or easily exchanged for their value. The danger of this method is that individuals may not get the full value out of their item or they may be stolen. “Despite its exploitative nature, informal lenders still continue to occupy a considerable share of the rural credit market.” (Vatta 432)

The major advantages to all of these informal systems are that they are low transactional costs for the saver/borrower and the potential to access fund quickly. “Thus it may be useful to combine the strengths of the informal mechanisms (low transaction costs and assistance with saving discipline) with those of the formal mechanisms (safety, positive returns, quick access to funds and anonymity).” (Vonderlack and Schreiner 606)


The original and most prevalent form of micro-finance is micro-lending. Micro-lending or micro-credit is small-scale loans granted to individuals or to small groups in order to begin or grow an economic enterprise. This trend has emerged as a way to target individuals living in poverty who either have no credit history or would not be deemed credit worthy by major banking institutions. “Perpetual poverty and lack of adequate credit have remained the major constraints in the economic upliftment of rural household. Credit promotes capital investment and adoption of new technology, leading ultimately to better standards of life due to increased production and incomes.” (Vatta 432) Access to credit can help develop rural areas, eliminate poverty and reduce dependence on informal moneylenders.

Vatta argues that micro-credit can be a better mechanism to reduce poverty gradually and consistently. Vatta claims, “The provision of even very little credit helps the poor to improve their income levels. Small amounts of loan, coupled with financial discipline, ensure that loans are given more frequently and hence credit needs for a variety of purposed and at short time intervals can be met.” (Vatta 432) Drakakis-Smith claims that many food stand operators in Harare, Zimbabwe, “…were anxious to become a more permanent part of the retail scene but they lacked capital and the opportunity to become permanent stall holders.” (Drakakis-Smith 18) If those food vendors had access to micro-credit, they could expand their business in the marketplace and (1) provide more food access to those who needed it, (2) improve their own economic standing and (3) stimulate the economy.

Micro-finance in Bangladesh: A case study

Khandker conducted a case study in Bangladesh to evaluate how micro financing could increase household savings as well as reduce dependency on informal lenders. Khandker used data collected by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Students and the World Bank in 1991 and 1992. Here are some excerpts from their findings.

“With an easy access to a microfinance program, the poor save regularly to build financial and physical capital.” (Khandker 49)

“In Bangladesh, microfinance accounts for more than half of rural and financial transactions and reached about 30% of rural households in Bangladesh.” (Khandker 49)

“In particular, we find that having a facility in villages encourages households to save more- the presence of a programme increases the proportion of households who save from 17% to almost 60%.” (Khandker 75)

“Results show that a 10% increase in borrowing [by men or women] increases savings by 6%.” (Khandker 76)

“Results indicate that micro-borrowing increases not only the mandatory savings among the poor but also their voluntary savings.” (Khandker 50)

Khandker concluded that there was a clear improvement in savings for the poor who participated in micro-lending programs.


            While micro-credit has been the most traditional application of micro-financing, savings assistance is emerging as another service to provide. “Although not all people are credit-worthy or want debt, all people are deposit-worthy and want assets.” (Vonderlack and Schreiner 603) “…small loans are not always appropriate for poor women. After all, a loan becomes debt and the poor are exposed to crisis if expected sources of funds for repayment evaporate.” (Vonderlack and Schreiner 603) The repayment of a loan could be a drain on incoming capital for a low-income household and prevent economic growth. “A wealth of evidence now suggests that many ostensible micro-enterprise loans are in fact used for consumption and are repaid out of existing income sources. Thus, the poor have a strong demand not just for micro-enterprise loans, but also for financial services that help them manage liquidity in the household.” (Vonderlack and Schreiner 603)

Khandker found in his case study in Bangladesh that as savings increased in the poor, micro-credit loan repayment increased by 40%. This indicates that self-sustainability could be greatly improved for the MFI if they created savings programs to complement credit programs. (Khandker 76)

