Department for International Development
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Educating one million girls to tackle poverty

Britain will help up to a million of the poorest girls in the world go to school, the Deputy Prime Minister announced recently.

The Girls Education Challenge is a new project that will call on NGOs, 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.

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 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.

In order to receive continued funding, the organisations will have to demonstrate measurable improvements in the quality of education and increased numbers of girls going to school. Only programmes which can demonstrate the most cost-effective ways of working will receive backing.

The programmes will also have to show  that they will get more marginalised girls into school. It is likely that some of the activities which are supported will ensure that facilities at school – for example separate latrines and “safe spaces” for girls – are provided. The types of initiative are those that provide a combination of support to girls and young women: scholarships which not only pay for school fees but ensure girls are able to buy their own uniform, travel safely to school and support them to find work once they leave school.

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

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.

For more information, please contact the Press Office on 020 7023 0600.

Notes to editors

1. The challenge fund will be worth up to £355m to 2015. This will come from the existing aid budget.

2. The GEC will be a multi-window challenge fund, ensuring competition for funds whilst recognising that some market stimulation is required to encourage new partners to engage, and that some projects may require smaller initial levels of support in order to demonstrate effectiveness. It will have two funding windows:

  • Step change projects – two-thirds of funding to support individual projects that are able to demonstrate the ability to deliver results quickly and effectively. These are most likely to be projects with an existing track record of improving the accessibility and quality of girls’ education and which would benefit from increased DFID support to either take an existing programme to scale, or to implement an existing model in a different context. Funding for step change projects would be limited to ten high priority countries (to be finalised). These projects would be funded following a competitive bidding process to be undertaken in the spring of 2012.
  • Innovative projects – one-third of funding allocated to two different types of projects, awarding in January 2013:

Small-scale pilot projects, more innovative in nature, that need further support and testing before they are able to demonstrate the ability to move to scale. These will be emerging projects and ideas that need further funding to demonstrate that they can effectively and efficiently deliver the outputs of the GEC

Strategic partnerships (which must be at least 50% match funded in cash or in kind) to develop new ways of supporting marginalised girls in education, in particular working with international and national companies. These organisations will require a different approach in order to engage effectively. Many of them will not be accustomed to working with DFID and would not apply via the single-window proposal. They will require additional input and support in order to develop proposals. Innovative projects could be funded in any of the 27 countries in which DFID operates.

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