Goto main content

Education, girls, disability: HI committed to solve the equation of exclusion

Inclusion Rights
Burkina Faso International Mali Niger

Following a study conducted in 2019 in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, and at the occasion of the International Day of Education on January 24, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) alerts Sahel countries’ governments and international cooperation organisations on the exclusion of girls with disabilities from school. Worldwide, women with disabilities are three times more likely to be illiterate than men without disabilities.

Oumou, 9 years old, is amputated. She is a beneficiary of the HI Inclusive Education project in Mali. (Testimony included in the 2020 Inclusive Education kit)

Oumou, 9 years old, is amputated. She is a beneficiary of the HI Inclusive Education project in Mali. (Testimony included in the 2020 Inclusive Education kit) | © Pascale Jérôme Kantoussan/HI

The education of young girls, including girls with disabilities, is an injustice that HI is fighting against. It is also a major development issue in the Sahel Region that comprises many low-income countries.

The reality of girls' education in the Sahel

Very few girls with disabilities go to school in the Sahel. In Mali, less than 18% of women with disabilities can read and write.[1] In Niger and Mali, more than half of the girls enrolled in primary school do not access secondary education. In Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls have completed secondary school.  [2] Being a girl and having a disability represents a double discrimination.

Prejudices and superstitions against disability

Having a child with a disability is seen by families as a "tragedy" or a "punishment": the child will be treated less well, fed less, and cared for less. They will be hidden, locked up because the family will be ashamed. Some may think that disability is contagious.

According to some beliefs, the bodies of people with disabilities have magical properties. Girls with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence because some believe that having sex with them will bring them wealth or power or cure them of AIDS.

The primacy of boys

A boy is considered to be the future responsible for the family's income. He will be sent to school and will have a better chance of getting a paid job.  A girl will be more likely confined to domestic activities. Sending her to school will be considered useless…

Children with disabilities are very often seen as an additional burden on the family, and girls with disabilities even more so. The costs of educating disabled girls are considered too high, in part because of the economic loss involved. Indeed, girls with disabilities often contribute to the economic survival of the household through begging or by participating in domestic chores.

Girls with disabilities at school: so many obstacles!

When they manage to attend school, girls with disabilities face many obstacles. They often drop out of school early as they approach puberty, due to the family’s concern to protect them from sexual violence and early pregnancy. The lack of adapted toilets is also a cause of repeated absences and abandonment.

"I prefer to study but if my parents force me to marry, I will agree to do what they tell me to do" - Fata, blind 11 year-old girl, Mali

In rural areas, the distance between home and school is a major obstacle to schooling for girls with disabilities. For students who walk to school, long distances pose a safety risk. And the cost of transport is often too high for families.

Positive experiences 

In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, experiments in inclusive education for children with sensory impairment are being carried out successfully. The conditions for success are based on a good assessment of the child's needs and the commitment of the teaching staff who are proficient in sign language or Braille.

"The first year was not easy with the learning of Braille. I didn't feel comfortable. But now it's okay. As time went by, I managed to make friends and we learned to understand each other. I would like to go to high school in Senegal and become a lawyer in my country." Daouda, 16 years old, visually impaired, Mali.

Education, a development goal

It is estimated that an additional year of study can increase a woman's income by 20%. If all adults in the world had completed secondary education, the world poverty rate would be halved. [3]

Limited access to education leads to low participation in the world of work. In some low- and middle-income countries, the cost of excluding persons with disabilities from the world of work is as high as 7% of gross domestic product. [4]

Reducing inequalities between girls and boys in access to education could bring between $112 billion and $152 billion each year to low- and middle-income countries. [5]

---

HI and inclusive education

In 2020, HI implemented 52 projects in 27 countries in West, Central, North and East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Its work focuses in particular on children with disabilities - the most vulnerable and excluded young learners in the world - in low-income countries, both in development and emergency contexts. HI aims to increase the school enrolment, participation and success of children and young adults with disabilities in education.

 

[1] UNESCO, “Education and Disability: analysis of data from 49 countries”, 2018.

[2] ONE, “Accès des filles à l’éducation dans le monde”, 2017.

[3] UNESCO, “Reducing global poverty through universal primary and secondary education”, 2017.

[4] Buckup, S., International Labour Organization, “The price of exclusion: the economic consequences of excluding people with disabilities from the world of work”, 2009.

[5] ONE, “Accès des filles à l’éducation dans le monde : les mauvais élèves”, 2017.

Where your
support
helps

PRESS CONTACT

CANADA

Fatou Thiam

USA

Mica BEVINGTON

 

Help them
concretely

To go further

 Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups Explosive weapons

Increase of use of landmines driven by Russia, Myanmar and non-state armed groups

The Landmine Monitor 2022 reports a high number of casualties caused by landmines - including improvised mines and explosive remnants of war - for the seventh year in a row. The Monitor recorded 5,544 casualties in 2021. 75% of them were civilians. This high figure is mainly the result of increased armed conflicts and contamination with improvised mines since 2015. The use of landmines by the Russian and Myanmar armies, as well as by non-state armed groups in five countries, are the main factors of a sharp global increase of the use of these weapons in 2022.

States will gather in Geneva from November 21th to 25th for the 20th annual Mine Ban Treaty conference. As we celebrate the 25 years of the Ottawa Treaty, HI urges States to pressure parties to conflict to end the use of these barbaric weapons and to support the funding of victims assistance that is shrinking despite growing needs and high casualty rates in recent years.

Read the full report.

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities
© G. Lordet / HI
Explosive weapons

80 States have made history by endorsing the international agreement against bombing on towns and cities

Acknowledging the devastating humanitarian consequences of bombing and shelling of towns and cities, 80 States adopted an international agreement to better protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, at the Dublin Conference on November 18, 2022.

Inclusive education today for inclusive futures tomorrow!
© M. Maimuna / HI
Inclusion

Inclusive education today for inclusive futures tomorrow!

12-year-old Patrick is benefitting from digital schooling in the Kakuma refugee camp. Thanks to accessible and adapted materials, he is prepared to achieve all his professional goals.