Gender equality

2013 Stories from the field

Bangladesh - Mitali Rai, 15 talks about her experiences at a Child Friendly Space (CFS) at her home in Kalinogor, Kamarkhola. She is partially deaf and is embarrassed to go to school, but she she feels comfortable in the CFS.
© UNICEF/BANA2013-01033/Shafiqul Alam Kiron

Stories From The Field 

UNICEF published a series of stories highlighting innovations for girls’ education around the globe. 

Smart and creative use of technology is one route to overcoming gender barriers to girls’ learning and achievement. But innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of girls and young people themselves, can be important catalyzing forces.

UNICEF and its partners in all regions of the world are leading the way in innovative projects to accelerate progress for girls, particularly the most marginalized.  Countries are exploring new education delivery systems and infrastructures, transforming curriculum to promote gender-sensitive pedagogy, and finding new ways to engage both traditional and non-traditional partners. 

  • Youth mobilization and activism empowers girls to speak out and attend school

    Education is one of the most critical areas of youth empowerment and mobilization, especially for girls, who consistently face exclusion and discrimination over the course of their lives.

    ‘Speak out’ clubs in Rwanda
    UNICEF, together with partners, is empowering girls to speak out. In Rwanda, UNICEF partnered with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) to conduct Tuseme, or ‘speak out,’ clubs in 54 schools across the country. These clubs comprise boys and girls from all grades and provide an opportunity for students to come together to discuss challenges they face at school.

    © UNICEF Rwanda
      “Theatre is an important tool for addressing social issues and raising awareness among school children. It is a fun way to engage children and build confidence. Children really enjoy theatre but at the same time it plays an important role in passing on important messages,” said Pacifique Jean Claude Ingabire, Program Office at FAWE.

    In June, at Murama School in Bugesera District, over 100 students gathered to watch a theatre performance by the school’s Tuseme club. The play tackled issues that might prevent girls from completing their education: early pregnancy, self-esteem and transactional relationships between young girls and older men.

    “The Tuseme club has helped me build my confidence and speak out against issues such as teacher harassment and teenage pregnancies,” said Priscole Cyuzuzo, an 18 year-old girl.

    Solange Uwamahoro, Head Teacher of Murama School, added, “The clubs have helped empower young girls. When they have problems they are able to talk about how they might overcome these challenges.”

    Young Champions stand up for girls’ education in Nepal and Pakistan
    In South Asia, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative’s (UNGEI) Young Champion (YC) programme identifies and trains young volunteers dedicated to the promotion of girls’ education. YCs work together with other activists to convince parents to send their children to school, keeping records and monitoring out-of-school children.

    In Nepal, Mr. Kalara Ram, 30 years-old from Lahan Municipality, exemplifies the success of the YC model. After completing his training, Mr. Ram identified 52 children in his community not going to school and counselled these children and their parents on the importance of quality education. He continues to raise the voice for children’s rights among social and governmental organizations and inspires children from the most disadvantaged communities to enrol and stay in school.

    © UNICEF Nepal
      In urban slums on the outskirts of Lahore, Pakistan, Mr. Syed Mohsin Raza volunteers in the YC initiative to get every child in school. Since September 2010, he has “managed to have more than 200 children enrolled. Initially, it is difficult to convince the parents.

    I tell about the advantages of educating their children and eventually they agree. I encourage them to keep their children in school for at least 10 years,” he said.

    Most out-of-school children are marginalized and poor; some have been forced by circumstances to drop out and engage in child labour. Shirin Nayyar, 6 years-old, was enrolled due to the efforts of Mr. Raza, who convinced her parents to let her receive non-formal education. Within a few months, Shirin showed good progress and enrolled at the local Government Primary School Ahmedabad.

    “I am a poor man and did not realize the importance of education my children,” said Abbas Nayyar, Shirin’s father. “Ever since Shirin started going to school, my thoughts have changed. Now I believe that parents who do not send their children to school commit a major sin. I will work hard to education all my children so that they could have a better life.”

