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PRESS RELEASE December 11, 2019

Improving Learning Outcomes and Investing in Girls & Women Crucial to Pakistan’s Sustained Growth

100-day action program will support girls’ education & women’s economic empowerment

ISLAMABAD, December 11, 2019 — A national 100-day action program to support girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment launched today at Quaid-i-Azam University, supported by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Human Rights, and the World Bank Group.

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ (GLWE) initiative launched today in Islamabad with an evidence for policy-making conference in Islamabad. Sessions focused on challenges and opportunities in eliminating Learning Poverty and increasing women’s economic empowerment. The initiative highlights statistics that show that 55% of Pakistan’s 22.5 million out-of-school children are girls and only 26% of women are active in the country’s labor force. The 100-day campaign calls for awareness, advocacy and action on a national scale to address this.

“Girls and women are central to Pakistan’s long-term aspirations to become a prosperous country when it turns 100,” said Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “The World Bank is committed to supporting all stakeholders to prioritize actions for girls to excel in education and women to thrive in the workplace.”

Learning Poverty

Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood and Advisor to the Prime Minister for Finance Hafeez Shaikh led discussions on the need to address ‘Learning Poverty’. Three in every four children in Pakistan cannot read and understand a simple story by age 10, says a recent report from the World Bank, Ending Learning Poverty: What will it take?  It highlights that Learning Poverty in Pakistan is at 75%, which is substantially higher than the average in South Asia of 58%. The report argues there are two underlying factors to this. First, 27.3% of all children remain out of school, which particularly affects girls, who are more likely to never be enrolled and to drop out faster in early adolescence. Second, 47.5% of children cannot read and comprehend a simple paragraph by age 10, even though they make it to school. This means that literacy instruction in schools is not adapted to the needs of children, particularly those from illiterate families.

“This is a moral and economic crisis, which can and must be addressed urgently,” said Jaime Saavedra, Global Director for Education, World Bank. “Not being able to read by age 10 means that a child is ‘learning poor’. What is required is a learning revolution that involves everyone: parents, teachers, school principals, policy makers, and partners to rally around one goal: getting rid of learning poverty.”

Women Accessing the Labor Force

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on women’s participation in the labor force, led by Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Program. The session focused on enabling women as a crucial aspect of inclusive growth, and on ways to provide more women with the education, skills, opportunities and environments to become contributing members of the economy.

“Women in the workforce hold the key to a vibrant economy. Pakistan’s goal is to increase women’s participation in the workforce from 26 to 45 percent, and the World Bank is ready to support the government achieve this, said Louise Cord, Global Director for Social Development, World Bank. Concerted efforts are needed to empower women and girls by expanding their skills, access to information, mobility, along with access to finance and assets.”


Girls Learn, Women Earn Initiative:

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ initiative invites any institution to sign up to be a GLWE champion from December 31, provided they meet the registration criteria, which will be set by an independent panel of advisors. The GLWE campaign began on December 1, 2019 and will continue until March 10, 2020, just after International Women’s Day on March 8.

For more information on the Girls Learn, Women Earn initiative, please visit:


For more information on Learning Poverty: and Pakistan Learning Brief


Neha Khaliq
Communications Associate