Dear Ban Ki-moon... Why can't these girls read and write?

In Brazil, poor education for girls leads to low literacy rates and dangerous gaps in health knowledge. The time to change that is now.

The Girl Declaration will give hundreds of girls in poverty the opportunity to talk about their hopes and dreams. We've asked organisations involved in the consultations to write open letters to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, explaining the challenges that girls face. Here, Roberta Campos and Georgia Bartolo from World YWCA write about Brazilian girls…
 
Dear Ban Ki-moon,
 
Meet Sabrina, an incredible young Brazilian girl. Every day she attends education courses in the morning, public school in the afternoon and then more courses in the evening.
 
Her determination to get an education and to get to university is outstanding.
Like us, I'm sure you'd like every girl in Brazil to be able to achieve this.

Sadly, they can't.
 
We know this because we spoke to girls in Fortaleza (a city in north-east Brazil) and Pacajus (a rural area outside Fortaleza) as part of the consultations for Girl Effect's Girl Declaration.

Poor education

In Brazil there are no cultural barriers preventing girls from going to school or getting a job. Every single one of the girls we spoke to attends school. But that doesn't mean they actually receive an education.
 
Very few girls in Brazil leave school with the skills, knowledge and encouragement they need to go on to university and support themselves financially as adults.
 
Every one of them wants to get an education, but public schools are very bad. Teaching standards are inadequate and resources are so lacking that some girls don't even get a chair to sit on.
 
Ninety per cent of the child population attend public schools but many of them don't even know how to read and write when they leave. 

People are dying

This lack of proper education translates into big problems as girls grow up. It means that they don't have all the information they need to stay healthy, turning preventable, avoidable health issues into potential killers. We were astonished to hear the girls saying they had never heard about the HPV virus.
 
They learn about HIV in school but they don't learn about HPV, which is very dangerous because it can cause cancer in the cervix.
 
HPV can be treated relatively cheaply and easily but only if it's detected early. Girls and women should be tested for it every year but at the moment they don't even know it exists. Even if they did, they would struggle to see a doctor without private health insurance.
 
In the public health system they can wait up to two months for an appointment and when you eventually get to see a doctor, the number of people in the waiting room means they will be seen for less than five minutes. Rather than doing proper examinations, the doctors just look at these girls and ask them if they have any pains. It is not the doctors' fault; it is because the public health system is inefficient and corrupt.
 
"People are dying," a girl called Sabrina told us. Another girl, 16-year-old Andressa, told us that when her baby was taken sick she couldn't get treatment in the hospital.

Corrupt services 

Why are our schools and health services so bad? Simple - corruption.

Corruption is everywhere in Brazil. It prevents money getting to health and education services. It's also one of the main causes of the violence that girls and women must be vigilant against wherever they go.
 
Most of the violence is linked to drug dealers, who are able to control local communities because they provide what the government does not.
 
We also heard from some of the girls we spoke to in Fortaleza that many girls, some as young as 14, are also involved in sexual tourism.

Ambition 

There was no lack of ambition among the girls we met. Most of their parents work as housekeepers and in cleaning jobs. The girls know that to change their own lives they need to study like Sabrina, but they just cannot get the quality of education and healthcare they need.

Will you listen to them?
 
Yours sincerely,

Georgia and Roberta

The Girl Declaration is a tool to stop these challenges faced by Brazilian girls before they start - read it, support it, make it famous.

Join the conversation on Twitter using #GirlDeclaration

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