    In Ghana, UNICEF is equipping a group of Tech Girls to become young journalists and tell their stories via blogs and digital photography. They are also given skills to advocate for change in their communities. Gloria Seidu, 11, is one of the members of the group, said, "I am writing a story about the girls who sell sachets of water on the street. They are missing out on going to school."

    There are 100 Tech Girls in schools across the Northern Region of Ghana. For the past year, they met outside of class time for sessions in ICT. The girls had never touched a computer before so the lessons started with the basics. "Before, if you would go to class, only boys would raise their hands to talk. Now the Tech Girls stand tall and speak out. There is a difference in their general performance, and their grades have all improved," Pong Tamale School headmaster, Tia Anthony. More of their stories can be found on

    Through these youth empowerment and mobilization efforts, UNICEF and partners address issues of girls’ education at school and community levels. They are giving a voice to youth activists and ensuring that these voices are heard. Mr. Raza added, “I keep visiting their schools to check their progress, and see their families to know how they feel about their children being educated. In case a child stops coming to school, I follow up and try to find the reason. It is important that no child drops out once enrolled.”

    Related links


  • Sport, play and recreation for a brighter future

    Around the world, UNICEF is supporting cross-cutting sport programs as a vehicle to improve learning, increase school attendance, foster girls’ participation in their communities and promote social responsibility.

    Empowering girls through football in Namibia
    Lovisa Mulunga, 15, has a very exciting day-to-day life, something she never imaged as a little girl. Apart from studying at the Academia Secondary in Katutura, Namibia, she is the captain for the U/16 Namibian Football National Team for the Galz & Goals, a sports program supported by the Namibia Football Association and UNICEF.

    Launched in 2009, the program uses sport as a platform to promote individual health, social responsibility and therefore, empowering girls and young women to achieve their goals. Under the motto “Young Girls Changing Lives”, the program is reaching thousands of young girls in primary and secondary schools across the country.

    © UNICEF Namibia/Vries
      Lovisa never thought she would get into it but slowly the joy of the game took over and now she can see the results.

    “Football wasn’t really in me, I didn’t think of ever playing until I started playing with a neighbour on my street,” says Lovisa adding that once shy, football has helped her be more social and confident in making friends all around the world where she goes to play in different international competitions.

    The program integrates healthy lifestyle components into the sport context, helping players to develop the skills to make consistent and long-term choices.  Issues such as HIV/AIDS, drug, alcohol abuse and gender discrimination are addressed as part of every training session and match. 
    Living in Namibia, one of the countries with the highest HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate in the world, Lovisa is familiar with its danger. “I know of people who are infected with the virus, people in my community. Abstinence is a problem, people just don’t abstain in our society. I personally think that in the future the HIV rate will decrease because young people like me are getting into such programmes like the Galz & Goals, it’s a good thing,” she says.

    Slowly but surely, the power of sport is creating lasting individual and social change, breaking social barriers and creating a “can do” perspective in the communities that are embracing it.

    Sports clubs for girls  challenge social norms in Nepal
    Sahana Prabin is a student in grade nine of Shri Janta Secondary School in Parsa District, Nepal. The scene of girls playing sports would have been unthinkable even a few months ago in this conservative district where girls are not supposed to play sports, and only 15 per cent of the girls aged 13 to 16 are enrolled in the appropriate grade at school. Sahana was the first to join UNICEF supported sports’ clubs for girls and the beginning wasn’t easy.

    © UNICEF Nepal/2013/Kibesaki

    “When we first started to play in sports in school, the boys would criticize us and tease us but now they are more supportive,” says Sahana.

    Now, Sahana and the other girls in the sports club play football, volleyball, and badminton every day for 30 to 45 minutes during the break time in the morning. A few teachers from the school coach the girls during the practice and matches.

    Participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities has helped Sahana to become an excellent student. She ranks first in her grade and her dream is to go to college.

    “After I graduate from secondary school, I want to continue my studies in Birgunj (the largest city in the Parsa District) where one of my brothers is working, or in Delhi where another brother is studying. Later, I want to be a math teacher,” she says.

    Sahana’s family is very proud that she is doing well in school, especially since she is the only daughter to study in a secondary school. She is confident that in two years, when she graduates from high school, her brothers will support her studying in a bigger city.

