In Zambia, Schoolgirls Are Negotiating the Value of Their Education By Nicole Mormann
Zambian teen girls in school. (Photo:Take Part)
their child to go to school is a battle many parents face each morning
in the U.S., but in Zambia, one of the world’s poorest countries,
schoolgirls often find themselves trying to persuade their families to
help them pay for school.
With 60 percent of the country living below the poverty line, the
majority of Zambian families would rather take their children out of
school to save money than invest in their child’s education. And if they
do send them to school, they would likely invest in their son’s future
over their daughter’s. This leaves young female dropouts vulnerable to
getting pregnant or contracting HIV from older male partners whom they
rely on financially, according to the study.
With this in mind, a team of researchers from Harvard University and
the University of Pennsylvania created a curriculum that teaches the
girls how to negotiate with their parents for an education.
“It’s designed to teach girls how to communicate with others in a way
that’s respectful and adheres to their cultural values, but still
ensures that they’re making safe decisions,” Corinne Low, one of the
program researchers, told TakePart. Low teaches economics and public
policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The curriculum is a part of a multiyear study that Low and her
colleagues from Harvard, Kathleen McGinn and Nava Ashraf, developed to
test whether negotiating skills could result in lower dropout rates,
fewer pregnancies, and fewer cases of HIV among the girls.
“Our study is backed by research that states girls who stay in school
are less likely to get pregnant,” said Low. “By providing these girls
with negotiation training, we’re also giving them the ability to
convince their partners to practice safe sex and say no to unwanted
About 2,400 girls in their eighth-grade year, coming from 20
different schools in the Lusaka region, are participating in one of
three two-week programs. The programs are divided into three sections:
an after-school program focused on fun social activities, the importance
of HIV prevention and schooling, and learning valuable negotiation
“Once we see the long-term results of the project, our hope is that
the curriculum will be taken up by the ministry of education and
implemented in schools across the country,” said Low. “The curriculum is
available for any organization that wants to teach negotiation to