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Overcoming barriers for girls

The arguments in favour of girls’ education are irrefutable on the grounds of economy, equity and social consequences.

There is a great deal of evidence that addressing inequalities in girls’ education is an effective strategy for lifting girls and their families out of poverty and marginalisation.

The importance of improving girls’ access, retention and transition through education is recognised both by donors and Ministries of Education. However, despite global gains in gender parity in primary level enrolments, transition rates from primary to secondary school and completion rates for girls remain abysmally low. This is a product of the cumulative effect of constraints that girls experience both inside and outside of school.

We have a long tradition of promoting measures to improve access to education for girls and their retention and progression through school. In some countries it is a challenge to get girls enrolled in schools, but a more common problem is retaining them through the system, particularly beyond puberty, because of economic and social pressures.

To overcome these barriers for girls we always start with a rigorous contextual analysis that locates constraints on girls within different levels of the education system. Once we understand these constraints, a set of interventions can be designed to address barriers – using a combination of top-down activities (such as policy and institution strengthening) and grassroots bottom-up interventions (such as community initiatives). We have successfully conducted teacher training that addresses these issues. We have run conditional cash transfer schemes that reward continuation in school and have piloted innovations such as girls’ clubs and safe spaces.

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