Letting girls learn: WBG helps advance education for adolescent girls

October 11, 2016

In April 2016, President Jim Kim announced that the World Bank Group (WBG) would invest $2.5 billion over five years in education projects directly benefiting adolescent girls (aged 12-17). This was in response to a call from U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama for more support to adolescent girls’ education. Since then, the WBG had already committed $530 million in three high-need countries: Lebanon, Pakistan, and Nigeria.


About half of Syrian refugees living in Lebanon aged 6–14 years are enrolled in formal schooling but school enrollment for refugee children in the 15–18 age group is much lower at just 4 percent.

Arwa Aboud is a Syrian refugee girl who now lives and study in Lebanon. “I have been in Lebanon for four years and a half and in school for three,” she says, “In Syria they don’t teach a lot in English and, in Lebanon, there are many subjects that are not taught in Syria. This is where I find difficulties, sometimes,”

More girls like Arwa will now have the opportunity to access quality education in Lebanon. In September 2016, the WBG approved $100 million which will help to promote equitable access to education services, enhance quality of student learning, and strengthen Lebanon’s education system in response to the refugee crisis. This is support is part of the Reaching All Children with Education 2 Program.


In June 2016, the WBG approved the $300 million Third Punjab Education Sector Project under which tuition vouchers for vulnerable adolescent girls will be scaled up to reach an additional 200,000 girls by 2020.

Cash stipends will also be increased to cover 450,000 girls, encouraging adolescent girls to complete secondary school in a part of the world where women are under-represented in the labor market. This builds on earlier support from the WBG to Punjab province, where almost four million girls (29 percent of girls aged five to 16) remain out of school. This share is seven percentage points higher than that for out-of-school boys. Enrolling and retaining girls in secondary school remains an ongoing challenge.


In Nigeria, enrollment, attendance, and learning outcomes are inequitable and vary across gender, geographical boundaries, and geopolitical zones. Access to school is particularly challenging in the north east part of the country which has been affected by insurgency.

In June 2016, the WBG approved an additional $100 million for the State Education Program Investment Project that will contribute to the return of students—particularly girls—to schools in the North East states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, and Taraba. Partners will help identify out-of-school children, especially girls, and strategize on ways to bring them into school.

Results from other WBG projects benefiting adolescent girls

India. Over 3,600 Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) residential schools across India are now supporting the education of at least 400,000 girls aged between the ages of 10 and 14. These residential schools are supported under the India Third Elementary Education Project.  KGBV focuses on life skills, breaking social and psychological barriers, and developing independent and critical thinking abilities.

Yemen. The WBG’s Secondary Education Development for Girls Access Project was implemented in five governorates. The Gender Parity Index in secondary education gross enrollment improved from 0.43 to 0.63, and Grade 10 to 12 female students’ retention rate increased from 78.3 percent to 84.5 percent in the project intervention districts.

Bangladesh. Stipends were given to girls for secondary school enrollment and separate toilets for boys and girls were installed through the WBG’s Female Secondary School Stipend Projects I and II. In 1994, at the start of the project, the gender parity index was 0.83 at the secondary level. By 2008, when the project’s second phase closed, the gender parity index had risen dramatically to 1.13.

Letting more girls learn

Support to adolescent girls is key to the WBG’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity.

As First Lady Michelle Obama said at the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington in April 2016 : “This isn’t just a breathtaking investment of resources, it’s also a powerful statement of mission.  It’s an expression of our belief in the power of education to transform the lives and prospects of millions of girls worldwide, as well as the prospects of their families, their communities, and, of course, their countries.  And it’s also an affirmation of these girls’ extraordinary promise.” (Read her full speech).