In September last year, Jane Caro — a strong advocate for public education in Australia — donated to Do It In A Dress during the frenzy surrounding Craigburn Primary School’s fundraising. Now that we’re getting ready to wrap up the biggest month of the year for Do It In A Dress 2018, our CEO Sarah had a chat with Jane about the barriers girls face to education not just in Sierra Leone, but right here at home.
Jane tells us, “In Australia it’s really interesting, I don’t think that education is our issue because I know that, for example, girls do much better than boys in school here. They academically outperform them, and interestingly enough, they’ve academically outperformed boys for over a century in Australia.
“At university, I think we reached a tipping point where there were more girls going to university than boys in 1987! And now, there is something like 87 boys to every hundred girls at university. So Australian girls are way ahead in education. I think I heard a stat that we’re the best-educated women in the world!” says Jane.
Well that’s pretty impressive!
Jane also told us that “Where the great disconnect comes is once we go to work. Because we [women] are not well represented in terms of workplace participation and achievement. So we have this fantastic resource of all these incredibly educated girls, who are completely stymied when they go into the workplace. So I think the issue here [in Australia] is less about girls’ education and recognising girls’ hard work and achievements in education and giving them the opportunities they need to contribute fairly, and to be paid fairly for their contribution in the world of work. That’s where our difficulty lies.”
Girls in Sierra Leone face many barriers to accessing education; ranging from poverty to early marriage and teenage pregnancy; to a lack of hygienic sanitation facilities both in school and at home. There’s no doubt that girls are up against it. Even if they do manage to finish school, the challenges don’t stop there. And it’s the same for girls here.
“I think we always believed that if only we gave girls a good opportunity at an education, then all the barriers would fall away. What has been proved is that’s not what happens.” says Jane.
And we agree. Many One Girl scholars face barriers after completing their higher education — and this is why our Business Brains program is so important.
Business Brains is building bridges for newly graduated girls, so they can acquire business and life skills that allow them to break down those barriers when entering the workforce. Another part of the program is to connect newly graduated girls with female business owners and leaders in their community so that the girls have a positive role model and mentor. And Business Brains doesn’t just help girls, it’s reaching boys as well — 12,427 to be exact! Because we know that breaking down these barriers is a joint effort.
Whether it’s in Sierra Leone or Australia, it’s going to take both men and women to break down these barriers girls and women face so that everyone can benefit — and Jane agrees:
“One of the things I think that charities need to do (and this is perhaps why boys doing ‘Do It In A Dress’ really appealed to me) is to get men to support women, because we’re constantly getting women to work for women, and that is great, it’s terrific … but we need to get men changing. It’s women who have changed in the West, we’ve turned ourselves inside out changing over the last 50 years, now it’s time for men to step up. Really, really, really!”
Hear hear! Read more about Business Brains and what we’re doing to make sure girls in Sierra Leone can succeed outside the classroom or make a donation and you could give a girl an opportunity to reach her potential through education!