Today this blog post will be a bit different for me. I usually do not write about things that are outside of my research, however as a female scientist, I would like to help spread the word about a fairly new resolution from the United Nations in 2011 – October 11th is International Day of the Girl. This year’s theme is “Innovating for Girls’ Education” with the philosophy that if girls are educated, this creates a better world for everyone. Attending classes on campus, walking the streets in Corvallis or even when I visit family back east, it is hard for me to remember that today in 2013 there are still so many females that have no or little access to learning. Education First reports that 33 % fewer girls than boys are enrolled in any form of a primary school setting (formal or home school settings).

Self-efficacy in many forms play some key roles in educational and learning research. I hope Larry Enchos approves of my summary here (but as this is a blog and is to be informal in nature here goes) it is when one believes that one can do something, they actually achieve it or do it better than when one thinks they can’t do it or has fear of the topic. For me and the population of in-service and pre-service educators I have had the pleasure of working with, this is important in science, especially in elementary science. Research suggests that elementary teachers often shy away from the topic of science out of fear or a belief that they are “bad” at “doing” science. Ok, that was my very short summary and now back to the topic of International Day of the Girl. From this day that now has been set aside by the UN, part of it is to empower girls in every community and to improve their self-efficacy, not per say in science, but in just the thought that they themselves are valuable individuals with special things to offer society. They are worth society’s investment; they are worth educating. When completing my MS at Oregon State University in Geography, one of my professors completed his PhD work in a community in Kenya. At the time it was so very impoverished that it was heart breaking. He worked with the local women to help them organize their native skills, taught them simple math and record keeping and over the time of his research the transformation was amazing. His research is impressive in his field, however he is most remembered for this “side” work. Educating the women in that village was transformational.

Below is taken directly from the UN website on the International Day of the Girl. As Free Choice Educators, it is important for us to remember that whatever our topic is that we are helping to prepare for the general public to encounter in our free choice learning settings, we should try to make the topic accessible and transformational as it may be the first time this individual is encountering this information.

“The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization.
While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the last two decades, many girls, particularly the most marginalized, continue to be deprived of this basic right. Girls in many countries are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers. Even when girls are in school, perceived low returns from poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending school or from achieving adequate learning outcomes. The transformative potential for girls and societies promised through girls’ education is yet to be realized.
Recognizing the need for fresh and creative perspectives to propel girls’ education forward, the 2013 International Day of the Girl Child will address the importance of new technology, but also innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves.
All UN agencies, Member States, civil society organizations, and private sector actors have potential tools to innovate for and with girls to advance their education. Examples of possible steps include:
Improved public and private means of transportation for girls to get to school—from roads, buses, mopeds, bicycles to boats and canoes;
Collaboration between school systems and the banking industry to facilitate secure and convenient pay delivery to female teachers and scholarship delivery to girls;
Provision of science and technology courses targeted at girls in schools, universities and vocational education programs;
Corporate mentorship programs to help girls acquire critical work and leadership skills and facilitate their transition from school to work;
Revisions of school curricula to integrate positive messages on gender norms related to violence, child marriage, sexual and reproductive health, and male and female family roles;
Deploying mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls, especially in remote areas.
Girls face discrimination and violence every day across the world. The International Day of the Girl Child focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.