Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; complete all levels of education with the skills and competencies to effectively compete in the labor market; learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to a changing world; make decisions about their own lives; and contribute to their communities and the world.
Girls’ education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be healthier than uneducated women, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.
Based on the latest available data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), there are 130 million girls not in school. According to UIS data, 15 million girls of primary-school age will never enter a classroom and over half of these girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access an education. For example, in Nigeria, only 4 percent of poor young women in the North West zone can read, compared with 99 percent of rich young women in the South East. Studies consistently reinforce that girls who face multiple sources of disadvantage — such as low family income level, living in remote or underserved locations, disability and/or minority ethno-linguistic backgrounds — are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education.
Violence also negatively impacts access to education and a safe environment for learning. For example, in Haiti, recent research highlights that one in three Haitian women (ages 15 to 49) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and that of women who received money for sex before turning 18 years old, 27 percent reported that schools to be the most common location for solicitation.
Worldwide, girls overcome barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, substandard service delivery, poor infrastructure, violence, and fragility. In recent years, governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, bilateral and multilateral donors, and girls and women as agents of change and their own empowerment, have advanced multi-sectoral approaches to overcome these challenges including, though not limited to:
- Providing conditional cash transfers, stipends or scholarships;
- Reducing distance to school;
- Targeting boys and men to be a part of discussions about cultural and societal practices;
- Ensuring gender-sensitive curricula and pedagogies;
- Hiring and training qualified female teachers;
- Building safe and inclusive learning environments for girls and young women;
- Ending child/early marriage; and
- Addressing violence against girls and women.
Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017