Missionaries have called on the Government to make educating girls in the developing world a key priority in Ireland’s foreign aid budget.
The call comes in the aftermath of the International Day of the Girl last week.
Sr Brigid Tunney, Mission Development Officer for the Loreto Sisters, told The Irish Catholic that targeted funding for girls’ education is “definitely a good thing” and would be “a sensible focus” for State funding.
Citing the adage that “if you educate a woman you educate a nation”, she described how in a Loreto school in South Sudan, girls are protected from attacks while being educated, recovering from traumas suffered at home, and learning that they can have opinions of their own.
With 60% of the school’s graduates in university, while others work with the government, in local radio, or in the school itself, she said, “they want to do something for their nation. It appears to me that the women are the ones who want to do something constructive, and they’re being enabled by education.”
Noting that in South Sudan, a typical 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than finish secondary school, she added, “When things settle a bit in South Sudan, these women who are educated will get into places where they can make a difference.”
Like many other Irish missionary groups, the sisters depend on the support of Misean Cara which channels funding from Irish Aid. Misean Cara’s Anthony Hannon told The Irish Catholic that focusing on the education of girls “is very important” for its wider impact, but added that “educating girls is a good thing because it is a human right, and girls deserve a chance to be educated, regardless of what they do with that education”.
Maintaining that “a huge amount needs to be done, particularly at secondary level”, Mr Hannon said barriers to girls receiving a full secondary education vary from country to country.
“Sons are seen as a better investment because sons stay within the family after marrying, but often when girls are married she moves to the husband’s family,” he said of the situation in Ghana, continuing, “there’s a kind of saying that educating girls is like watering your neighbour’s garden.”
At the same time, he said, the situation there is better than many other countries, stressing that the girls are not “passive people”, since “the girls are the ones who are really pushing for their own education”.