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Educating girls and women is critical for individual, community, and national well-being and opportunity. Context matters here, as cultural and systemic norms impeding women’s and girls’ education, as well as delivery models, need to be understood and addressed with relation to a specific community or household.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

Numerous studies have showed that educating women and girls leads to improved child and maternal health outcomes as well as higher employment and income rates. Educated women are able to make better decisions for their families and on average marry later, contributing to smaller households. A 1% increase in the level of women’s education is estimated to increase a country’s economic growth by 0.3%.i

  • The world achieved Millenium Development Goal 3 of gender parity in schools by 2015 at the primary level. However, only two out of 130 countries achieved that target at all levels.Gender disparity remained largest in secondary education.ii
  • As of 2014, there were 32.1 million girls of primary age and 98.2 million of secondary age out of school.iii Two-thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women.iv
Desired Equilibrium

All opportunities for girls and women in society are equal, starting with equitable access to a quality education from birth through primary school, secondary school, and into the economic opportunities of adulthood. Every girl and woman has the right to a childhood, lives without fear of violence, and has the freedom to choose whom she marries and when to start a family.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Filling gaps in the educational infrastructure (e.g. lack of female teachers, transportation) to ensure girls’ enrollment and retention while improving classroom learning (Afghan Institute of Learning, Camfed, Educate Girls, Room to Read, The Citizens Foundation)
  • Equipping girls and women with skill-based knowledge that is both economically and socially empowering (Arzu, Barefoot College, Camfed, Fundacion Capital, Landesa, mothers2mothers, Root Capital, Saudé Criança)
  • Engaging local communities to establish norms that value and recognize the rights of all women and girls (Camfed, Educate Girls, Girls Not Brides, Tostan)
  • Strengthening education governance through training and support to teachers, administrators, and school systems (Educate Girls, Girls Not Brides)

i Oxford Economic Papers, “Are Educational Gender Gaps A Brake on Economic Development? Some Cross-Country Empirical Evidence” 2002.
ii United Nations (link)
iii UNESCO (link)
iv UNESCO (link)

Critical Geographies
Gender Parity in Secondary School Enrollment

As defined by SPI (< 0.7 girls/boys ratio)
Chad, Central African Republic, Togo, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Guinea, Benin, Yemen

Women's Average Years in School

As defined by SPI (< 4 years)
Afghanistan, Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Yemen, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Benin, Mozambique, Senegal, Bhutan, Gambia, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire