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lesson plans
Girls Speak Out by Yolanda Betances
Intro     Learning Activities     Culminating     Cross-curricular     Community


The following activities will help students to identify and discuss the impact of culture, values, and responsibilities on daily realities. Students will develop an understanding of the possibly gendered cultural values operating within their own families. This will provide students with a connection to the lives of the girls we will be focusing on within this lesson.

  1. Provide a "hook" to start a brief discussion: Tell students that women in many societies are still forbidden access to education. Ask students, "Should we try to change this? Why?" (Student answers will vary; accept all answers).

  2. Ask students to think about the chores in their homes for which they are responsible. Collect their answers in a brainstorm web chart on the blackboard/ white board, with the word "chores" at the center of the web. (Students may have to clean their bedrooms, make their beds, clean the bathroom(s), do the dishes, cook, vacuum, take out the garbage, mow the lawn, do the laundry, or watch over sibling(s), etc.) Offer some positive reinforcement to the students. Tell them that these types of chores are important and are a big help to their families. If you like, you may also share what types of chores you were expected to complete as a child/adolescent.

  3. Ask the students to review the web and consider the following: "Are there any chores here that may be assigned by gender within families?" Ask them to identify by "boy" or "girl" what chores were assigned within their own families. Ask if there any stereotypes at work in the way chores are divided? (Some students may report back that certain chores might typically be assigned to girls: cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, watching siblings, cleaning, etc. while others might typically be assigned to boys: taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage. Students can discuss the stereotypes and cultural values about gender, the division of labor, and their perceptions of the fairness of this division.)

  4. Ask the students to consider the following situation: What if they had so many daily chores to complete that you could not attend school? Clarify that in this particular situation, these chores are very important and help to support their parents and siblings -- maybe even extended family. As there is no free, public education system, their families cannot afford to send them to school. There is simply no money to pay for school fees. Instead of going to school, the students would be required to work at or near their homes during the day. Ask the students to write a journal entry in their writing journal/notebook as they respond to the situation described. You may offer some sentence starters (such as: This makes me feel/ think about..., I would..., I believe this is...because) to help them focus and write ideas down. Encourage them to express their opinions. Allow for five minutes of silent writing time. Then, ask students to share their thoughts by doing a "turn and talk" with a person next to them or nearby them. (Student answers will vary).

  5. Assign the students to work in pairs. Tell them that for many young girls the situation described above is a daily reality. Tell them they will be exploring the reasons behind why some societies and cultures choose to keep girls at home and out of school. Ask students to log on to http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/education/explore_166.html. At this site students view an online fact sheet on the current status of this issue. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to read over the fact sheet and to answer the following in their writing journal/notebook:

    • How many children do not have access to primary education? How many of these are girls?

    • What do Articles 2 and 28 say about education?

    • Name one obstacle or barrier to girls' education.

    Then have the students click onto the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) page, and ask them to identify Millennium Development goals 2 and 3. Check students' responses.

  6. Ask the students to make a prediction: Do they think that achieving MDGs 2 and 3 can become a reality by 2015? (Students answers will vary).


  1. Ask students to remind you of what they just learned: "What does the Convention on the Rights of the Child say about education?" (It says that all children have the right to a good primary education and should have equal access to secondary education.) Tell them that education is considered to be a basic human right. Define the term "human right" for students (a basic right or freedom to which all human beings are entitled). Tell them that the right to an education may be hindered by a number of factors, and it is important to understand these factors.

  2. Have student pairs log on to: http://www.unicef.org/girlseducation/index_barriers.html. Ask the students to read the essay entitled "The barriers to educating girls." Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify three barriers to girls' full access to education. Ask them to do a "turn and talk" by discussing with their partner why these barriers could make starting school difficult for girls.

    Photo of Neeraj.
  1. Remind the students that primary sources can be powerfully rich sources of evidence: hearing the voices of those directly involved in an issue can help us to understand it. First, we will be taking a look at the situation for girls in India. Have students locate India on a map or globe (already accessible in classroom or lab). Then, prepare Clip 1. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify barriers to Neeraj's dream of attending day school. PLAY Clip 1, "Neeraj," for the class. After viewing, review the focus question with students (students may respond that she is told she must complete chores at home; boys are allowed to attend day school, not girls; her parents to not see the value of sending children, especially girls, to school; Neeraj is already engaged to be married and her parents to not see the value in sending Neeraj to school; Neeraj lives in a rural setting as opposed to an urban one, which may add to the difficulty of attending school; her family is poor and cannot afford school fees.) If necessary, you may REPLAY Clip 1 to check for comprehension.

  2. To explore how other girls in India are experiencing situations similar to Neeraj's, have student pairs log on to the following interactive Web site from UN WORKS: http://www.un.org/works/goingon/india/girlseducation.html. There are three stories included here (Aarti, Geetha, and Leela). Assign some pairs to read Aarti's story, some to Geetha's, and some to Leela's. Distribute the "Here's My Story" student organizer to each pair. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each pair to click on their assigned story, watch the respective clip, and read the girl's background story. After reviewing all parts of their primary resource, students will then complete the questions on the "Here's My Story" student organizer. Tell students that they should be prepared to discuss their primary source, as well as the information they gathered on their organizer. Give your students 10-15 minutes to complete this task.

  3. Tell students that 189 nations have pledged to make universal and primary education and gender equity a reality by 2015, and that local, national, and international groups have long seen the potential benefits of educating girls. Change is in the works as more people see the sense of urgency in correcting this human rights violation. Advocacy by community organizations and parents is growing. Tell them that girls are challenging the system and fighting for their educational rights every day. Have pairs locate the country of Nicaragua on a map or globe. Ask pairs to log on to: http://www.unicef.org/dil/haitza/haitza5_content.html. Direct students to view this slide show narrated by a young Nicaraguan girl named Haitza, who goes to school despite some daily challenges. She also happens to have a mother who encourages her educational goals. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each pair to listen to Haitza's day in the life diary. Ask students to "turn and talk" with their partner and make a prediction: how could Haitza's education help her family and her community? Ask two students to report back on what they discussed with their "turn and talk" partner.

  4. Ask pairs to log on to these two sites: http://basiced.freerangegraphics.com/images/Girls_education.pdf and http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/education/explore_168.html. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking each pair to identify the benefits of girls' education in the documents they will view. Tell students to record these benefits in their writing journal/notebook. Students should then read the real life stories in the second Web site. Ask students to click on girls' stories (in green at the top of the page) to read how some girls are speaking out and demanding their right to an education. Give students 10-15 minutes for this activity.

    Night School
    Photo of Indian children attending night school.
  1. Tell students the benefits of girls' education are evident to teachers, other community advocates, and family members who understand what this can do for society as a whole. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking students to explain how night schools started and what the night school teacher says about how they benefit girls. PLAY Clip 2, "Night School," for the class. Check for comprehension. (Night schools started 30 years ago to address the problem of the over 40 million out-of-school children in India. The night school teacher asserts that night school education will prepare students for school, will give girls more confidence in expressing themselves, and will give them more of a voice in Indian society.)

  2. Ask students if knowing these benefits could convince Neeraj's parents that she should be going to day school. Should Neeraj's teacher set up a meeting with her parents? (Students answers may vary; accept all answers.)

    Photo of Nanavi in school.
  3. Tell students that in the country of Benin efforts to educate more girls are underway. Advocates are trying to promote the benefits of girls' education. Ask students to locate Benin on a map or globe. Provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking students to describe how Nanavi's life is changing in Benin. Ask them to identify what kind of support is making this possible for Nanavi. PLAY Clip 3, "Nanavi," for the class. Ask students to discuss the evidence in the clip that Nanavi's life is changing (Nanavi has been selected to attend school; her mother supports this opportunity; this is all part of a nationwide effort in Benin to educate more girls; Nanavi has other supports: a dada -- a young girl who is a mentor, and a mediatrice -- a mediator in the community). In addition, ask them to evaluate the chances that these girls will complete school. (Student answers may vary.)


  1. School in Benin
    Photo of a Beninese girl in school.
    Finally, tell students that for girls like Nanavi the opportunity to get an education will impact their own communities. Provide the students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to list the ways Nanavi will now be able to help her family and village. PLAY Clip 4, "School in Benin," for the class. Ask pairs to "turn and talk" about what they saw in this clip, recalling in what ways Nanavi will be able to help her family and village. (Students may answer how she will know about health issues and teach others; she will help her mother at the market; she will be able to protect her own children from disease; she may also teach her own children and become like the mediatrice and advocate for more girls to attend school.) If necessary, you may REPLAY the clip to check for comprehension.

