#InternationalDayOfTheGirlChild: How Can We Change The African Mindset That Boys Are Better Than Girls?

Can you believe that most of the children of 8-9 years in West Africa think fathers rule the household? And boys are smarter than girls? They also suggest that girls should have less schooling than their male peers. This is according to new data released by Save the Children.

The global humanitarian organization, which surveyed boys and girls in the United States and the West African nations of Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, found that a striking number of young boys – and even many girls – believe fathers rule the household, boys are smarter than girls and girls need less school than boys.

Launched to coincide with International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, the new data indicates that girls are significantly less valued than their male peers, even in these very different regions and cultures of the world.

In the survey, Save the Children asked fourth graders (8-9 year olds) whether or not they agree with a series of questions about education and power dynamics between males and females.

In the United States, 37 percent of fourth-grade boys believe that boys are smarter than girls, whereas in the districts in Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire where these data were collected, two out of three fourth-grade boys surveyed agreed with this sentiment.

Surprisingly, in both the United States and the sites surveyed in West Africa, more than one in five fourth-grade girls reportedly said they need less school than boys (22 percent in the U.S., 25 percent in Sierra Leone).

These stereotypes carry over to the role women play within their families and communities as well. The overwhelming majority of boys (94 percent) and girls (92 percent) surveyed in Sierra Leone think that the father is in charge of the home, compared with more than one-third of American fourth graders who agree.

In regions of Côte d’Ivoire surveyed as well as across the United States, approximately two-thirds of fourth graders report that moms are more responsible than dads for taking care of the children.

In the United States, the research found that these views not only apply to the home, but also the workplace, with 17 percent of American fourth graders believing a man would make a better boss than a woman.

“Girls are worth far more than what the world tells them,” said Carolyn Miles, president & CEO of Save the Children. “Globally, we know that girls are more likely than boys to miss out on school, experience violence and live in poverty. That is why we need to invest in their education and do everything possible to delay early marriage and motherhood. By providing children equal opportunities and access to learning, every girl can realize what she’s truly worth.”

Save the Children is calling on everyone to prioritize equal education for every last girl, and to help bring an end to child marriage and gender discrimination. Because a girl who knows her own value can change the course of her life, her family’s life and the future of her community.”

How can we change the African mindset that boys are better than girls?

Save the Children is releasing the survey findings ahead of an African-led conference on ending child marriage later this month in Dakar, Senegal.

The West and Central Africa High-Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage (Oct. 23-25) will see government leaders, traditional, religious and other influential leaders, child rights organizations, youth and UN agencies come together to discuss solutions to end this harmful practice, such as legal reforms and targeted interventions to enable girls to remain in school as a viable alternative to marriage.

To learn more about Save the Children’s investment in girls, visit www.savethechildren.org/girls.

Survey Methodology is Available for Downloaded HERE

Infographics Are Available for Downloaded HERE

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