Vonderlack and Schreiner propose a variety of savings assistance methods. The first is educational programs connected to savings. This would require the client to enroll in education courses and upon completion, would receive a match of savings amount or similar contribution. A second idea she proposes is the idea of a savings club. This club would unite together a small group of women who would work to save together. Each woman would have control over their own money, but if each member abided by certain standards, they would all be eligible for a bonus. Example of requirements could include a certain number of consecutive deposits or minimum deposit amounts. They would not be a punishment for not achieving those requirements, but they wouldn’t receive the bonus. (Vonderlack and Schreiner 610) In a program like matched savings, donors (such as NGOs) or government grants would match small-scale deposits to savings accounts. (Vonderlack and Schreiner 610) She outlines two programs specifically for women to include safe-deposit boxes and matched savings accounts with the added feature of matched withdrawals when events such as childbirth or the start of a school year occur. (Vonderlack 610)

Benefits and Drawbacks

            Karmakar names empowerment as the major benefit to the savings assistance and micro-lending to the poor. He states that those benefiting from these services end up spending more on education, which leads to better attendance and lower dropout rates. Women specifically benefit from access to financial services and are able to contribute more to the household income. Household and maternal health improves as nutritional intake improves and therefore individuals are able to combat illness better. Furthermore, there is a reduced dependency on informal and other non-institutional lenders who operate in the rural areas. (Karmakar 23) Finally, smaller scale funding can be run without reliance or dependency on foreign intervention or funding. In discussing the micro-finance model initiated in India Karmakar states, “…the model has clearly emerged as the primary model for providing rural microfinance services as a proven method of extending formal financial services to the un-banked rural clientele. This is a home grown model, very flexible and without any dependence on foreign funding.” (Karmakar 22)

In spite of all the advantages of micro-financing, there are some areas of weaknesses. “The interest rates charged by MFIs (micro-financing institutions) are a matter of concern. It has been noted that MFIs chare high rates of interest to attain sustainability and pass on the higher cost of credit to their clients.” (Karmakar 24) The high interest rates are reflective of the fact that the institutions access to capital is limited and they rely on a high return rate from their clients in order to be sustainable. Another reason why interest rates are so high is to offset the cost of transaction for the small loan amount. Karmakar argues that MFIs need to, “Develop strategies for increasing the range and volume of their financial services to attain sustainability while charging reasonable rate s of interest to cover costs and risks.” (Karmakar 24)

Khandker argues that savings should be a necessary aspect of all micro-credit loans. The savings of clients can be used to fund other loans and increase self-sustainability of the programs. He contends that due to the funding from donors or grants that microfinance programs don’t need to rely on savings collected to support lending activities. Therefore, they often times don’t develop this sector of services. (Khandker 50) Khandker argues this is a mistake. “For the self-sustainability of the lending programmme of a microfinance institution, increasing reliance on deposit and savings mobilization is a necessity. Savings can be a relatively inexpensive source of capital for re-lending. Small amounts of savings can also be a great source of strengths of the poor households in smoothing consumption and building assets as collateral. “ (Khandker 52)

Another criticism of micro-financing is that the “poorest of the poor” have not been able to benefit from these financial options. “CGAP’s (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor [and NGO]) guidelines for best practices are based on the belief that: financial services should include credit, savings, transfers, payments and insurance; microfinance requires a sustainable, financial system approach to reach large number of poor people and micro-credit cannot always reach the poorest.” (O’Brien 108) However, this criticism could easily be remedied by expanding existing successful programs. It is, in part, a problem of too much demand and not enough supply.

Karmakar articulates the following guidelines in an effort to make microfinance programs a more mainstream service with consistent expectations. They include, “ (a) opening of saving bank accounts in the name of SHGS (self-help groups, small groups applying for loans as a unit), (b) SHG lending to be a normal lending activity of banks, (c) SHG lending by banks to be part of priority sector lending, (d) relaxation of margin and security norms for financing SHGS and (e) adoption of simplified loan documentation by banks for SHGS.” (Karmakar 22)

A final problem regarding micro-financing is and how to make micro-credit available for “non-farm economic activities.” “[A] major problem is finding an economic activity that will yield a rate of profit necessary to cover the interest rate on the loan and marketing of the product.” (Vatta 433) What other services or activities can be financed and initiated by those living in poverty? This is an area to be explored in order to offer further development.

How can I help?

Kiva: is a great opportunity to invest some of your money into the future of others!!

Gifting Circle:



Global Mamas is a great organization that helps local women get their work sold for a fair price and help sustain their family and build their community. You can simply make purchases to support the women AND the organization has a very indepth volunteer and educational aspect as well!!

