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Girls Education Challenge

A girl at her desk in a busy classroom

Girls’ Education Challenge

We’re working with girls in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe, to make sure they can build the futures they choose

Around the world, girls are facing extra challenges to getting an education – especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Society’s beliefs about girls' abilities, and their worth, often means their choices for the future are made for them. Many girls never get the chance to go to school, or to finish their early grades, especially girls with a disability and those growing up in families with a limited income. 

Even for girls in school, their education can be precarious. They may be at risk on the way to and from school, or even in school itself. At home, girls are often expected to do more chores than boys, giving them little time for homework. Girls’ education is less likely to survive big changes: the death of a parent or becoming a refugee can take them out of school for good. The risks of being forced into marriage or becoming a young mother also put girls’ education in jeopardy. 

We want attitudes to change, so that girls’ education isn’t seen as optional. Girls who have been in education are likely to have more say over who and when they marry and when they have children, and greater opportunities to earn a safe living. That’s why, with your help, we’re working with girls so they can build their own futures and supporting more than 42,000 girls through our UK-Aid funded initiative, the Girls’ Education Challenge.

A girl reads from an exercise book
Ramatu dreams of becoming an engineer. “I know it is not impossible, because I have the determination,” she says.

‘I want to be an example for the project’

In Sierra Leone, 16-year-old Ramatu was on the brink of having to drop out of school. Without enough income to keep all their children in education, her parents wanted her to start work as a market trader. But Ramatu was able to join the Girls’ Education Challenge and now she’s an outstanding pupil.  

"Before the Girls’ Education Challenge, I was not used to studying, or taking part in school activities, but now I study every day," Ramatu explains. "I want to be an example for the project and help other children who are in the same situation to me.”

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Supporting Adolescent Girls’ Education in Zimbabwe

We’re supporting more than 13,000 out-of-school adolescent girls to gain skills, get back into education or pursue other training or employment opportunities through the Supporting Adolescent Girls’ Education (SAGE) project.

A girl studies at a desk
10-year-old Tawana had never been to school before our girls’ education project was launched in Zimbabwe. “My dream is to become a nurse,” she says. “So I study really hard because this will take me one step closer to my dream.”

A new generation of leaders

When girls can access education, the benefits also reach their families and communities. Girls’ education can:

  • support a reduction in child marriage, child and maternal mortality, and child malnutrition
  • help girls engage with politics and ensure they’re represented – human rights that all girls should be able to realise
  • enable girls to participate in leadership and democracy and increase female representation, which is positive for decisions on issues from health to climate change 
  • contribute to more stable, resilient societies that give everybody the opportunity to fulfil their potential. 

Adapting to a changing world

We know that girls are worst affected by health crises like coronavirus. That’s why, as the pandemic continues, we’ve adapted our projects, working closely with communities to ensure girls can keep learning while schools are closed, and return to education as soon as possible.

  • In Zimbabwe, we’ve adapted teaching and learning materials and provided training to over 400 volunteers. This is enabling girls to continue their education via phone, at community-based learning groups, and at home if they have a disability or are pregnant. We’ve also been sharing information with girls, community members and volunteers on coronavirus, how to access services if girls are unsafe and checking on girls’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • In Ethiopia, we’ve developed messages for radio broadcast about the risks girls face in lockdown. Now that schools have started to reopen, our priority is to help 1,500 girls in their last year of primary school to make the transition to secondary school. 
  • In Ghana, we’ve helped the government broadcast lessons on a special TV channel so children can learn at home. We’ve also been supporting the girls in our project with home learning and provided cash transfers to those most at risk, to make sure their families can meet the costs of their return to school.
  • In Sierra Leone, we’ve made sure the most vulnerable girls have received food distributions, school supplies, and dignity kits with hygiene and period products, to meet their immediate needs. We’ve also developed learning materials and are running after-school study groups and girls’ clubs, using mobile phones to support home learning.
A girl with a mobile phone and school books
“My teacher has taught me what to do to prevent coronavirus, over the phone,” Yollanda explains. “The lockdown has affected me because I am no longer going to school where I was learning how to read and write."

Learning in lockdown

In Zimbabwe, the Girls’ Education Challenge provided Yollanda, 12, with her first opportunity to learn, as her parents had been unable to afford her school fees – but everything changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit and her learning hub had to close.

Since then, our team of community educators have been providing support over the phone, and Yollanda has been able to share the information she’s received with her friends and family, to help them stay safe. 



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