Vansa loves school. Her eyes lit up as she told me (author, Sara Rossi) about how she dreamed of becoming a physician so she could help her community of Ggaba, a low-income area just south of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. “I’m smarter than the boys in my class,” the 13-year-old stated proudly, “and I get better marks, too.”
But, as the eldest of six siblings, she was expected to help her mother sell goods at the market each morning, and take care of her younger sisters and brothers in the evenings. The quality of education at public secondary schools in her area was so poor that the only option would be to attend a private school outside her district for high school. She feared she would not be able to stay in school beyond the following year, since school fees were unaffordable to her family and would take her away from her income-earning and care-taking duties.
Despite her high grades and ambitions, the boys in her family were prioritised for further education.
Vansa’s story is all too common, especially in the developing world. During adolescence, factors such as menstruation, gender-based violence, and early pregnancy and marriage force many girls to drop out of school. Other obstacles prevent girls from even making it to school in the first place, including poverty, disability, cultural practices, and being affected by conflict or emergencies …