Why adolescent girls in crises must be a priority if we are to unlock education for all
The unique challenges faced by girls in crises must be overcome to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on education by 2030
Millions of children and young people are still being locked out of education in crises.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. Yet despite huge successes getting children into school, millions are still being locked out of an education.
Of those out-of-school children, an estimated 50% live in conflict-affected areas.
Current statistics show that the impact of conflict and humanitarian crises means 75 million children worldwide are at risk of being denied their right to an education.
Adolescent girls face unique barriers
We already know that growing up as a girl has challenges acutely connected with prevailing gender norms.
These factors, combined with the impact of a crisis, mean that the challenge of accessing education during crises disproportionately affects girls and young women.
- For every 10 refugee boys enrolled in secondary school, only seven refugee girls enrol.
- Young women living in conflict-affected areas are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than elsewhere.
- Girls in conflict-affected areas are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than those elsewhere.
During conflict, natural disasters and other crises, adolescent girls face a range of barriers to education specific to their age and gender. These challenges include:
- safety concerns either travelling to/from or whilst at school
- child marriage
- adolescent pregnancy
- having a greater domestic role in the family
- lack of menstrual hygiene products
- lack of gender-sensitive school infrastructure e.g. segregated toilets.
These challenges can be exacerbated if the girl has a disability.
In many crisis-affected countries there is already a lower value placed on the education of girls. Combining this with all the other barriers girls face in accessing an education means the needs of adolescent girls must be a priority if we are to achieve universal education by 2030.
What is Plan International doing?
With the Girls' Education Challenge (GEC), the leading global fund for girls’ education, we've been supporting 9,080 marginalised girls and children with disabilities in five districts in Sierra Leone.
Funded by the UK Department for International Development and implemented by Plan International, the programme supported girls affected by the Ebola crisis to access education and build life skills. Through the project we've also been working with children, teachers and traditional leaders to promote inclusive education. Now much more must be done to ensure the same level of programming reaches girls living in the world’s most fragile environments.
What are we asking from the UK Government?
1) To renew investment in Education Cannot Wait
Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the world’s first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies, needs renewed funding to reach its goal of supporting the education of nine million children and youth in crises to receive a quality education.
This week, alongside other UK civil society organisations, we are calling on the UK Government to provide a renewed investment of £75million over the next three years.
2) Extend the work of the Girls' Education Challenge to more crisis contexts
In addition to continued funding for ECW, we propose that the GEC be extended into more crisis contexts.
The GEC has led the world in providing education to marginalised girls and building an evidence base on what works. But so much more could be done.
Many of the hardest-to-reach girls reside in crisis contexts, in places like the Lake Chad basin and the Sahel. The UK should consider expanding the programme to reach the millions of adolescent girls left behind in crises.
Growing up in a conflict or humanitarian crisis should not prevent girls from receiving 12 years of quality education. ECW and the GEC are two of the best initiatives the UK can support to translate this promise into action.
To find out more, read the latest report from the Send My Friend to School coalition, Unlock Education for Everyone: How the UK can ensure children affected by crises get an education >
- UNHCR (2018) Turn the Tide: Refugee Education in Crisis (accessed on 25/03/2019)
- UNESCO (2015) Humanitarian Aid for Education: Why It Matters and Why More is Needed. Paris, France: UNESCO
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