The Life of XX
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X and Y – two letters that can make a world of difference. Genetics show that we each carry two chromosomes that determine our sex. Normally, there are two combinations in which these chromosomes appear: XX or XY.
XX is the chromosomal combination carried by biological females and XY is that of biological males. And the discrimination faced by the former because of this, is very real. Studies show that 16 million girls between the ages six and 11 will never start school, compared to 8 million boys. Across the world, girls are more likely to be out of school than boys. In certain countries, the difference between the two sexes is staggering.
XX – If you have these chromosomes and you have completed secondary education, you’re luckier than 34 million adolescent girls who will never have this opportunity.
XY – If you have these chromosomes your chances of completing secondary education changes dramatically. If you carry XY, you are more likely to receive an education, and more likely to undertake and complete secondary education. Now, you might think that this is ridiculously unfair – and you are absolutely right.
International Day of the Girl Child serves as a reminder that sex disparity still exists. Despite progression and revolutionary advances by humankind, most parts of the developing world are still challenged sex and gender equality. It ranges from the subtlest of forms, such as discriminative affection, to the most overt, such as denial of basic human rights. It can start even before birth, where countries like my own see shocking cases of female foeticide. Sex disparity may also be found in data evidence which shows in some contexts girls are breastfed less than boys.This pattern continues into school-going years.
Access to quality education isn’t a luxury; it is a fundamental human right. Yet, as a girl from India, I consider myself fortunate enough to have completed school. The literacy rate among adolescent girls in India, is 74.4% compared to 88.4% for male counterparts. Similar and sometimes worse ratios can be seen in other developing countries. In Nigeria there are almost 5.5 million, in Pakistan over 3 million, and in Ethiopia over 1 million school aged girls currently out of school.
Girls who have not received an education are more likely to get married earlier and conceive more children. They are also at a higher risk of dying due to complications during childbirth. If they do survive childbirth, they may not be able to provide for their child’s nutritional requirements, leading to malnutrition. If they work, they may be unable to get well-paid jobs. This vicious poverty cycle will continue to be perpetuated – unless interventions are made.
Essentially, ensuring that girls have access to quality education can curb a host of problems including child marriage, maternal mortality, malnutrition and poverty. Unfortunately, getting girls into school is easier said than done. Several factors contributing to school dropout of school or failure to enrol include: conflict, poverty, child labour, lack of safety, disability, poor sanitation and cultural beliefs. [1,5]
Unless these issues are solved, we cannot guarantee that all girls will have access to education by 2030. Government bodies, non-profits, and advocates must continue to conduct research to inform investment into programs and interventions, which best enable access to school for girls. This will make Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 5 an achievable reality.
XX or XY, a child must have the right to equal opportunities and experiences – something that quality education can provide. http://en.unesco.org/gem-report/sites/gem-report/files/girls-factsheet-en.pdf  http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/girlseducation/brief/the-world-bank-group-wbg-and-adolescent-girls-education-factsheet  http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/08/09/qje.qjr029.abstract  http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/india_statistics.html#117  http://www.aworldatschool.org/news/entry/10-reasons-why-children-dont-go-to-school-1350
________________________________________________________Taha is the founder & CEO of the Child Awareness Project (CAP), a registered non-profit trust that advocates for children’s rights (www.theCAPro.org). She is also a Global Youth Ambassador at A World at School, an initiative by TheirWorld, which is headed by Sarah Brown. The Global Youth Ambassador group was launched in 2014 by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. Taha is currently a 3rd year medical student. Visit about.me/TahaFathimaKhan for more about Taha.