Globally, 130 million girls will not go to school. Nearly all of them live in low-income countries, where girls are still one and a half times more likely than boys to be excluded from primary school. In South Asia, 46 million girls were out of school in 2016, with some communities experiencing major disparities in enrolment and literacy rates – reflecting fragility, shortages of girls’ secondary schools and restrictive social and cultural norms. And this was before the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which globally may push a further 20 million secondary school-age girls out of school.
Educating girls helps to unleash a demographic dividend; reducing poverty, increasing productivity and cultivating future business owners, scientists and world leaders. The #LeaveNoGirlBehind commitment to having every girl in school is more than a distant ambition. It is a goal within our grasp. Achieving it will reap dividends for the safety, security and prosperity of all, and of the next generation.
As countries ponder and begin to act on safely re-building and re-booting education systems in ‘new-normal,’ post-COVID-19 learning environments, how can we support the most marginalised girls in their return to school? And how can we better include and support the most marginalised girls who were never in school or had dropped out long before the COVID-19 pandemic?
A recent webinar series, hosted by the Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) and UNICEF Regional Office South Asia (ROSA), aimed to foster a closer engagement of stakeholders and practitioners in South Asia to connect and influence policy makers, and develop a critical understanding of the key challenges. The inter-connectedness of girls’ education and poverty reduction will promote a meaningful contribution to a range of Sustainable Development Goals, from gender equality to peace and justice.
A Thematic Review which summarises the series has been produced. It analyses the different ways in which current evidence gathering and programming efforts build upon a decade of momentum in girls’ education, while addressing persistent gaps and shortcomings in school access, engagement, retention and educational outcomes for girls.
You can also read a summary of the knowledge sharing series at UNICEF ROSA's website here, along with slides from each of the four sessions below:
The framework and standards paper ‘Gender-Responsive Education in the Context of COVID-19' presented during the webinar series is now also available. This framework highlights the gender-responsive strategies and actions that can be carried out at school and in alternative education settings for building the pre-pandemic political momentum for equal, equitable and inclusive education opportunities for all. The model is designed in a whole-of-system, cross-sectoral and child-centered way. It highlights the focus on the system-level drivers determining policies, funding and coordination needs between public, private and civil society actors. It also acknowledged that for girls and boys to realise their full potential, their health, protection and learning needs should be addressed together.