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"Education: The Necessary Utopia"

"While education is widely recognized as a fundamental human right of every individual, in practice, many boys, girls, men and women have been historically locked out of educational systems. Minority girls face the greatest challenges. Their burdens are a unique intersection of discrimination based on ethnicity, restrictive traditional roles for women and in most cases, endemic poverty. Girls from minority groups also often live in remote geographic locations that are neglected by government social services. Often, they have to travel great distances to the nearest school, thereby multiplying the risks to the personal security of girls. When occurring together, these barriers can be almost insurmountable. The ramifications of being denied the right to a quality education are vast. Without strides in girls’ education, minority groups are likely to face further economic and social marginalization." [1]

"The reduction of the gender gap and the improvement in female access to education were explicit objectives of the IV Conference on Women (1995), of the World Education Forum (2000) and of the Millennium Summit (2000). All International Conferences promoted by the United Nations Organization (UN) recommend actions to eradicate discrimination against women in all fields of activity, especially education. The gender gap and the education deficit among women have always been part of the Brazilian reality. However, women have been able to eliminate and reverse this gap throughout the 20th century." [2]

"The gender gap and a shortfall in education for women were part of the Brazilian reality for almost 450 years. [... the] reversal of the gender gap in education was the biggest conquest of Brazilian women in the last century. This female triumph, however, has still not been sufficient to reverse the gender gap in the labor market, in access to income and property, in parliamentary representation, etc. Victory in the educational field has still not met with the same success in other spheres of activity, but undoubtedly the educational progress of Brazilian women may serve as an example for the leaders of other countries in the world who want to eliminate the gender gap, in line with the objectives established in various multilateral conferences organized by the UN. [2]"

The greatest challenges and barriers that girls (and women in general) confront (in my community and my country as a whole) to accessing an education can be summarized as:
a) geographic barriers (access to schools in far out regions);
b) inclusive education for minorities:
- children with disabilities (near 24% of all Brazilian population has some kind of disability),
- indian (native Brazilian indians),
- "quilombolas" (descendants from African slaves) = Maroons?
- rural inhabitants;
c) lack of quality school: nowadays, the ability to read and write is nothing! In other words: getting a certificate means nothing if you have attended a poor quality school;
d) constraints from labor market (many positions do not require full education and disincourage full schooling for girls);
e) family support conflicting with school time: very poor families still do not send girls to school even if it is mandatory in Brazil. In such cases, they stay at home helping with domestic chores and/or start working too early to help the family income.
These and other barriers to education are more widespread and stronger in rural and / or underveloped areas (Northern and Northeaster regions) of Brazil.

How such girls would be able to overcome these barriers?

> The family and the community (context) play a major role!
How? They can overpower these barriers to some extent.
Examples: demanding and fighting for schools of quality, for free transportation to school, for full-time schools (that also provide meals and study support and materials).

> Public policies also have an important role: schooling stipend (small amount of money to encourage and support girls´ families that would otherwise put them to work). So, in Brazil, the Bolsa Escola (School Scholarship) has had a great impact as much as the legislation requiring mandatory 9 years of basic school for everybody. Also, "Brazil’s Bolsa Familia cash transfer programme – which pays families a certain amount per month provided their children go to school – has played a key role in the reduction of child labour both in rural and urban areas." [3]

> In this context (education as a human right), one cannot forget the education, qualification, career and wages policies (federal, state, county leves) for teachers (mostly women). They are the backbone of a school of quality. It happens when teachers are well educated, trained, rewarded and recognized for such an important role. In this context, there is still a long road ahead.

> Last but not the least, the main weapon against violence against women is education!

A - "Even considering that there are still sexist differences in education, Brazil is an example of a country that has managed to reverse the gender gap in education and eliminate the educational shortfall of women relative to men. In this aspect the female victory has been spectacular, although the level and quality of Brazilian education lags far behind that of other countries that have the same level of social and economic development." [2]
However, "female conquests in the educational field have not been accompanied to the same degree by conquests in the labor market." [2]
B - My part in it?
Contributing to spread the word, the resources and the functionalities available freely online that can support, assist, encourage, enhance and add to women´s education and learning, specially those with disabilities or living in remote areas.


[1] Challenges Facing Minority Girls in Education. Discussion #8, Summary of UNGEI eDiscussion on Challenges Facing Minority Girls in Education October 2009. Available at Access: April 22. 2013.

[2] Beltrão, Kaizô Iwakami, & Alves, José Eustáquio Diniz. (2009). Reversal of the gender gap in Brazilian education in the 20th century. Cadernos de Pesquisa, 39(136), 125-156. Retrieved April 18, 2013, from 10.1590/S0100-15742009000100007.

[3] ILO. International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC): ILO report shows why social protection is crucial to tackle child labour (press release). Availalble at Access: April 29, 2013.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »



Lortoria's picture

Big strides still to go

Hi anaisabelbbp,

I agree with you on many of the points you make. Ethnicity, unfortunately does act as a further barrier to education, which in turn has a knock on effect on employment prospects.

