5 Programs Investing in Girls Education

March 14, 2014Kristen Grauer

Investing in girls' education can transform the lives of women around the world, and also benefit other members and sectors of society. This week's featured image is from IGATE - an innovative program from Zimbabwe that is changing the lives of primary and secondary students. Learn more below!

Last Saturday, March 8th, marked International Women's Day - a reminder to all that the empowerment of women and girls should remain at the forefront of the global education agenda. Gender inequality remains a grave challenge in schools across the developing world, especially for indigenous populations and other minorities. 

In an article from the U.K. think-tank, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), blogger Nicola Jones reveals that misleading evidence regarding national averages for gender equality do not adequately factor in disparities within and across countries. Consequently, women who belong to marginalized groups are not receiving the attention and support that they need in order to be successful. For example, in Paraguay, the poverty rate for Afro- and indigenous populations is eight times higher that the rate for majority populations. As Nicola points out, "When gender and age are factored in, the level of disadvantage and exclusion is often compounded." 

The following CEI programs recognize the unique challenges faced by ethnic, linguistic, and religious female minorities. Their innovative approaches and methodologies aim to improve girls' and womens' access to quality education

1. GetSetGo Women's Library and Learning Center | Cambodia

GetSetGo is a 24-hours-a-day library and learning center for undereducated women in the Siem Reap Province who seek literacy and language skills to prepare them for entering the formal economy. Within the center, women have access to a computer lab, reading room, and teaching kitchen that facilitate education technology and life skills courses. The main beneficiaries of GetSetGo include displaced women, ethnic minorities, and nomadic communities. While the center is currently available to urban residents, formalized rural outreach is taking place to attract women from different areas of the country.

2. SOAR Peer Education ProgramNigeria

By training girls as peer educators to address sexual and child abuse in schools, the SOAR initiative seeks to encourage girls to remain in school and enhance overall girls' education in northern Nigeria, where drop out rates are high. To date, the project has trained nearly 60 female secondary students in Kuje on how to identify what constitutes sexual abuse, understanding potential circumstances that increase the likelihood of abuse, and how victims should handle abuse if it occurs. In addition to prevention training, the organization also provides care and support for victims and victims' care-givers.

3. School of Leadership Afghanistan (SOLA) | Afghanistan

SOLA, the first boarding school for girls in Afghanistan, pairs its comprehensive curriculum with national education improvement programs. SOLA students supplement basic subject instruction with leadership training, civic engagement, and skills-based classes that prepare them to excel at institutions of higher education. In conjunction with local ministries of education, SOLA recruits displaced, ethnic minority, and out-of-school girls from peri-urban and rural provinces around the country. In five years, SOLA has helped 35 Afghan girls to obtain 40 scholarships to 34 schools and colleges.

SOLA's mission is centered around the maxim: “Educate a boy, you educate an individual; educate a girl, and you educate her family, her community, and her countrymen.” 

4. Improving Girls' Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) | Zimbabwe

IGATE, implemented by World Vision UK and part of the DFID Girls' Education Challenge, aims to increase girls' school attendance and learning outcomes in Zimbabwean schools by identifying and dismantling the greatest barriers to education at community, institutional, and personal levels. The IGATE program integrates four different models to improve education opportunities for ethnic and religious minority girls: The Village Savings and Loan (VSL) model to address financial barriers to girls' education; the Communities Supporting Girls' Education model to tap into grassroots advocacy efforts and sustain a dialogue between communities and service providers; the Power Within model to empower girls to participate in school, build confidence and leadership skills; and the School Development Committee model to provide capacity-building support to school leaders and decision-makers.

5. GEC BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania Project Tanzania

The GEC BRAC Maendeleo Tanzania project seeks to empower and improve the learning experience for at-risk and out-of-school girls to complete primary and lower secondary education in Tanzania. Girls clubs and mentorship programs feature academic tutoring, life skills training, and peer-learning and support. Through baseline surveys, the Maendeleo Project identifies girls from across the country that would benefit most from the program - principally girls who are first generation learners, affected by HIV, or come from large or female-headed households. Currently, the project operates in 180 schools and has impacted over 7,000 students.

To learn more about this topic, check out the following resources on the CEI website:

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