One of the most common questions Molo Mhlaba receives is:

 

“Why only support girls? Boys face challenges too, what about

helping them?”

 

This a very important question to ask, and to address.

 

There are many, extremely severe challenges that affect the safety and opportunities

of boys in at-risk communities. Some of these - for example toxic masculinity - also have wider repercussions on girls and women in the community.

These challenges must be addressed, and we believe urgently so. 


However, when it comes to the issue of diversity and inclusion in STEM subjects - which is the primary objective of the school - girls from underserved communities remain by far at a greater disadvantage than their male peers in pursuing these subjects.

 

They remain more vulnerable to bullying and sexual violence, and are additionally at risk of teenage pregnancy, which accounts for 33% of their school dropout rate [1].

 

This results in the majority of dropouts between grades 6 and 9 being female [1].

 

Furthermore, the burden of domestic and child-raising duties disproportionately affect women, further limiting their opportunities to pursue higher education and careers in STEM [2].

 

This, combined with deeply ingrained gender stereotypes [3,4] - a world-wide issue, far from being limited to South Africa - results in them being extremely underrepresented in these fields: women in fact represent only 13% of graduates in STEM fields in South Africa [5].

 

This without controlling for the incredible economic and social challenges that girls from underserved communities  have to face.

 

 

 

 

 

REFERENCES


[1] "Background document and review of key South African and international literature on school dropout" by Dr. A. Hartnack, published in July 2017: one of the most comprehensive documents on the issue of school dropout in South Africa. This study provides both an overview of the statistics on this issue, and an analysis of the leading causes of school dropout, differentiating between those affecting male and female students.


[2] “The changing career trajectories of new parents in STEM” published on PNAS on 19 Feb, 2019. Due to the unfortunate lack of South Africa-based data on this issue, we apply these findings based on the similarity between the US and South African Gender Gap Indexes as of 2018, as suggested by the research reviewed in [4]. 


[3] “The Gender Gap in STEM Fields: Theories, Movements, and Ideas to Engage Girls in STEM” published on the Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, Vol 7, No 2 (2018) 

[4] “Bridging the gender gap: why do so few girls study Stem subjects?” Published on The Guardian on 9 March, 2018. This provides a nice overview of some of the most common gender-stereotype-based questions about the gender gap in STEM, e.g. “are boys biologically better than girls in maths”? Spoiler alert: they’re not. 

[5] “The Global Gender Gap Report 2018 - World Economic Forum”, 1 Oct , 2018