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  • Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; have the opportunity to complete all levels of education acquiring the knowledge and skills to 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 more informed about nutrition and healthcare, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and their children are usually healthier, should they choose to become mothers. They are more likely to participate in the formal labor market and earn higher incomes. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and countries out of poverty.

    According to UNESCO estimates, around the world, 132 million girls are out of school, including 34.3 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67.4 million of upper-secondary school age. In countries affected by conflict, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries. And in many countries, among girls who do enter primary school, only a small portion will reach and far fewer will complete secondary school.

    There are multiple barriers to girls’ access to and completion of education:

    • Poverty is one of the most important factors for determining whether a girl can access and complete her education. Poor households lack resources to pay for schooling and associated costs (e.g., for textbooks, uniforms, school supplies, and transportation).  Poor households with multiple children may choose to invest in boys’ education rather than that of girls while also relying on girls to help with household chores and care for younger siblings and other family members.  Studies consistently show that girls who face multiple disadvantages — such as low family income, living in remote or underserved locations or who have a disability or belong to a minority ethno-linguistic group — are farthest behind in terms of access to and completion of education.
    • Violence also prevents girls from accessing and completing education – often girls are forced to walk long distances to school placing them at an increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) including sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (SEA/SH) and many experience violence while at school.  In addition to having serious consequences for their mental and physical health and overall well-being - this leads to lower attendance and higher dropout rates among them. Adolescent pregnancies can be a result of sexual violence or sexual exploitation. Girls who become pregnant often face significant stigma, and even discrimination, from their communities. The burden of stigma, compounded by unequal gender norms, can lead girls to drop out of school early and not return. 
    • Child marriage is also a critical challenge. Girls who marry young are much more likely to drop out of school, complete fewer years of education than their peers who marry later. They are also more likely to have children at a young age and are exposed to higher levels of violence perpetrated by their partner.  In turn, this affects the education and health of their children, as well as their ability to earn a living. Indeed, girls with secondary schooling are up to six times less likely to marry as those children with little or no education.  According to a 2017 report,[LSM1]  more than 41,000 girls under the age of 18 marry every day.
    • Lack of schools, inadequate infrastructure and unsafe environments: In addition to an insufficient number of schools to meet education demand (particularly in rural areas) – many schools lack water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities including separate toilets for boys and girls and a water source.  Further, many schools lack basic features to promote a safe and inclusive environment – for example, they lack perimeter fences, well-lit pathways and do not use universal design.  The lack of an adequate environment can act as an important barrier to girls’ regular attendance in school.
    • Limitations in teacher training and teaching and learning materials which reinforce gender biases: In many settings, curricula and teaching pedagogy is not sensitive to the specific needs of girls. Further, teachers may not have had sufficient training or support in reducing gender biases in the classroom.  They may not be trained or feel comfortable in responding to GBV and other issues girls may face in school. Additionally, teaching and learning materials and curricula may reinforce negative stereotypes about girls and women.

    COVID-19 is negatively impacting girls’ health and well-being and – in addition to facing loss of learning as a result of prolonged school closures and limited access to remote learning opportunities – many are at risk of not returning to schools once they reopen. Research shows that the incidence of violence against girls and women has increased during COVID-19, jeopardizing their health, safety and overall well-being.  As school closures and quarantines were enforced during the 2014‐2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, women and girls experienced more sexual violence, coercion and exploitation. School closures during the outbreak were also associated with an increase in teenage pregnancies.

    There is likely to be an increase in drop-out rates and a large portion of girls who will not return to school. Girls who are pregnant may, in some instances, be discouraged from returning to school and/or face stigma which drives them to either drop out or to not return to school.  Many girls’ responsibilities in terms of household work and caregiving are likely to have increased during the school closures – reducing the time available for studying. Indeed, research shows that when primary caregivers are missing from the household (which may often be the case during the pandemic/as a result of COVID-19), girls are often given additional responsibilities in terms of caregiving and household tasks – further reducing the time available for studying and reducing their overall engagement in schooling.

    Last Updated: Mar 08, 2021

  • The World Bank Group is collaborating with governments, civil society organizations, multilateral organization, the private sector, and donors to advance multi-sectoral approaches to overcome these challenges.

    Girls’ education and promoting gender equality is part of a broader, holistic effort by the World Bank Group (WBG). 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 WBG’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. 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 WBG 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 WBG’s Gender Strategy 2016 - 2023Gender Equality, Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth and Education Strategy 2020Learning for All.

    Girls’ education is a longstanding priority for the WBG, as evidenced by the Charlevoix Declaration on Quality Education for Girls, Adolescent Girls, and Women in Developing Countries, signed by the World Bank in 2018 with a commitment of contributing US$2 billion in 5 years. As of January 2021, the Bank has reached US$2.3 billion.

    The WBG 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, including cultural biases and access to economic and social opportunities, as well as services, such as health care and education.

