Addressing Poverty through Education of Women in Developing Countries

A woman in Ghana. Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash.

We are not doing a good job in fighting global poverty.

This was a sentiment expressed by members of the panel at the recent WUSC Colloquium Series event, titled “Addressing Poverty through Education of Women in Developing Countries.” Trent University Department of Social Work Assistant Professor Dr. David Firang said that even though there are international initiatives to assist developing countries, it will not be enough if women of these countries are not empowered or free.

The panel is part of WUSC at Trent’s ongoing Colloquium Series, a rotation of roundtable and panel events addressing topics of international development and social issues. The panel also featured Yasaman Ahanin, an International Development student who spent a year abroad in Ghana with the non-governmental organization Right to Play, and Yllka Bojku, an executive member of WUSC at Trent and an international student from Kosovo.

Explaining his sentiment, Firang said that though women make up more than half the world’s population, the majority of them live under patriarchal systems that have in one way or another limited or denied their access to certain rights. In developing countries, this problem is even more evident in a phenomenon wherein many women are not allowed to receive an education.

“When more than half the world’s population constantly face issues in getting an education, more than half the world’s potential is not being utilized,” Yllka said. Yasaman added that many women in developing countries are not even necessarily aware that they have rights to education, let alone other basic rights.

Women have important links with a country’s success considering their involvement in both the private and public spheres.

“An empowered woman means an empowered family, community, and country.” Yllka said, with Yasaman adding that a woman should be able to contribute to her family’s sustainability as well.

One of the ways to work on gender equality in developing countries is to engage men and boys in these countries. Recalling the work she had done in Ghana, Yasaman explained an interactive learning activity she conducted in a Ghanaian classroom.

The students were made to list the tasks they had to complete after waking up in the morning and before heading to school. The girls’ list ended up including examples such as cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, and other. This naturally resulted in more girls missing class because they were late or tired; or being unsuccessful in school.
The boys’ list consisted only of waking up, getting ready, and then heading to school. According to Yasaman, seeing this contrast with their own eyes enabled the students in the classroom to come up with their own ideas of how they can bring change.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Firang reminded the room of the boomerang effects of inequality. “When a group in society is being marginalized and oppressed, the ill effects that occur to them will end up affecting all of society as well.”

WUSC at Trent is a student-run non-profit organization that raises awareness of global issues. They run the Student Refugee Program, which brings three refugee students from global locations to attend Trent with their first year’s expenses fully sponsored. WUSC at Trent hosts events throughout the year such as the WUSC Colloquium Series to bring important conversations to campus.

A documentary produced by the WUSC at Trent local committee highlighting the experiences of refugees in Peterborough and Trent will be screening for the first time on March 22 at The Venue in downtown Peterborough. It will be a free event.

Check the WUSC at Trent Facebook page for updates on future events, or email if you are interested in getting involved.