In celebration of the UN-recognised International Day of the Girl Child (October 11), a Dubai Cares delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, is currently in the Philippines conducting a Monitoring and Evaluation trip to elementary and secondary schools as well as alternative learning centres in the municipalities of Milagros and Palanas - Masbate Province in order to assess the impact of the Dubai Cares Real Assets & Improved Skills & Education for Adolescent Girls (RAISE) program. During the first two days of the visit, Dubai Cares officially inaugurated the RAISE program in the Philippines, which started in 2013 in partnership with Plan International, securing a platform for girls to break through the hurdles of gender norms and achieve professional and personal success equivalent to their male counterparts.
Commenting on the importance of gender equality, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares, said: "For any nation to develop to its full potential, enforcing gender equality should be more than an ideal; it should be on top of the national development agenda. The large discrepancies we see in education and economic participation, between girls and boys, are detrimental to development and productivity for all as it handicaps a significant percentage of the population. Through the Real Assets & Improved Skills & Education for Adolescent Girls program in the Philippines, we are providing an opportunity for girls to acquire a broad set of skills and assets that will help them make positive life choices and increase their livelihood prospects. This, in turn, coupled with the ongoing efforts of our implementing partner Plan International in the Philippines, will have a knock-on effect on the fortunes of the nation as it will significantly boost its capabilities and opportunities for advancement." Central to Dubai Cares approach is a focus on monitoring, evaluation and learning. Through the design and support of catalytic and innovative programs, Dubai Cares seeks to test alternative models and hypotheses that can increase the impact of interventions and contribute to the global body of evidence-based best practices.
"Monitoring and Evaluation not only enables us to assess the progress of our programs, but also serves as a critical part of our efforts as it helps gauge the effectiveness of each program. It also gives a first-hand understanding of the socio-economic forces at play in the beneficiary communities, and helps us incorporate our programs into local frameworks which in turn spurs local communities to take ownership of our programs and continue them. We have completed half of our mission here in the Philippines as far as this trip is concerned, and yet we still have schools to visit in the coming three days in order to evaluate the progress of our program. However, following several meetings we have had so far with the local government officials and our implementing partner, I am confident that the program is heading in the right direction to achieve great success," added Al Gurg.
Commenting on the Dubai Cares program, the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Philippines, Mousa Abdulwahid Alkhajah, said: "The continuous humanitarian efforts of the United Arab Emirates abroad are testament to the generosity of its people and leadership. Dubai Cares work in the Philippines represents a portion of the support that the U.A.E. extends to countries in need, making a positive impact on the overall growth and potential of developing nations." Dubai Cares unveiled the RAISE program in 2013 in the country's poorest provinces – Masbate and Northern Samar. While nearly all basic education data shows favourable trends for girls, gender-based discriminatory attitudes and practices continue to pose distinct challenges in the way to girls' empowerment. Girls are expected to side-line their education in favour of domestic duties and care-giving roles, and have to contribute to the family income starting at an early age.
Issues such as adolescent pregnancies, early marriage and school-related gender-based violence critically damage girls' chances of developing their full potential and breaking the vicious cycle of poverty. Girls are the more likely victims of sexual abuse and exploitation, and violence at home, in school and other settings. They also face culture-based discrimination such as pre-arranged, forced and early marriages, and are subject to discrimination in education and skills training as manifested in refusal of admissions for pregnant adolescents and unwed adolescent mothers. While childbirth is slowly decreasing amongst women in the older age groups, it is on the rise among girls aged 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries.
The RAISE program helps to address these issues by supporting girls to complete basic education and build personal and social assets so that they are empowered to make better life choices that will positively impact their lives and those of their future families. Following a comprehensive gender-sensitive approach, the program is supporting over 14,700 children, adolescents and adults. The beneficiaries are being reached through a wide range of activities that focus on improving the quality and relevance of education and creating a supportive and nurturing environment for boys and girls to learn and thrive in. Gender equality is a cross-cutting theme in all of Dubai Cares' education programs with an approach that aims to secure equal access for boys and girls, quality of education, safe learning environments with adequate facilities, materials and academic support from qualified teachers and engaged communities.
Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC, Secretary of the Philippine Department of Education, said about the program: "The RAISE program supports the Department of Education's drive to achieve Education for All by 2015. We must work together to lift the barriers that prevent children from completing basic education. This includes addressing gender norms and behaviours that stop girls and boys from going to and staying in school, including child labour and teenage pregnancy." Carin van der Hor, Country Director of Plan International Philippines, further described the program: "The RAISE program is supporting 32 communities in Masbate and Northern Samar by giving students at risk of dropping out the appropriate assistance to support them to pursue attendance in school. It also aims to improve Alternative Learning System (ALS) programs that cater to out-of-school children and youth and provides them with necessary supplies and materials. ALS instructional managers were also given appropriate capacity-building training to facilitate quality instructional teaching. Aside from these interventions in education, the RAISE program seeks to train adolescent boys and girls on financial literacy and peer education in promoting Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (ASRHR)." Van der Hor added: "Our heartfelt appreciation to the generosity of Dubai Cares whose support to the RAISE program is keeping more children and adolescents, especially girls, in school. We are confident that this partnership with Dubai Cares will ensure that both girls and boys will have better life choices as a result of increased relevant education opportunities and investments in social, personal and financial assets." Recent statistics show that a child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past age 5, and that 1 in 5 girls of lower secondary school age is out of school. UNICEF has also found that 1 in every 3 girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. Removing barriers to girls' education, such as early and forced marriage, domestic slavery, gender violence and discrimination, and lack of access to healthcare and school fees, means not only a better life for girls, but also a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for all. In addition, educating girls delivers benefits to an entire community through increased economic productivity. Recent studies have shown that in some countries, investment in girls' education can raise the GDP by 0.2 %.
As part of its participation in the International Day of the Girl Child activities in the Philippines, Dubai Cares also took part in the Bike Ride for Girls' Rights, an event that raises awareness against gender stereotyping, and the Raise to 1 Million, a campaign that targets 1 million raised hands from the Philippines supporting girls' education worldwide.