This month, America Abroad examines the efforts of individuals, communities, governments, and international organizations to give children, and particularly girls, a chance to learn and succeed in the 21st century. We tell the story of a school for girls in India that's fighting the centuries old tradition of marrying off girls as teenagers; how Turkey is addressing the challenges of educating Syrian refugees; and how some parents in Afghanistan are pretending their young girls are boys in order to give them greater freedoms.
Guests this month include:
Xanthe Ackerman, Founder of Advancing Girls' Education in Africa, Senior Fellow with the Syria Research and Evaluation Organization. Fallou Ngom, Associate Professor of Linguistic Anthropology and Director of the African Language Program at Boston University. Jenny Nordberg, Journalist and author of "The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan." Jennifer Simpson, Director for Education and Child Development at Save the Children.
The concept of child marriage is a completely foreign idea in the United States. Yet in many parts of the world, including South Asia and Africa, it’s as common as the idea of marriage itself. In countries such as, Niger, Chad and the Central African Republic, for example, more than two-thirds of girls were married off before their 18th birthday in 2007. That’s according to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW).
One place that girls in Africa are finding an education is at Islamic religious schools known as madrassas. Typically these schools teach only boys, but in sub-Saharan Africa, more madrassas are being opened for girls and are usually funded by wealthy Arab donors. It’s a way to compensate for, what some say, is the extremely poor quality of state-funded schools.
Inside Syria, almost six million children have been affected by the country's ongoing civil war, and millions more have fled the country to find safety in refugee camps. Turkey, for example, has opened its doors to about a million-and-a-half Syrian refugees since spring 2011. But as the war drags on, Turkey is finding itself with a long-term humanitarian and education problem.
India has been in the news recently for the way it treats its women and girls — and mostly not in a good way. But some women and girls are taking matter into their own hands, making sure they get the education to which they are entitled. Even when it means challenging the country's traditional way of doing things.