Hot on the heels of our Gambella refugee project of 2019 I am delighted to announce that in 2020 Jellybean is supporting a new initiative for educating adolescent girls in Zimbabwe. Plan International’s project aims to give 21,780 of the most marginalised girls, in one of the world’s poorest countries, the chance to advance their education and go on to earn a fair wage and make a safe living.

We take equal education and equal opportunity in the workplace for granted in the UK, safe in the knowledge that school is available and compulsory and that work opportunities are open to all. Sadly, this is not the case in many poverty-stricken countries around the world where families are scratching a living day to day and, particularly girls, don’t always benefit from education to help them get out of the poverty trap,. Add to this the inherent dangers girls face every day that threaten their safety, health and future life, and do untold damage to their confidence and ability to live independently.

Primary school enrolment for both girls and boys is reasonably high in Zimbabwe but adolescence has a huge impact on girls’ with a drop-out rate of 28% who never make it to secondary school. The communities where Plan International is working have been badly impacted by Zimbabwe’s protracted economic crisis, households suffering economic insecurity struggle to afford the costs associated with schooling such as fees, textbooks, uniforms and transportation. When resources are scarce, families will often opt to educate boys over girls, meaning thousands of girls lose their chance of a better future. Plus living in such poverty seriously increases girls’ vulnerability to sexual violence, early marriage, exploitative domestic labour and even transactional sex.

Plan International’s support will help to break-down the barriers in these disadvantaged communities where any number of issues are rife. Poverty leads to lack of school fees, the distance to school puts girls at risk, fixed class times mean girls with chores are forced to miss out, there is a lack of separate toilet facilities or access for disabled girls, some teachers actively discriminate against females and even abuse them and young mothers have no childcare so can’t continue with their education.

One girl who will be taking part in the project told Plan International – ‘“Our family is struggling so we as girls must look for food or get married for the family to survive. Going to school is of secondary importance.”

The project has 5 more years to run and to help address some of the above problems it will be setting up community-based learning hubs where out of school girls can come for classes in literacy and numeracy, so that they can then either return to school or take up vocational training, which is also part of the project. Plan International will also be developing teaching and learning materials for the girls, and train community educators to work in the hubs. They will also work in the communities to establish better child protection and will champion girls’ rights and positive masculinity.

Jellybean is delighted to be part of this fantastic initiative to support girls’ education in Zimbabwe and our donation is enough to establish one IT-enabled hub with computers and special software to manage the girls’ achievements, along with training to empower over 430 girls, tackling issues of self-esteem, healthy relationships and gender relations. And the best bit is that every £1 we donate, unlocks a further £10 of funding from the UK government, so having an even greater impact.

We look forward to updating you on the project’s progress in the coming months!