Africa, Asia and Haiti


Latin America


All of the above

Women’s World Banking | Women’s Financial Inclusion

Gates Foundation:

FINCA: Fighting Poverty with Microfinance and Social Enterprise




Educational Access for girls in Pakistan

Current Situation

Presently in Pakistan there is a great divide between the access to education between girls and boys. Although statistics vary by provinces within the country, the literacy and enrollment rates for women through the country are persistently and vastly lower than the rates for their male counterparts.

Impediments to Equal Educational Access


The fighting in the north between Taliban militants and the Pakistani government is occuring predominantly in the regions of the North-West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Currently, it is estimated that 2.5 million people have been displaced due to the violence and that the female illiteracy rate is 96% in the FATA and 72% in the North-West Frontier Province. The violence has lead to the destruction of schools or the schools to be used as shelters.

2010 Flood

The devastation of the flood, which occurred in Pakistan in 2010, is also a factor, which further entrenched the poverty of regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan and increased the number of displaced people within the country. 20 million people were affected and 7 million of those people lost their homes and became displaced.

The flood not only affects educational access by the effects of displacement, but many water sanitation systems were destroyed and now access to clean water and the health of the population are affected, created a new subset of problems which can further inhibit school attendance and educational access.


The displacement factor has a two-fold effect. (1) The people of one region have to leave their homes due to the violence or flood. (2) The communities that then have to absorb those displaced people are then put under more of a strain. In the host communities, many of their schools are then used as shelters or as a place people can register for relief. The UN estimates that 1.2 million children in the region hosting displaced people are in need of educational services.

Rural vs. Urban

The issues of violence and the flood of 2010 have only exacerbated issues of educational access, which were already in existence in Pakistan. One primary factor on the access to education appears to be between the rural and urban environment. The literacy rates for Pakistani women living in urban areas are 5 times higher than for women living in rural areas.

In rural areas, the tradition of male dominance is more prevalent. However women in more upper and middle classes have greater access to education and employment opportunities, which grants them greater control over their life options.

In the rural areas poverty, cost of education, the burden of household labor, negative school environments and shortage and conditions of school facilities are all factors which influence the decision of parents to send their daughters to school or not. And if parents have to choose between sending a boy to school vs. a girl, the boy will be the one who will attend.

Educational Funding

According the US in 1960 the expenditure was 1.1% of the GDP, which rose to 3.4% in 1990. In 2011 the Pakistani government organized a government commission to investigate the current educational situation. The commission declared that given the current circumstances, Pakistan has no chance of reaching their Millennium Development Goals for education by 2015, unless the government doubles its present spending on education. At the time of the study (March 2011) The government spending on schools had been cut from 2.5% GDP in 2005 to 1.5%.

The government also spends less in the rural regions where violence is prevalent; spending only $11 per capita on development efforts in FATA compared the $25 in the rest of the country.

The government commission found that: (1) 30,000 school buildings are so neglected they are dangerous, (2) 65% of schools have drinking water, 62% have latrines, 61% have a boundary wall and 39% have electricity. (3) 21,000 schools do not have a school building at all and (4) that there are 26 countries poorer than Pakistan who still managed to send more of their children to school.

Lack of governmental investment in the educational system is what has influenced the growth of private schools in the country, causing both an additional opportunity for educational access and yet a whole other set of disparities at the same time. The reliance on private education automatically excludes many people living in poverty because they would have to pay for either the tuition, the books or the transportation for their child to attend the private school. Hence, this allows for more access to the upper and middle class children, but not those living in poverty. In a region where a private school is the only option, many children, especially girls, may not be able to attend.


Domestic Action

Pakistan is signatory to many international treaties which support equal educational access for women and girls. Their own constitution, outlined in 1973 also declares that, “the State shall… (b) remove illiteracy and provide free and compulsory secondary education.” A recent amendment has elaborated on educational rights by declaring free and compulsory education for all children from 5 to 16 years a fundamental right. It also states that all citizens are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection, that there shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone and guarantees that steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life.

Additionally Pakistan developed a National Plan of Action of Education for All which begin in 2001 and be fully actualized by 2015. The objectives are to (1) promote community participation and ownership of basic education programs, (2) improve the quality of basic education, and (3) ensure access to education for disadvantaged rural and urban population groups, particularly girls and women.

