Families Benefit When Girls Go to School

Gender equalityNutritionSocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

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Studies show that when girls are educated, literacy rates increase, family size decreases, and families are better fed and nourished. Educating girls is a key to better lives in your community. Consider producing dramas that show the different ways that families can benefit when daughters are educated. For example, one story could illustrate how a young girl helps on the farm by reading the instructions on pesticide and fertilizer containers. Another could portray a girl who contributes income to the family because she is able to get a good job. The following script is about a young girl who cares for her sick brother with her knowledge of health and nutrition.

See also script 59-1 (Sara stays in school), and script 59-2 (Sara learns about health and nutrition in school) on the benefits of educating girls.



Program host

Young girl
Young boy, Afia’s brother
Afia and George’s Father

Program host: Girls who stay in school and become educated can make important contributions to their families and communities. The story you are about to hear is about a young school girl who, with her knowledge of health and nutrition, helps her brother in an unexpected way.

One of the worst days in my life was the day my parents told me I had to leave school. I was 12 years old at the time. My mother explained that she needed me at home to help with the chores. I was the only girl — so I would have to stay home.

I was upset and angry. I wanted to finish school and become a teacher some day. I wanted to share my love of learning. I also knew I could make a good salary as a teacher.

When I told my brother George about leaving school he was sorry too. George is three years older than me, but we are very close.

And George did something for me that I will never forget. He helped me to stay in school.

When I learned that my sister Afia had to leave school I felt badly. I am three years older than Afia and I’ve always protected her. I knew she liked school. But I also had a selfish reason for wanting her to stay in school. Afia is very good at math and she always helped me with my math homework. I was afraid that if she left school, I would fail my math class!

So I thought of a plan. And I went to our father. I said, “Dad, can I talk to you?”

What is it son?

Dad, I’d like to help Afia with the chores after school. That way, maybe she can stay in school.

Well this is a surprise! Why are you being so generous?

It’s because I don’t think it’s fair that she has to leave school just because she’s a girl. Afia enjoys her studies so much! Also, if she stays in school she can still help me with my homework.

Well, you can give it a try. But if the two of you can’t get all the extra chores done every day, Afia will have to leave school.

But I didn’t have to leave school after all. Together, George and I were able to finish all the chores every day. And I helped George with his math homework. It was a good arrangement for both of us, but after a couple of years I noticed something different about George. He wasn’t able to concentrate on his studies any more. And he seemed weak. I could see that George was sick. But I didn’t know why. Then we got the terrible news. The doctor told us that George has HIV — the virus that causes AIDS.

It’s true. I tested positive for the virus that leads to the AIDS disease. Like a lot of boys my age, I had sex without ever thinking about using a condom. Eventually I became infected with the H-I-Virus. My parents were angry. They felt helpless. They didn’t know what to do. Neither did I, but I was lucky. My sister Afia did know what to do.

I told my parents what I had learned about health and nutrition at school. I told them I could help to take care of George.

At school we learned that people with HIV can stay stronger for much longer if they have a proper diet. People with HIV/AIDS need a variety of foods. They need to get foods for strength and foods for energy.

I planned a diet for my brother with the help of my school teacher. I wrote a list of all the foods my brother should eat every day. I calculated how much protein and starch and vitamins he needed and which foods would provide them.

Afia took good care of me. She not only knew what foods I should eat, but also she was able to give me my medication. That’s because she was the only person in the family other than me who could read the instructions on the medicine bottles.

I am older now, but I am still active. I learned that if you eat the right foods, you can stay stronger. With my sister’s help, I learned how to eat well.

First, George helped me to stay in school. Then — because of what I learned in school — I had the opportunity to help George. With the lessons I learned and the help of my teachers I was able to help George stay stronger and healthier.


: This program has certainly been food for thought. When girls go to school the whole family benefits — sometimes in unexpected ways.



  • Reprinted from DCFRN script 65.6, October 2002.
  • Contributed by Jennifer Pittet, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada.
  • Reviewed (2002) by Barbara Macdonald, Senior Nutrition Advisor, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Information sources

  • “A gendered perspective on nutrition rights,” by George Kent, Agenda, No. 51, 2002. Agenda, PO Box 61163, Bishopsgate, 4008, South Africa. Email: editor@agenda.org.za, URL: http://www.agenda.org.za/
  • “Nutrition and gender,” by Ruth Oniang’o and Edith Mukudi, Nutrition: A Foundation for Development, 2002. UN ACC Sub-Committee on Nutrition, c/o World Health Organization, 20 Avenue Appia, CH 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. Email: accscn@who.int, URL: http://acc.unsystem.org/scn/
  • “Educating girls makes for better world,” by Lynn-Marie Holland, Toronto Star, May 5, 2000, Toronto, Canada.