    The WBG is leading these efforts by working with countries to design projects that tackle gender equality, and furthering the global evidence base of “what works.” Working together with girls and women, our focus includes:

    • Providing conditional cash transfers, stipends or scholarships;
    • Addressing violence against girls and women;
    • Ending child/early marriage;
    • Increasing equitable access to schooling (including reducing distances to school);
    • Increasing access to WASH facilities and promoting menstrual hygiene management;
    • Building safe and inclusive learning environments for girls and young women;
    • Targeting boys and men to be a part of discussions about cultural and societal practices;
    • Ensuring gender-sensitive curricula and pedagogies;
    • Providing opportunities for life skills training;
    • Supporting enrollment of girls and women in STEM programs; and
    • Hiring and training qualified female teachers

    As COVID-19 is exacerbating risks for girls and women – likely leading to increased dropout rates, lower levels of educational attainment as well as increasing their risk of violence (including SEA/SH), adolescent pregnancy, and early marriage. We believe that our work on girls’ education is even more needed and urgent.

    Last Updated: Mar 05, 2021

  • The WBG supports girls’ education through a variety of interventions. These include scholarships to improve girls’ enrollment in and completion of school, 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. 

    Here are some examples of key interventions:

    • Stipends to improve primary and secondary school completion for girls and young women. In Punjab (Pakistan), Bangladesh and the Sahel, stipends being implemented are benefitting close to half a million girls. In all cases our projects work to try to shift social norms around girls’ education.
    • Increase participation of girls in skills development programs, with an emphasis in non-traditional professions. In Nepal, the Bank supports the provision of monetary incentives to promote participation of females in short-term vocational training. In Nigeria the Bank will support the provision of digital literacy training to 300,000 girls so that they can thrive in the digital economy. 
    • Schemes to increase participation of girls in higher education. Through the Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) project, the Bank has supported increased enrollment of females in masters and PhD programs. The number of female students in ACE centers was 343 in 2014 and is now 3,400 in 2020; an approximately tenfold increase. The Bank is also supporting efforts to strengthen the pipeline of female students interested in computer science and engineering programs and retain them.
    • Securing the buy-in of religious and community leaders, critical to ending discrimination, violence against women, and the high incidence of early marriages. The SWEDD project (Sahel Women’s Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project for Africa), for example, has engaged more than 2,000 religious leaders in community dialogues in favor of girls’ secondary education, delayed childbearing, birth spacing, family planning and against GBV in rural communities.
    • Communications and awareness raising campaigns to address gender and social norms. In Nigeria, we are working with the government to raise awareness about topics such as early marriage and pregnancy, high dropout rates, and gender-based violence and create mechanisms to prevent these. Through the SWEDD project, over 24,000 husbands and future husbands are enrolled in 1,719 “husband schools”, where the curriculum has been proven to increase male participation in household task-sharing and healthy sexual and reproductive health behaviors and in reducing violence against women and children.

    Addressing education impact of COVID-19 on girls’ education

    Given the current impact and potential consequences of COVID-19 and related school closures on girls’ access to and completion of education, a number of projects are providing targeted support to limit its impact including:

    • The Chad COVID-19 Education Emergency Response Project will support an advocacy campaign focused on reducing the number of drop-outs due to COVID-19, and take steps to prevent and address GBV. Under the project, teachers and students will also receive training to prevent gender discrimination. Further, the project will support the creation of distance program learning opportunities for students, with a focus on reaching girls.
    • Under the Sudan Education COVID-19 Response Project, an awareness campaign will be undertaken to combat GBV, which has risen during the COVID-related closures. Further, the project will also create specialized learning material for disadvantaged students who have been affected during this time, including girls.
    • Education projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Benin, Pakistan and Bangladesh will support advocacy campaigns to encourage girls’ re-enrollment in schools after they open, and will also focus their campaigns on messages to prevent and reduce GBV.

    Last Updated: Mar 05, 2021

  • The World Bank Education Global Practice Gender Partnership Strategy is closely linked to – aiming to support achievement of -- the overarching goal of the World Bank Group Gender Strategy (FY16-23), which is to provide support to client countries to achieve gender equality as a key pathway toward lasting poverty reduction and shared security and prosperity. It supports achievement of the following specific objectives: (i) improving human endowments (including education); (ii) removing constraints for more and better jobs; (iii) removing barriers to women’s ownership and control of assets; and (iv) enhancing women’s voice and agency and engaging men and boys.  Most education projects aim to contribute to at least one of these objectives – with the larger aim of reducing existing gender gaps.

    The WBG 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.

    The Bank 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 WBG 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.

    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.

    The WBG also collaborated with the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) to produce Economic Impacts of Child Marriage, a recent report detailing the effects of child marriage, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and GPE.

    We are partners in the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children launched in 2016 by the UN Secretary-General and are partners in the Safe to Learn Initiative, which aims to work with governments, civil society organizations, communities, teachers and children to end the violence that undermines education and ensure that all children are safe to learn.

    The Bank is a member of the UNESCO led Global Education Coalition, a multi-sector partnership to meet the urgent need worldwide for continuity of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We also partner with the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) which manages a Reference Group on Girls’ Education in Emergencies.

    Last Updated: Mar 05, 2021

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