Solutions journalism is news about how communities and organizations are responding to social and environmental problems. This collection contains solutions stories highlight some of the efforts that countries have made to increase access to education for girls. In one story, a nonprofit in Morocco offers after-school programs and tutoring to young women in the hopes that they will finish school and delay young marriages. In another, a school offers scholarships to indigenous girls in rural Guatemala - where 60 percent of indigenous women are illiterate. Another story shows how educating women creates resilience when faced with climate disasters and schools that have opened in refugee camps see an increase in female participation rates, resulting in an improved society.
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Want to use some or all of these stories in a classroom or community setting? Here are some questions to get you started. Or make a copy of this collection and create your own.
- What is the relationship between climate change, drought, and the education of girls in Afghanistan?
- In the PBS story about Afghan women, there is mention of a “threat multiplier.” Define this term, and characterize other threat multipliers you can think of. Examples can be from any sphere, from climate to politics to our social fabric. One possible example: Is North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, a threat multiplier to global security?
- Compare the situation between the girls in Afghanistan and Somalia. Do they face the same challenges? Evaluate whether the effect of educating women is the same in each country, and determine why it is, or is not.
- (Group) As a group, evaluate the degree to which you think women in highly conservative societies have control over their bodies. Do you think women in countries like the United States have control over their bodies? Why or why not? Compare the two.
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"Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth" according to Project Drawdown, which lists educating girls as one of the most effective strategies for stopping climate change. Well-educated girls are the key to numerous economic and health-related issues including upward mobility, higher wages, diminished incidences of HIV/AIDS, and lower mortality rates.
Here are answers to the discussion questions;
- This is is a fascinating story in which climate change leads to the education of girls in a family in Afghanistan. Because of continued and severe drought exacerbated by climate change, the farmer can no longer make a living growing traditional crops. Cultivating opium would be an option (it is drought resistant and brings high prices), and many of his fellow farmers have switched from their traditional crops to opium poppy cultivation. However, he is ethically opposed to growing this crop. Consequently, he allowed his daughters to continue their education and become school teachers. Normally, they would have left school after the eighth grade and remained in the home, but because they became teachers, they are able to supply a steady and predictable income to the family. Students might also see the similarity to the story about Somalia, in which girls in a refugee camp are allowed to continue their education under desperate circumstances.
- A threat multiplier is essentially a social algorithm that disproportionately impacts various social, cultural, and political institutions. Climate change is often viewed as a dramatic threat multiplier, because it exacerbates other sociopolitical threats such as persistent poverty, lack of access to health care, weak state institutions, and civil strife. In the example, North Korea can be seen as a threat multiplier because this tiny, impoverished dictatorship may soon have nuclear weapons that require disproportionate attention from the international community in addressing the potential for a nuclear event.
- This question is designed to get students thinking about the status of girls and young women globally. The essential social and cultural issues remain the same—men don’t want women to be educated, which gives them independence, mobility, and increasing political authority. The great irony of comparing these two stories is that living in a refugee camp actually empowered the young Somali women. In the case of the Afghan women, it was only economic desperation and an ethical unwillingness to cultivate opium by the father that allowed the girls to pursue an education.
- Responses will vary, but the question is intended to get students contrasting what they would generally consider disenfranchised women in the Global South to those in the Global North. How different are they, if we consider issues such as gender pay equity, access to family planning, political authority, security, and legal protections? Because for most of the Global South women are primary providers of food, water, and the caring of children, climate change will disproportionately affect them. Will this burden degrade their status even further?