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Evidence-based advocacy for girls’ secondary education: how Malala fund partners advance local approaches to reach global goals

Tue, April 16, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B

Group Submission Type: Refereed Round-Table Session


As efforts towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals progress on a global level, local activists are researching and advocating for approaches that advance these Goals through girls’ secondary education in their own communities and countries. Women and girls could add up to $30 trillion to the global economy if all girls completed 12 years of school, according to a 2018 report by The World Bank titled “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls.” In its analysis, the report details the transformative power of girls’ secondary education, and how it is associated with improved outcomes in key areas addressed by the SDGs, including: Earnings and standards of living; Child marriage and early childbearing; Fertility and population growth; Health, nutrition and well-being; Agency and decision-making; and Social capital and institutions.

Through the Gulmakai Network, Malala Fund invests in developing country education leaders — the people who best understand girls in their communities — in regions where many girls miss out on secondary education. Malala Fund does this to help realise its goal of a world where every girl can complete 12 years of free, safe, quality education.

Malala Fund currently supports 25 local girl’s education “Champions” with capacity building and grant funding to advocate for systemic changes that will speed up progress for girls’ secondary education. The Gulmakai Champions’ work addresses the intersectional value of educating girls for 12 full years in reducing poverty and improving lives. This session features Malala Fund Gulmakai Champions building evidence-based approaches to advocate for and realize the full benefits of secondary education for girls in Pakistan, India and with Syrian refugees in Turkey.

A 2018 report released by Malala Fund, titled Full Force: Why the world works better when girls go to school, explains that “although research for many decades has shown the benefits of educating girls, recent evidence suggests the returns on investment are strongest when girls can complete secondary school.” (Sperling, G. B. and Winthrop, R., 2015). Barriers to girls completing secondary school are often entrenched in policy, social norms, curricula and institutions, and are exacerbated by political, humanitarian and economic crises. While many of the barriers have similar foundations around the world, the solutions they require are often rooted in, and have the highest consequence for, local contexts.

In Pakistan, Zehra Arshad with Pakistan Coalition for Education (PCE) uses evidence generated through primary and secondary sources to advocate for public policy change that will give girls’ a better chance at accessing and completing their secondary education.

In Turkey, Gamze Kardag, with the organization Mavi Kalem, conducted research on the barriers Syrian refugee girls face in continuing their education to secondary school and how educators can address those barriers. Their research aligns with Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) psycho-social support guide model and is focused on defining the girls’ needs, identifying what is required to support those needs and developing supportive behavior by Turkish and Syrian educators working with them.

In India, Dr. Jyotsna Jha with the Centre for Budget and Policy studies conducts research to demonstrate the impact of an empowerment-based mentoring model for adolescent girls. The mentoring model develops leadership skills; fosters critical thinking skills to examine and change their perception of themselves and aspirations; and enables them to take positive action related to themselves, their families, and their communities. Integration of this model into pedagogical approaches will provide girls with the tools, understanding and agency that they need to participate in a changing global economy.

Almost one billion girls and young women lack the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world, according to the Full Force report, which details how without quality education, girls in developing countries will be unprepared for the future of work. And without educated workers, the world will face major gaps in the labour market and unstable economies. The three approaches presented in this session demonstrate locally led efforts to break down barriers so that girls can access and complete their secondary education, and ensure they gain the knowledge and skills they will need to be a part of the progress towards the SDGs.

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