“Education is a human right and an essential tool for achieving
the goals of equality, development and peace…
Equality of access to and attainment of educational qualifications
is necessary if more women are to become agents of change”
– Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
The education of adolescent girls is the catalyst that can deliver on global commitments for advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, building peace and security, and achieving the sustainable development goals. Yet, more than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school, of whom 96.5 million are excluded from secondary education. Despite increasing global gender parity in secondary school enrolment, only 29% of girls complete lower secondary and just 13% complete upper secondary in low income countries. There is a significant gender gap in learning in low income countries: 53% of girls versus 76% of boys aged 15-24 are able to read a simple sentence.
In many countries as girls transition from childhood to adolescence, they face increasing pressures to drop out of education. The reasons including cost, domestic responsibilities, sociocultural norms and expectations, early marriage, and early pregnancy. Girls living with disabilities, from ethnic minorities or living in remote areas face additional constraints.
Girls often lack confidence and their abilities and potential are undervalued by schools, teachers and themselves. Gender bias restricts the subject choices and girls are often not encouraged to enrol in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programmes or in technical and vocational training.
Adolescent girls are vulnerable to violence or harassment in school, travelling to and from school, or in boarding facilities. School related gender based violence has negative consequences for girls’ ability to learn and stay in school. In conflict settings, the provision of education suffers. Girls often face additional obstacles in accessing education due to fear or targeted attacks and the additional caregiving and household responsibilities they must assume. Educating girls is a foundational requirement for women’s empowerment in conflict-affected contexts.
The promotion of adolescent health, nutrition and well-being; ending discriminatory policies excluding pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from school; providing adequate water, sanitation and menstrual supplies in schools are also vital to ensuring girls stay in school and are supported to learn.