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Changing Attitudes Means More Girls in School


 "Please educate me if you love me," was nine-year old Yasmine's plea to her father. Yasmine, the second youngest child of nine, was about to miss the chance of enrolling in school again. Her youngest brother was already set to follow the path of her three older brothers, who have since earned technical high school diplomas. Her four older sisters did not receive any education.

Yasmine was among the girls who were not in school identified by World Education staff on the USAID-funded Girls Improved Learning Programs program (GILO) in Egypt. She had been approached by a GILO's Community Education Team (CET), a group of local community members who believe in the importance of education. GILO trains these members to look at educational problems, identify solutions, and advocate the necessity of educating girls.

Like many girls born to rural families in Upper Egypt, Yasmine's father believes that her place is at home. Her duty, as he sees it, is to help her father care for the field and help her mother with cattle and household chores. He is of the opinion that educating his daughters would result in harassment in the school or on the streets.

But the CET members were determined. They continued to meet with Yasmine's father, explaining to him that educating his daughter would benefit not only Yasmine, but her family, and the surrounding community. They told him that Yasmine could look after her younger brother at school. She could even become a physician or an engineer. The CET members said that education was important for boys and girls alike, and that depriving girls of education was an injustice frowned upon by their religion.

Yasmine's father was still hesitant, saying that he had not yet applied for a national number (national identification card) for Yasmine, as the procedures would be too time-consuming. A CET member offered to help and asked for Yasmine's birth certificate. The father asked one of his daughters to bring the birth certificate from his documents' hiding place. The daughter brought him another document, which caused him to rebuke her for failing to differentiate between the two documents.

The girl felt humiliated, and responded through tears: "Had you educated me I would have been able to read and recognize the difference between the two documents." Her words stunned her father, who suddenly saw the many ways she could have benefitted from such knowledge. The girl's speech reinforced the argument of the CET members.

Yasmine attended her first school day full of joy and gratitude to those who had helped her gain access to education and a chance to realize her full potential.