The Puggle: May 2017 edition

Welcome to the May installment of The Puggle, your source for the emerging issues and findings related to girls’ education that the Echidna Giving team has come across this month!

In May, the Center For Universal Education (CUE) and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) collaborated to bring us ten trends in girls’ education. They identified ten strategic gaps and opportunities that the field is grappling with in a new era of girls’ education, including: a shifting focus from primary-age to adolescent girls, an increasing prioritization of investments in quality learning, and a global political will to benefit the hard-to-reach (such as rural girls in Niger).

An interesting cluster of trends worth highlighting from the article is around system-strengthening, gender equality, and social norms work. It will be increasingly important for governments and civil societies to have gender-mainstreaming expertise as more girls move into mainstream educational systems. A great example of this work is the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNGEI’s recently launched toolkit for developing gender-responsive education sector plans. The guidance provided will help developing countries put in place gender-sensitive policies and plans, and to consider gender equality more broadly in curricula, textbooks, assessment, and teacher education.

Another trend identified in the article is the increasing utilization of ambassadors, both grassroots leaders and political champions, to mobilize communities in support of girls’ education. The article highlighted a few global ambassadors for girls’ education who have been in the news this month:

  • We’ve seen conflicting headlines about the status of the Let Girls Learn initiative under the new administration and speculation about Michelle Obama’s continued involvement in girls’ education and related issues moving forward.
  • Malala Yousafzai was named an honorary citizen of Canada, became the youngest ever UN Messenger of Peace, and prescribed education as a panacea for an ailing world. All of this leaves us thinking… What’s next?
  • Julia Gillard, Chair of GPE, conducted a Q&A with Devex on raising funds for their next replenishment round. She points out that the “Holy Grail” of development now is girls’ education because of the “great spin-off advantages it has for health, peace, and prosperity of the next generations.” She also speaks to the often controversial topic of private schools and public private partnerships, explaining that countries are free to take whatever approach they think is best in GPE’s country-led model. The approach may be in response to recent studies that show private education may be growing more quickly than public education in some parts of the world.
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In Northern India, over 80 adolescent girls banded together, some even engaging in a hunger strike, to protest their dangerous commutes to school. After eight days, the education minister addressed the girls’ demands by saying he would add two grades to their school so they would not have to travel to another village for their high school education, though he made no commitment as to when this change would occur. Their struggle is a good reminder that in some countries, harassment remains a key barrier for girls’ education. Efforts to ensure women have access to education is not only an issue in the developing world. It has been a long battle throughout the world and history.

A field study from Malawi reveals that psychological factors, such as intrinsic motivation, play an important role in whether girls attend school. As you might expect, genuine excitement about school and learning can have a material impact, even in the face of extreme poverty and deprivation.  The lead author says, “The take home message is that development projects that aim to increase the school attendance of girls in impoverished settings need to not only aim for female empowerment, but for creating environments in which girls feel that they belong and feel able to learn as well.”

And finally, NewsDeeply, a source for updates on women and girls, celebrated their one year anniversary by soliciting input from seven gender experts on where the field has made progress and where there is room to improve. You may also enjoy this accompanying photo gallery.

Stay posted for our June edition next month!