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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.

    Poverty is one of the most important factors for determining whether a girl can access and complete her education. Studies consistently reinforce 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 violence and many experience violence while at school. Most recent data estimates that approximately 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to or at school every year. This often has serious consequences for their mental and physical health and overall well-being while also leading to lower attendance and higher dropout rates. An estimated 246 million children experience violence in and around school every year, ending school-related gender-based violence is critical. Adolescent pregnancies can be a result of sexual violence or sexual exploitation. Girls who become pregnant often face strong 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 more likely to marry as those children with little or no education.  According to a recent report, more than 41,000 girls under the age of 18 marry every day. Putting an end to this practice would increase women’s expected educational attainment, and with it, their potential earnings. According to the report’s estimates, ending child marriage could generate more than US$500 billion in benefits annually each year.

    Every day, girls face barriers to education caused by poverty, cultural norms and practices, poor infrastructure, violence, and fragility. 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.

    COVID-19 is having a negative impact on girls’ health and well-being – and many are at risk of not returning to school once they reopen. Available research shows that prevalence of violence against girls and women has increased during the pandemic – 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 Ebola outbreak were associated with an increase in teenage pregnancies. Once schools re-opened, many “visibly pregnant girls” were banned from going back to school. With schools closing throughout the developing world, where stigma around teenage pregnancies prevails, we will probably see an increase in drop-out rates as teenage girls become pregnant or married. As girls stay at home because of school closures, their household work burdens might increase, resulting in girls spending more time helping out at home instead of studying. This might encourage parents, particularly those putting a lower value on girls' education, to keep their daughters at home even after schools reopen. Moreover, research shows that girls risk dropping out of school when caregivers are missing from the household because they typically have to (partly) replace the work done by the missing caregiver, who might be away due to COVID-19-related work, illness, or death. Therefore, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we might see more girls than boys helping at home, lagging behind with studying, and dropping out of school.

    Last Updated: Sep 30, 2020

  • 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 USD$2 billion in 5 years. As of May 2020, the Bank has reached USD$1.49 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;
    • Reducing distances 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;
    • Addressing violence against girls and women; and
    • Menstrual hygiene management.

    COVID-19 is exacerbating risks for women and girls. The pandemic will likely lead to lower levels of education in addition to higher risk of violence, sexual exploitation, adolescent pregnancy, and early marriage. We believe that our work on girls’ education is even more needed and urgent.

    Last Updated: Sep 30, 2020

  • The WBG 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. 

    Here are some examples of key interventions:

    • Stipends to improve primary and secondary school completion for girls and young women. Are being implemented in Punjab (Pakistan), Bangladesh and the Sahel benefitting close to half a million girls. In all cases our teams work in trying to shift social norms around girls’ education.
    • Increase participation of girls in skills development, 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 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; a tenfold increase. The Bank is also building 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. For instance, the SWEDD project (Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographic Dividend Project for Africa) 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 gender-based violence 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.

    Last Updated: Sep 30, 2020

  • 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. The Bank is also 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: Sep 30, 2020

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