Educated girls for a better Congo of tomorrow

My name is Elie, I am 16 years old and I am a child reporter from Kinshasa. Each year on 11 October, the International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated worldwide. This day was established by the United Nations General Assembly to recognise the rights of girls and remove the obstacles they face. This year, the obstacle chosen was the absence of education and professional training.

What is the situation in the DRC?

Today, the whole world welcomes the presence of a high number of girls at primary school. In 2014, 47% of primary school children were girls. At secondary level, the number of girls falls significantly because many people still think that from the age of 12, when secondary school starts, girls should be prepared for marriage and taking care of the household. The number of girls falls because there are many misconceptions about women’s role; many people think that at this age they should focus on preparing for marriage and taking care of the home. At university the situation is even more alarming because girls make up only 30% of students.

This is unacceptable because, in my view, girls are very resourceful. Girls are adept at communicating love and affection for other human beings and, therefore, they are more likely to live in peace. They are more sociable and always work for the benefit of their family and community.

Without education and professional qualifications, girls are susceptible to pregnancy and early marriage. They cannot access good employment and, consequently, they cannot contribute to the country’s development. Without education, girls are destined to remain behind boys and men.

How can we change this?

On Thursday 11 October, an official ceremony was organised at a high school in Kinshasa, bringing together children, teachers, representatives of international organisations, ministers and other public figures. As this day is an opportunity to mobilise the whole community in support of girls, it was agreed that a boy would tell the story “my mother is the best”. This is the story of a women who had the opportunity to finish her studies, find work, marry and live with a husband who respects her.

Unfortunately, this story is not lived by all women in the DRC. In that majority of cases, they face numerous obstacles that prevent them from having a better future. Too many myths and cultural beliefs limit girls’ educations in favour of marriage, married life and family.

Boys can also defend girls’ rights

As a boy, I ask the whole world to recognise that we should not be content with the good results for girls’ primary education. We should take measures to ensure that all girls can go further and undertake university studies.

For me, it is only then that girls will be able to contribute to the development of the DRC. With educated and properly qualified women, the country will live in peace and harmony.

I will not hide that fact that on Thursday 11 October I heard some say that it would have been better if a girl had spoken. I think that if we want the men of tomorrow to change the way they live with girls and women, the boys of today must start to defend girls’ rights.

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Translated from French by Holly-Anne Whyte

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Elie

Elie, 16 ans, est Enfant Reporter de la Ville-Province de Kinshasa. Il se mobilise en faveur pour que chaque fille de sa communauté puisse accéder à l'éducation, au même titre que les garçons.

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