By: David Temitope

Image Source: nacoesunidas.org

The Superhero film Black Panther based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name is inspirational. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the film projects beyond its entertainment and delves into some of Africa’s key challenges. One of the inspirations is Shuri. Shuri is a character in the Black Panther. She is a princess of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda. She is the daughter of T’Chaka and half-sister of T’Challa, who is the king of Wakanda and the Black Panther, an earned title and rank given to the chief of the nation. She has a genius level intellect alongside her brother T’Challa.

An intelligent girl, Shuri was pivotal to providing solutions to challenges facing her brother, and her kingdom. Arguably, “Geniuses Are Made, Not Born”. The princess must have gone through schools, trainings, self-awareness and self-development events; all of which cumulated to the genius in the movie. If geniuses can be made, it means Africa can raise girls’ who will solve its challenges and help it prosper, if given proper education. This is the burning issue – Getting African girls educated and trained, so they can contribute meaningfully to their communities and country.

(c) Marvel Studios 2018

Of all regions, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of education exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about 6 and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) data, almost 60% of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school. Girls are more likely than boys never to set foot in a classroom, despite all the efforts and progress made over the past two decades. The same UIS data shows that 15 million girls of primary-school age will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 10 million boys. Over half of these girls – 9 million – live in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty, conflicts, gender roles, and lack of infrastructure are some of the reasons why millions of African girls may never get good education. To be precise, money is needed but we need to become cautious of our approaches. Climate change is a negative catalyst, one which promotes the surface Wakanda and hides Shuri and the entire underlying Wakanda. If Shuri was born in climate change threatened region in Africa to poor parents, her gender roles may include, fetching firewood for cooking, sourcing for water, and gathering food. These daily chores will take up most of her daily hours, resulting in less time for school. With climate change and desertification, Shuri’s chances of going to school will likely tend to zero. She will spend more time sourcing for water, chances of family disruptive migration increases, and survival becomes her full job instead of schooling
The probability of early marriage could also increase. She will be one less mouth to feed and her dowry will cater to some family needs.

A World Bank report on Educating girls shows that close relationships exist between child marriage, teen pregnancy, and the low level of education reached by large numbers of girls. It shows that child marriage is likely to be the cause of more than half of babies born to under 18s in Uganda, so that ending it could reduce early childbearing by the same amount. Ending child marriage could also increase their participation in the labor force. Instead of marrying early, earnings in adulthood early could increase by 14 percent, leading to an overall increase of one percent in earnings in the population.

Today, such gains are estimated at US$514 million per year. The benefits of more girls completing primary education would be even larger, as would the benefits of secondary education. Ending child marriage and improving the education of girls could dramatically improve the standard of living and reduce poverty. Furthermore, another World Bank report, Economic Impacts of Child Marriage, shows that Child marriage will cost developing countries trillions of dollars by 2030. In contrast, ending child marriage would have a large positive effect on the educational attainment of girls and their children, contribute to women having fewer children and later in life, and increase women’s expected earnings and household welfare. It was also confirmed that keeping girls in school is one of the best ways to avoid child marriage. Each year of secondary education reduces the likelihood of marrying as a child before the age of 18 by five percentage points or more. Child brides are much more likely to drop out of school and complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry later. This affects the education and health of their children, as well as their ability to earn a living.
However, with proper financing and infrastructure, African girls can evade the harsh reality of climate change. Availability of solar powered water boreholes, agricultural technical training centers, and proficient teachers, can serve as incentives to keep girls in school. Regardless of this, restrictive societal norms need to be managed. Community leaders and vibrant age-group within the community should be engaged to promote the goals and give the girls access to the facilities. Cooperation from the community is key for successful projects. These incentives and communications are important to producing Shuri(s) in Africa. It is achievable and we can progressively work towards a better world for climate change challenged African Girls.
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The Author, David Temitope is a Policy Analyst at the Pan African Centre for Climate (PACC) Policy. Email: temitope@paccpolicy.org / www.paccpolicy.org