Gender Dynamics

Girls' Unique Risks

Parents are very aware of the potential risks for their daughters, and also very aware that attending school may increase those risks. Going to school may actually provide protection to girls by giving them critical thinking skills, confidence and life and communication skills to look after themselves. Yet, parents may feel they can better protect their daughters by keeping them at home and not allowing them to go to school. Sometimes protecting a daughter can mean ensuring that she is married young; early marriage and early motherhood usually mean that girls have to stop their studies.

In other situations, measures to protect girls may be helpful only in the short-term. For example, the advice given to the schoolgirls by the Classroom Assistants in Sierra Leone and Guinea was to keep to themselves, not to talk to teachers, and not to play with boys. Although such advice is well meaning, and can help to ensure that girls do not get into difficult situations, it also means that the girls are given a clear message that they should limit themselves, and that they should not be active and assertive. The responsibility is placed on the girls, and there is then no discussion of how men and boys should also change their attitudes and behaviors to create environments conducive to teaching and learning for all.