International Women’s Day 2022: Tackling bias, gender discrimination and sexual stereotyping

Every March 8th, the world comes together to celebrate the achievements of women. International Women’s Day is not just an opportunity though to pay tribute to the role women everywhere play in society, in the workplace, at home, and in every aspect of life. It is also a chance to shine a light on the bias, gender discrimination and sexual stereotyping which still means that women and girls across the globe are held back, simply because they are female.

The lack of education opportunity given to so many girls is one clear example of discrimination. According to UNESCO ,132 million girls are out of school around the world.   

Although girls and boys are almost equally likely to start primary school, girls are less likely to stay-on, with 63% completing primary school in low-income countries, compared to 67% of boys. The gap widens for lower secondary and upper secondary schools.

The Covid pandemic has only made this gender gap worse. During the pandemic 1.5 billion children, including 767 million girls, lost out on education at the peak of school closures. UNESCO estimates that 11 million girls may drop out of education altogether as a result, simply never returning to the classroom.

Bridge International Academies and the community school programs it supports in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Andhra Pradesh in India are committed to ensuring girls receive the same opportunities as boys.

Our education system uses an approach with gender parity built into its design. This includes using gender-sensitive artwork and stories in textbooks, ensuring equal visibility of male and female characters, particularly representing female characters in leading or unconventional roles. The necessity of female role models expands further into the classroom with gender-sensitive school management, ensuring girls are given school leadership roles through appointments of Head Girls and Prefects.

It is also important for girls to be inspired by female teachers and female principals, and at Bridge, women make-up well over half of our professional educational staff. Improving teachers’ professional development is a core part of our mission and a data-driven approach provides teachers and school leaders with tools to learn and adapt their skills.

Every teacher receives bespoke training, designed to encourage and engage girls. Live lesson observations are conducted and teachers are trained to call on both boys and girls in the classroom, as fewer girls than boys usually tend to volunteer. Teachers are also trained to practice more cold calling to ensure equal participation and boost confidence in girls.

Treating girls equally is not just their human right. It is good for their communities and societies. A percentage point increase in spending on girls’ education boosts GDP by 0.3 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points (UNICEF). The World Bank reports that on average, returns to schooling – the increase in lifetime earnings associated with additional education – are higher for girls than for boys. For an additional year of schooling, women see an increase of 12% on the wages compared to 10% for men. 

Parents who send their girls to Bridge schools expect, rightly, that they will be supported and encouraged to give of their very best. Results from exams over the years show that Bridge girls perform as well or better than boys.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 is “Break the bias.” At Bridge, we aim to do just that, every day, and especially on this special day.