  2. Distribute the "Two Little Girls" student organizer to each pair of students. Instruct students to write a dialogue that would take place between Neeraj (from India) and Nanavi (from Benin) if these two girls were to meet one day. Ask students to pretend they speak the same language, and to use details from what they have learned about this issue thus far.


  1. The culminating assignment will be to create a pamphlet that will be used to publicize the issue of girls' education for the school community. Each student is to consider whether or not meeting MDG 2 and MDG 3 will help to meet other Millennium Development Goals. Students should also include what changes they would make to solve this issue. This culminating activity will enable students to learn how to synthesize the knowledge they have gained. Make sure to present the purpose and requirements for a pamphlet to the class. Create a model for your students and provide other samples of different types of pamphlets for their review.

  2. Instruct the students to write, peer edit, and revise their work. Students will then finalize their information and organize it into pamphlet form.

  3. Invite staff and other guests to class for a teach-in session, where the students will present their work and will have photocopies of their pamphlets to distribute to all guests.


Language Arts

  • Write a play to entertain and -- at the same time -- educate others about these issues around gender equity in education. Choose an urban or rural setting and develop the characters. Get your message across about the need for universal education and gender equity.

  • For more research material, check out the following sites, which tell the real stories of children -- especially girls -- as they try to get access to an education.

    • http://www.ungei.org/gap/fieldEssays.php
      This link has photo essays of girls who strive to go to school everyday -- despite great obstacles. This is a great site as we can put some faces to the statistics. This will enable students to gain further perspective and appreciation for their stories.

    • http://www.ungei.org/gap/fieldStories.php
      This link offers stories of girls, their families, and communities as they strive to make access to education a reality for girls. Stories of how people are meeting these challenges through direct action are included. This site provides a sense of hope through a commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals around the issue of education for all children.


  • Research which Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) address the issues of health. Prepare a report for a science journal that explains what is being done around nutrition, HIV/AIDS education, reproductive health, or environmental protection. Visit this site for additional information on these target goals. Click in your goal of interest: http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/mdg/explore_2204.html.

Social Studies

  • Create a public relations campaign to inform parents and the community about the great need for girls' education around the world. You may design posters that are creative and convey the urgency of the issue. Make sure you create a slogan for your poster. You may also choose to develop a Public Service Announcement (PSA) and record it on video. Present your campaign to your local school community. Visit the UN Millennium campaign's site developed for young people for more information: http://cyberschoolbus.un.org/mdgs/index.asp.

  • Write letters to your local public officials to express your thoughts on school budget cuts. Explain how the need for quality education for all is so important. Provide evidence for how this ultimately benefits society and the protection of democratic values and citizenship.

  • Research how individual countries are trying to address the education gap. For example, the following sites focus on the country of Mauritania (case study):

    These sites offer a view into how the country of Mauritania is trying to change and improve the situation for its girls. Mauritania acknowledges how crucial this situation is towards it development and has launched a nationwide campaign. In Mauritania, promoting the need for the education of girls is gaining ground locally. The text focuses on how local community advocacy is addressing this need. Here, a very interesting video clip entitled "Educating and Empowering Adolescent Girls: Crucial Steps for Development" and photo galleries are included. Various organizations offer support for this effort: UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, UNDP, and others. Prepare a non-fiction account for a magazine on Mauritania and its plan to meet MDG 2 and MDG 3 by 2015.


Organize a teach-in at your school to educate other grades about the Millennium Development Goals around universal education and gender equity.

Contact UNICEF and invite a guest speaker to your class to talk about this issues.

Take action. Find out what you can do in your local community to help others. Find out more at: http://www.dosomething.org/.

Stay in school. Do your best. Know your rights. Check out these sites for further information: http://www.unicef.org/voy/explore/rights/explore_rights.php and http://www.unicef.org.uk/youthvoice/.

Volunteer to mentor and/or tutor a student at your school. Educate her/him about the importance of school. Provide guidance and support.

Start a club at your school that examines the issues of gender or racial discrimination and the need for human rights. Find out more at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/youth/ or http://www.hrw.org/children/.