News story

Educating one million girls to tackle poverty

Britain will help up to a million of the poorest girls in the world go to school, through the Girls Education Challenge.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Girls Education Challenge is a new project that will call on charities and the private sector to find better ways of getting girls into school in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia which the UK has identified as a priority, including Bangladesh, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The projects will help provide:

  • 650,000 girls with a full six years of primary education or
  • Up to a million girls with a junior secondary education for three years.

The Girls Education Challenge will be a competitive process that encourages organisations to set up schemes targeting marginalised girls of primary and lower secondary age.

Non-government organisations - including businesses and charities - are being asked to put forward ideas to get girls into good quality education and there will be a focus on working with new organisations and partners - to try new approaches where traditional approaches have not been successful. The British Government will then back the best of these.

Girls who are educated are more likely to:

  • marry later - a girl who has attended secondary school is less likely to marry during her adolescent years
  • have fewer children - on average a woman’s fertility rate drops by one birth for every four years of additional schooling
  • get immunisation and other health treatments for themselves and their babies
  • avoid HIV - a study shows girls with secondary education are three times less likely to be HIV positive
  • find employment and earn more - an extra year of schooling sees wages increase 10 to 20 percent

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of poverty. Investing in them early on and giving them an education not only radically alters their lives but has a massive knock on effect benefitting their families and communities. Girls who have been to school are likely to do significantly better financially, socially and be far healthier.

The action we are taking is ambitious and something of which Britain should be enormously proud. It will help to lift hundreds of thousands of girls out of poverty so that they can fulfil their potential.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

Educating girls tackles the root causes of poverty. Research shows that providing girls with an extra year of schooling can increase their wages by up to 20 per cent, while also lowering birth rates, which can have a profound economic impact.

These initiatives will also have positive impacts on future generations. They will mean girls are more likely to go on to help their sisters and younger girls in the community to follow their example - go to school and widen their choices,  to get married later, for example, and to earn their own income.

The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will give more details at the UN General Assembly this week.

This new support is in addition to the Coalition Government’s commitment to support 9 million children from developing countries in primary and 2 million in secondary education by 2015.

Updates to this page

Published 19 September 2011