In 2009 Pakistan approved a National Education Policy, which aims to overhaul the educational system based on the recognition of the disparities in access to education both in rural areas as well as by gender. This policy was enacted, as an attempt to get Pakistan on track to meet is Millennium Development Goals for the year 2015.

International Treaties and Declarations

December 1948 Pakistan voted in favor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states, “Everyone has the right to education,” and “Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.

In 1979 the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was adopted by the General Assembly. Although Pakistan didn’t sign the convention until 1996 they now are obligated to the conditions and expectations set forth by this convention, ensuring equality between the genders, including access to education.

The Jomtien Declaration created during a World Conference on Education for All in 1990 declares that every person should be able to benefit from educational opportunities and calls for universal access to education and the promotion of equality. Pakistan was one of the 155 signatories to this declaration.

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 also outlines the right to equality of educational access for both boys and girls that Pakistan has both signed and ratified.

During the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, Pakistan committed to the advancement of women and to ensure that a gender perspectives is reflected in all policies and programs at all levels of the governments actions, nationally, regionally and internationally. Their declaration includes ensuring, “equal access to and equal treatment of women and men in education.” (Article 30)

In 2000 Pakistan was one of 164 countries, which signed the Dakar Framework for Action, Education for All: Meeting Our Collective Commitments. This framework also sets the goal of 2015 as a benchmark to measure the educational outcomes of gender and demographic equality. It aims to eliminate gender discrimination and integrate strategies for gender equality in education recognizing the need for changes in attitudes values and practices within the educational systems.

In 2000, Pakistan participated in the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals during which the member states of the UN drew up eight goals as a response to improve the worlds main development challenges/ The second goal outlines was to, “ Achieve universal primary education for both boys and girls by 2015.”


Opportunities for growth

Although the displacement of families both by the violence in the north and the devastation of the 2011 flood have contributed to educational disruption, it at the same time offers a chance for improvement. Specifically in the rural areas where women’s roles and necessities of survival may not allow for the opportunity to attend school, by living in a new region with new structures may allow for the access and opportunity to attend school that wasn’t available in the hometown of the families. The new environment may also be safer in regards to threats to girls attending school; there may be improved facilities, more female teachers, all of which are factors, which may influence the parents to send their girls to school.

A result of such humanitarian crisis is that international organizations, including UNICEF are able to access the country and set up temporary camps for the families and schools for the children. Many children from rural areas who previously had no access to education are now attending UNICEF-supported schools in their camps. As of November 2012 UNICEF supports primary education in 11 IDP camps.


The highest priority to combat these impediments to educational access for both boys and girls is that the government must increase government funding for schools. Even if they increased their spending to only 7- 10% of the GDP, the government could radically improve the conditions of their educational structure.

More schools need to be built in more regions. In the rural areas where there are fewer schools more must be built. Schools must be established immediately in camps for displaced people. This includes not only camps that currently exists and have no schools, but also any future camps which may be established as a result of future violence or disaster. In the case where no schools can be built, the government should send supports to the community to hold classes in homes or other potential meeting places. Additionally, money must be spent to improve schools that are in disrepair. Conditions of lack of drinking water, lack of bathrooms and lack of electricity must be repaired.

The capacity of schools to absorb displaced boys and girls in host communities must be increased. Improved teacher training and allocating more funds to training and hiring teachers, especially in areas that are hosting displaced people.

This increase in government funding for schools will contribute to the goal of creating and making free primary education access to all citizens a reality.


How can I help?


Border areas of Pakistan:

Ways To Help


Developments in literacy: There are volunteer opportunities on an on-going basis at DIL, which include remote teaching, fund development, skill based management and administrative projects. For information, please contact our office:


Illegality of the use of Drones in Pakistan

What are drones? How and why are they being used?

            Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) more commonly known as drones are small aircraft, which is controlled remotely by a computer or pilot on the ground. The CIA has been using ‘Predator’ drones, which carry air to surface missiles, to conduct air strikes in Pakistan, primarily in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the North-West Frontier, since 2004. Their objective has been to target (and kill) Taliban and Al-Queda leaders and members fighting, hiding and recruiting in that region. However, in the course of those attacks, civilians have been killed as well. The numbers of deaths of insurgents as well as civilians vary from source to source. “Nearly 8,000 people were killed in Pakistan in 2008 as a result of political violence. […] Virtually all of the violence and casualties were related in some way to the ‘war on terror’. ‘Operation attacks’ or security forces’ operations against alleged militants accounted for the largest since cause of death (3,182). (Gazdar 8)

Table 1 below are the high and low estimates of deaths published by New American Foundation, an American think-tank based in Washington D.C. Table 2 is another estimate from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism regarding the statistics about drone strikes in Pakistan also since 2004 as of March 2013. The total numbers of attacks are pretty close, but you can see that the estimates on the death totals have quite a wide range. By Table 2 we are also able to see that the level of attacks have increased substantially under the Obama Administration.


Table 1: US Drone Strikes Estimates (as of April 2013)

Year Number of


Number Killed
Min. Max.
2004 1 5 8
2005 3 12 13
2006 2 90 102
2007 4 48 77
2008 36 219 344
2009 54 350 721
2010 122 608 1,028
2011 72 366 599
2012 48 222 349
2013 12 62 73
Total 354 1,982 3,314

 Table 2: Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004-March 2013

Total Strikes 366
Total Deaths 2,537-3,581
Civilians reported killed 411-884
Children reported killed 168-197
Total reported injured 1,174-1,465
Strikes under the Bush Administration 52
Strikes under the Obama Administration 314

            For the United States, the fact that drones are unmanned and do not risk the life of a pilot manning the vehicle, makes it much more tempting to use. “Indeed, capabilities on hand at the time of the decision arguably influence choices about small-scale uses or threats of force more than they do decision about entering major wars.” (Fordham 635) However, we must discuss, is this use of force via drones legal under international law?

Legality of using drones

It is clear that the US drone attacks in Pakistan are not legal under international law but there is a lot of misinformation even about the program. One of the major issues hindering analysis of the drone strikes program, is the fact that the US and the Obama administration has been so secretive about the program which is reflected by the fact that the range of the death toll tallies vary so much. Considering that the US is targeting non-state actor terrorists who have not engaged in an ‘armed attack’ against the US, it wouldn’t be likely that the international community would accept the reason of self-defense to justify their drone air strikes. “Governments around the world showed little enthusiasm for the concept of pre-emptive self-defense.” (Brunnee and Toope 794)

The argument could be made that the US is acting in the interests of the Security Council and is using force against a collective threat. However, because the US has carried out these attacks in unilaterally and in secret, they have chosen to use force outside of the guidelines governing the use of force set forth in the Charter of the UN. If the US believed the drone strikes were successful and wanted to continue them legally within the guidelines they must take the issue to the Security Council in order to pass a resolution regarding the threat posed in the Pakistani tribal areas. “Relying on collective security as the basis for using force against the new threats is also preferable to developing new unilaterist doctrines because of the danger that such doctrines will substantially increase international insecurity by creating legal bases for erroneous or bad-faith uses of force.” (Weiner 494)

One of the advantages to making it an issue for the Security Council is that the use of force becomes a multi-lateral decision which can be based on more information (once information is being shared between the members of the Council) and that there is a system of checks and balances which will afford more legitimacy to the actions taken. “A rule permitting the use of force to counter new security threats on the basis of collective security exhibits a higher degree of legitimacy than does one allowing unilateral use of force on each of these indicators.” (Weiner 482)

The third issue of legality concerning the use of drones in Pakistan is the killing of civilians during the drone air strikes. “Under international humanitarian law, the use of force against valid targets such as combatants and civilians directly participating in hostilities is not directly governed by proportionality. Although the methods and means of using force are not unlimited emphasis is placed on prohibiting ‘superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.’” (Watkin 33) The principle of proportionality states that it’s legally acceptable that civilians can be killed as casualties during the use of force, as long as the amount of force used was proportional and appropriate to why it was being used and that caution is taken not to cause civilian casualties whenever avoidable. “According to this principle, civilians are killed if the military objective is determined to be sufficiently important.” (Watkin 16) The CIA denies any civilian deaths from the drone attacks, however that is unlikely given how many independent sources report civilian deaths have occurred. The Brookings Institution reports that for every one mid-high ranking Al-Queda or Taliban leader 10 civilians are killed. (Byman) New America Foundation estimates 80% of those killed were militants. From Table 2 above, we can see that The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that of a significant number of civilians, including children have been killed in attacks. They also reported that follow up strikes have occurred when people have gone to help victims and they have also targeted funerals and mourners. (Woods and Lamb) According to the statistics with much higher numbers of deaths, one could argue that the civilian casualties are so high that the principle of proportionality is being violated.