Although education is more accessible to women in the West, there are still a number of groups, usually ethnic females that still struggle to gain equal access and attain the same future prospects, and I can personally vouch for that. On a global level, there is still a lot more to do, and I appreciate the information you have shared.

Best wishes

Lortoria McDonald

New website coming soon!

anaisabelbbp's picture

you are right!

Even with the progress achieved in schooling, Brazil has large numbers of girls not fully schooled and still unable to acessing quality education.

ansupokharel's picture


I am glad to read it.

Anisha Pokharel

anaisabelbbp's picture


for your comment.

innerdelight's picture

Catch 22

Hi Ana Isabel,

Thank you for this informative article. It is quite a catch 22 situation... unless families receive money when their kids go to school, then they keep them at home to clean and provide income... and so the cycle has been perpetuated. It is hopeful to know the government does have this program in place. Hopefully this can be sustained and expanded upon.

I love how you summed it up with :
"Last but not the least, the main weapon against violence against women is education!"

You are definitely effective with your mission:

"Contributing to spread the word, the resources and the functionalities available freely online that can support, assist, encourage, enhance and add to women´s education and learning, specially those with disabilities or living in remote areas."

By reading this I have been made aware of the conditions there and I have a feeling that your passion for spreading this message and being a part of the solution will attract much support in many ways!

Thank you and keep on writing.

joyful blessings,

Pls feel free to add me as a contact and discuss possible ways of collaboration on common grounds.

amymorros's picture

Barriers to Education

I am so glad to read another of your contrubutions to this campaign. I like how you more clearly outlined the barriers and solutions after the three long quotes. What is occuring in your country was very informative for me to read, especially the public policies that have been implemented (Bolsa Escola) already and are having a positive outcome. You also mentioned the wages for teachers. I think the pay is not nearly high enough for teachers in the US and the minimum wage is very low.
Thank you for your work & dedication.


anaisabelbbp's picture

Thanks for your feedback

on my posting about Education.
I am glad you enjoy reading about other countries and contexts.
Yes, one can always learn from each other!
Pls feel free to add detailed info about wages and career path in the US for teachers. I would very much appreciate it.

erinluhmann's picture

A Detailed Report

Dear Ana,

I appreciate how thoroughly you analyzed women's (lack of) access to education in Brazil. Clearly this is a complex issue. By breaking it down into five general barriers, you broadened my understanding of the issue. If you had some specific examples of how Brazilian girls/women encounter and overcome these obstacles, I think that would make your submission stronger yet.

I look forward to reading your future submissions!


LeenieT's picture

Systemic Change

Dear Ana Isabel,

Thank you for submitting this strong piece for the World Pulse community. Your piece is both informative and analytical, offering a comprehensive overview of the challenges (social, political, economic) which create barriers to education, and drawing attention to specific marginalized communities. It is great to hear that Brazil has adopted the Bolsa Escola policy as a first step, but as you mention, this is not a panacea, and rather brings to light questions about quality, accessibility for minority groups (by ethnicity, disability status, etc) and the lack of economic opportunity following completion of school.

Children with disabilities: if we are not facilitating enriching opportunities for 24% of the population, what kind of progress can we expect as a country? Even if these children are able to attend school, poor quality schooling can be detrimental to their learning, rather than protective.

In response to your statement, "Ability to read and write is nothing," a harsh reality is presented: when families make sacrifices to send their girls to school, the outcome should be a better life for all involved. But if schooling is of poor quality and does not lead to economic opportunity, the opportunity costs of attending school may be too prohibitive for families. If a girl's chances of entering the workforce are limited, the benefits of her having attended school become obsolete. The more this happens, the more families may choose to not send their daughters to school. Government policies and NGOs must focus on creating a path to economic stability for girls if the Bolsa Escola policy is to prosper.

It must be so frustrating for the girls who have finished school to still feel powerless when they are faced with a lack of economic opportunity. You mention that the labour market often discourages schooling--there is definitely a power differential between those who are literate and illiterate. Employers who seek to retain control over their employees would sooner choose someone illiterate--as these individuals may pose less of a threat. It seems, then, that educated girls would suffer from the mixed messages they receive--their families may be told about the benefits of education, only to witness the reality of their daughters being unable to find jobs, and returning home to continue the work they helped with before they ever went to school.

So many pieces to the puzzle, thanks for challenging me to think about solutions for both marginalized communities, and for systemic change.

Best wishes,


Mila's picture

Dear Ana Isabel, Thank you

Dear Ana Isabel,

Thank you for writing and being a part of the WorldPulse community. It was really informative reading your article. I learned a lot about Brazil and the barriers to education. While I appreciate the quotes and facts, it would also be beneficial to hear the story of your educational journey.

All the best,

anaisabelbbp's picture

Thanks for being there

I did not want the posting to be too long so I put some info about my education journey in another two postings:
1. The path is made along the journey:

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