• 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

  • Girls’ education and promoting gender equality is part of a broader, holistic effort by the World Bank Group. It includes ensuring that girls do not suffer disproportionately in poor and vulnerable households—especially during times of crisis—and advancing skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women. In addition, it covers financing and analytical work in support of ending child marriage, removing financial barriers that keep girls out of school, improving access to reproductive health services, and preventing gender-based violence.

    Gender equality is central to the World Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. No society can develop sustainably without transforming the distribution of opportunities, resources, and choices for men and women so that they have equal power to shape their own lives and contribute to their families, communities, and countries.

    Through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations member states committed to a renewed framework for development. The achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls (SDG 5) is central to the SDG agenda.

    The World Bank Group is a partner and one of many stakeholders in the international drive, reinforced by adoption of the SDGs, to improve gender equality and empower girls and women. This commitment to action is captured in the World Bank Group’s Gender Strategy 2016 - 2023Gender Equality, Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth and Education Strategy 2020Learning for All.

    In April 2016, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim made the commitment to invest $2.5 billion over five years through education projects that directly benefit adolescent girls. In one year, the World Bank Group has already committed $600 million in projects that foster positive change through the education and empowerment of adolescent girls.

    The World Bank Group recognizes that in order to fully realize the benefits of educating girls and women, countries need to address the multiple sources of disadvantage that many girls and women face, whether in terms of access to economic and social opportunities, addressing cultural biases, or ensuring access to services, such as health, that further the positive impact of education.

    The World Bank Group is leading these efforts by working with countries to design projects that tackle gender equality, and furthering the global evidence base of “what works.”

    Examples of the World Bank Group’s commitment to gender equality include situation analysis on keeping girls in school in Zambia and Malawi to supporting Syrian refugee girls to attend school in Lebanon, and providing school tuition vouchers for vulnerable adolescent girls in Punjab, Pakistan.

    Across regions new research is increasing the global understanding regarding constraints to girls’ education, such as the economic impacts of child marriage, a joint, ground-breaking research project with the International Center for Research on Women. Every day more than 41,000 girls marry before the age of 18. According to UNESCO, enforcement of early marriage laws would result in increasing years of schooling in sub-Saharan Africa by 39 percent.

    Reports across the World Bank Group are also informing girls’ education activities and engagement such as the impact evaluation of the International Rescue Committee’s Sisters of Success (SOS) program in Monrovia Liberia that being advanced in partnership with the Africa Gender Innovation Lab

    Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

  • The World Bank Group supports girls’ education through a variety of interventions. These include stipends to improve primary and secondary school completion for girls and young women, skills development programs, gender-inclusive and -responsive teaching and learning, recruitment and training of female teachers, and building safe and inclusive schools for girls and young women. 

    Recent World Bank Group projects have supported the following results:

    • Bangladesh: 1.24 million girls in 6,700 secondary schools have benefitted from the Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project.
    • Ghana: Under the Secondary Education Improvement Project (SEIP) 3,450 senior high school girls (ages 15-17) are currently benefiting from scholarships, which pay for their tuition and provide other items, including books and uniforms, required to enable them to complete three years of senior high school education.
    • Pakistan: The first and second Punjab Education Sector Projects supported tuition vouchers for 150,000 vulnerable adolescent girls in the Punjab with low access to schooling, as well as cash stipends for 400,000 girls in low literacy areas to encourage secondary school attendance. This resulted in a 9 percent increase in girls’ enrollment in secondary public schools
    • Nigeria: in Kaduna State, Junior Secondary School completion rates for girls increased from 7 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2011, the lifetime of the State Education Sector Project.



    Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017

  • The World Bank Group works closely with governments and other development organizations on girls’ education issues to identify and advance interventions that improve girls’ education outcomes and provide resources to support countries implementing such initiatives.

    It is a member of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), which comprises over 20 partners representing multilateral, bilateral, civil society, and non-governmental organizations.

    Since 2002, the World Bank Group has also worked closely with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). It supports the partnership in general, as a Board Member, host of the GPE Secretariat, trustee and grant agent for the vast majority of GPE grants.

    Recently, the GPE and UNGEI published the “Guidance for Developing Gender-Responsive Education Sector Plans,” report which aims to inform governments and the development community more broadly to identify critical gender disparities and the factors contributing to them while channeling insights into country’s education sector plans.

    Last Updated: Apr 18, 2017


Oni Lusk-Stover

Senior Education Specialist

Quentin Wodon

Lead Economist, Education Global Practice

Additional Resources


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