How are the combatants who are being targeted and killed in Pakistan classified? “Categorizing these private actors is made more difficult by the increasing use of the ‘terrorist’ label. A definition of terrorism has yet to be agreed upon, and proposed versions sometimes show a preference for limiting it to the criminal sphere or non-state activity.” (Watkin 6) Differentiating between civilians and combatants is a crucial point to the argument supporting the legality of drone usage. “In addition, civilians are separated from combatants in accordance with the fundamental humanitarian law principle of distinction. Moreover, any use of force must be controlled to ensure that it is used internationally only against valid military objectives.” (Watkin 15) Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions articulates the obligation of the state to distinguish between people who are engaged in hostilities and those who are not. In addressing the use of force President Obama has said, “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even if we have a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. […] I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.” (Obama 128) In spite of having reaffirmed America’s commitment to differentiate between civilians and combatants, it is clear that the drone air strikes have not adequately done so.

A final point of contention is the issue of state sovereignty. “A more controversial question concerns a state’s use of force to apprehend alleged terrorists who are within another state’s jurisdiction or control.” (Schachter 139) The military actions taken by the US are occurring on Pakistani soil. There are also conflicting reports about Pakistan’s knowledge of or approval of the drone strikes. Initially, Pakistan claimed that they had not given consent to the air strikes. “The US also has frequently attacked suspected militants in tribal regions of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. A ground raid in early September drew strong protests from Pakistan. […] Following an attack in late October that killed 20 people, including Taliban commanders, Pakistan lodged strong protests with US ambassador Anne Patterson and Central Command head General David Petreaus and demanded an end to the attacks. However, press reports indicate that Pakistan and the US may have reached a tacit agreement allowing the attacks to continue.” (Journal of International Law 162)

However, later, reports emerged that Pakistan did actually know about them and not only gave consent to the US to carry out air strikes, but that they also even shared information and requested more air strikes. In April 2013, Pakistan’s ex-President Musharraf admitted to the press that he had approved US drone strikes “only on a few occasions, when a target was absolutely isolated and no chance of collateral damage.” (Robertson and Botelho) He still contends that the number of times they approved the strikes was limited and that the majority of the attacks occurred without the government’s consent. However, in a communication from August 2008, which was posted on Wikileaks, then-US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson stated, “Malik [Rehman] (then Interior Minister) suggested we hold off alleged Predator attacks until after the Bajaur operation,” Patterson wrote. “The PM (Yousuf Raza Gilani) brushed aside Rehman’s remarks and said, ‘I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.’ ” (Robertson and Botelho)


On May 11th 2013, the Peshawar High Court declared the use of drones illegal and called the US operated air strikes “war crimes.” (Gao)

“Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who presided over the case, cited a litany of broken international laws and agreements, ranging from the U.N. Charter to the U.N. Millennium Declaration and the Geneva Conventions. He also called for the U.S. government to redress Pakistani civilian victims of U.S. drone strikes, and for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to establish a war crimes tribunal to investigate further injustices.” (Gao)

It is clear, upon examining the current laws, which exist today in international law, that the US has violated international law concerning the use of force. The drone attacks do not qualify under the exception of self-defense and they were not acting with the knowledge and support of the Security Council under the exception of a threat to the collective security. Neither are they abiding by the Geneva Conventions Protocol 1’s requirement to sufficiently differentiate between civilians and insurgents. The Peshawar High Court is accurate in their assessment. If the US firmly believes that their cause is just, then they should go through the Security Council and seek to continue their mission in a multilateral way. Weiner argues that going through the Security Council will make their mission more legitimate as well as more efficient. “[…], the use of force is more likely to succeed—in terms of achieving the political goals for which force was employed – when rooted in collective security mechanisms, than if founded on doctrines that expand the right to use force unilaterally.” (Weiner 493) The UN must take steps to immediately reprimand the US for their illegal actions, if one state is allowed to break the law governing the use of force without censure, then others will follow, and the entire system will be undermined.

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