The global push for women’s empowerment has been gaining steam since the mid-1990s, and in the just the past few years, we've seen a growing tempo of philanthropic activity in this area. Earlier this summer, for instance, we reported on the United State of Women Summit that the White House convened.
The summit had a big domestic U.S. component, but also resulted in new major global strategies for women’s economic empowerment overall: equal access to resources and services, promoting entrepreneurship, equal access to decent jobs, and addressing the roadblocks that prevent women from fully participating in the economy. A linchpin in achieving the strategic goals set forth at the summit is education.
The gathering resulted in over $20 million in new commitments to the Let Girls Learn initiative. Launched in 2015, Let Girls Learn aims to educate adolescent girls living in countries impacted by conflict and crisis.
This is incredibly important work, as only 50 percent of all refugee children are in primary school and only 25 percent are in secondary. Given the global disparity between the number of boys in school versus the number of girls, it stands to reason that a good percentage of refugee children who are out of school are girls.
Refugee and internally displaced girls are only one piece of the puzzle. Even with the growing number of funders supporting the education needs of all refugee girls—the U.N. Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, Girl Rising, and CARE are all early and continuing donors to Let Girls Learn—the global gap between the number of males in the school versus the number of females remains large and troubling. While around two-thirds of countries have achieved gender equality in primary education, the numbers decrease at the secondary level.
One funder that’s putting up big money to bend that secondary learning curve in favor of girls is the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
The CIFF’s $17 million to the Global Partnership for Education—which is also a supporter of the Let Girls Learn initiative—aims to improve education for adolescent girls with a focus on moving them successfully from primary to secondary school. The funds will “support gender-responsive, evidence-based education sector planning and innovative policy solutions to increase the number of adolescent girls moving into secondary education.”
The grant is part of a larger $22 million commitment from CIFF made at the Global Partnership for Education’s Replenishment Pledging Conference in Brussels, Belgium in 2014. Those funds are earmarked for planning and policymaking to help girls transition to, and complete secondary school. According to the foundation, this work will “allow for governments to better plan for gender equality,” and will aid in capacity building efforts toward addressing the myriad obstacles that “prevent adolescent girls from completing their education.” Which is the main purpose behinds CIFF’s support of the Global Partnership for Education.
The second objective for the foundation is to encourage national education systems to quantify learning outcomes. Results are a big deal for CIFF as grants from the Global Partnership for Education will only be disbursed to recipient countries that have developed effective metrics and systems to measure those learning outcomes.
There’s no question as to why education is such a crucial matter, here. Increased levels of education not only foster gender equality as a whole, but also improve maternal and infant health and nutrition. Not to mention that women who are better educated tend to earn higher incomes, delay marriage and have fewer children. All of which can contribute significantly toward ending generational cycles of poverty.