With its unique ability to open economic doors, enhance health outcomes, and breakdown social barriers, education is one of the most powerful tools we have to empower women and lift up entire communities.
Over the last 20 years, a significant international effort has helped to increase educational opportunity for all children, dramatically reduce global gender gaps in primary education, and reduce the number of children out of primary school by almost half.
Still, major challenges remain. There are remarkably fewer girls than boys in secondary school, and around the world girls face overwhelming challenges to pursuing their education at all levels – the quality and safety of which are not always guaranteed. Children in conflict zones are the most vulnerable, facing constant threats of violence either in or on their way to school. We have seen these tragedies all too recently with the senseless killing of more than 100 school children in Pakistan just this week, and the April kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria.
If we are going to ensure the full participation of women and girls, it is essential that we continue building on the progress we’ve made and address the five key challenges facing girls’ equal education: safety, access, quality, transition, and leadership.
In September, Secretary Clinton announced CHARGE – the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education – a commitment by No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project and the Center on Universal Education at the Brookings Institution that brings together over 30 cross-sector partners to reach 14 million girls over five years. Governments, private sector companies, UN organizations and grassroots NGOs made commitments across the five priority areas to: ensure that girls attend and complete primary and secondary school; make schools safer and more secure; improve quality of learning; support girls’ transition to higher education and employment; and cultivate local leaders to support these efforts.
Last week, as part of Brookings’ two-day conference on girls’ education, the Brookings Institution and No Ceilings hosted a CHARGE Strategy Session, convening current and prospective partners to brainstorm next steps for the collaborative and announce four new CHARGE commitments that will work to improve educational opportunities for girls around the world. They are:
- Millennium Challenge Corporation: beginning in 2015, MCC will commit more than $170 million to improve quality of learning, safety, and retention for girls enrolled in secondary schools in the Republic of Georgia and El Salvador focusing on improving “access, safety and transitions.” MCC investments will also support the creation of El Salvador’s Ministry of Education’s Gender Policy and Gender Unit.
- International Federation of University Women: IFUW will invest $7.8 million by 2019 to; 1) train 500 new women teachers and ensure 15,000 girls have improved, high quality learning opportunities in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Uganda; and 2) train 2000 new women mentors and guarantee that 10,000 young women successfully transition from secondary school to the workplace or higher education across Sub-Saharan Africa, South West Asia and the Middle East.
- The Population Council: As a learning partner for CHARGE commitment makers, the Population Council commits to generate new research to identify which factors increase the likelihood of girls’ secondary school attendance, safety, and effective learning that will help CHARGE members focus their efforts.
- Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research (WISER): WISER will invest $55 thousand between 2015-2017 in their “Lighting Up STEM Education” project at a girls’ secondary school in Kenya. The project will train and mentor 9 teachers to support creative learning and problem solving, develop new curricula on math and financial literacy, and improve learning outcomes for 350 girls in STEM disciplines.
These new commitments and the continuing work of Brookings, No Ceilings, and CHARGE reinforce the belief that by working together at every level and in every sector, we can collect the best information and develop the strongest solutions to accelerate progress in girls’ education and ensure full participation for women and girls. We look forward to sharing more updates on our progress throughout 2015.