    Related links

  • Getting those Out of School, Back Into School

    The obligation to provide quality education for all girls cannot be achieved without targeted efforts to enroll or re-enroll girls who are currently out of school. UNICEF and its partners are coming up with innovative solutions to safeguard out-of-school girls’ right to quality education.

    Rooting out school drop-outs in Madagascar
    To address the issue of out-of-school girls, UNICEF Madagascar is tackling the root-causes of drop-outs and non-enrollment. As part of the Let Us Learn initiative, UNICEF Madagascar has launched an innovative secondary girls’ education program that goes beyond traditional scholarship programs. This approach addresses every aspect of what keeps girls out of secondary school – which includes lack of transportation, housing and cultural stigma in addition to poverty.

    © UNICEF/Madagascar
      “Reintegration grants” promote the re-insertion of girls who have dropped out of junior secondary school due to financial, pregnancy or cultural reasons. Selected female mentors from the community handle the girls’ cash transfers and monthly expenses, in addition to providing counseling and psychosocial support to girls.

    In a country where many girls drop out because of long-distances from schools, the program also offers facilitation of transportation & boarding houses to girls who live between five and seven kilometers from junior secondary school.

    “I am very happy to continue school, and I hope to be a doctor one day,” says Genevieve, a young orphan from the Analanjirofo region of Madagascar determined to continue her post-primary education. UNICEF helped to provide Genevieve with a bicycle to cut her travel time down to 20 minutes, allowing her to go back to school, otherwise she would have to walk one and a half hours every day to reach her school.


    Giving out-of-school girls a second chance in Nepal and Turkey
    UNICEF supports innovative activities across regions that afford out-of-school girls a second chance to attend school with their peers. In Nepal, UNICEF and its partners launched the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) initiative, a ten-month non-formal education program that targets adolescent out-of-school girls.

    The curriculum focuses on life-skills for adolescents in addition to basic literacy and numeracy.  After completing the curriculum, partner NGOs assist graduates who want to enroll in a formal school to take an exam at a community school to enter into grade three or four.

    Older adolescents have the option to participate in the Self-Employment and Economic Education Programme (SEEP), whose participants are provided training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and self-employment skills. Nine graduates of SEEP were supported to take a six month interest-free loans from local government funds and have already started small businesses such as a tea shop, a retail shop, and a goat raising business. These businesses are still running today.

    In Turkey, UNICEF partnered with the national government to launch the “Catch-Up Education” (CEP) initiative, whose goal is to prepare out-of school girls and boys aged 10-14 to reenter formal schooling with necessary credentials.

    “I couldn’t come to school all the time. We go to different cities for work. I look after my nieces. We went for a whole month and I couldn’t go to school,” one girl reported. Enrolling in CEP gave her the chance to go back to school. “We will be going again soon. I take my books with me when we go. I’m always studying.”

    A condensed curriculum is developed and CEP classes are opened in schools. These classes allow students to learn alongside peers who are also catching up, instead of being in class with children younger children. Among beneficiaries of the program are girls previously unable to attend school because of household commitments.

    Related Links:

  • Going mobile: An innovative approach to girls education

    Around the world, UNICEF is setting up mobile schools to make education for girls a reality, even under extreme circumstances.

    Mobile solutions for girls of nomadic communities in Mongolia

    Six year old ‘Erka’ lives with a semi nomadic herder family in the remote Khuvsgul province of Mongolia, a very isolated area that is particularly difficult in winter when the days shorten, temperatures plunge and heavy snow plies up outside.

    © UNICEF Mongolia/2012/Brown

    Luckily, there is a mobile kindergarten nearby that she can attend.  Supported by UNICEF, the mobile kindergartens are a unique solution to providing education to the children of nomadic communities in Mongolia.

    Here children can play, learn and socialise with each other while parents work with the livestock making a living for the family.

    “I like to come to the kindergarten,” says Erka. “My favourite poem is about a baby chicken and my favourite song is about getting an excellent mark at school.  Yesterday I got an excellent mark for my drawing.”

    This is not a small achievement for Erka. At only four months old she contracted polio and was left with a damaged right arm and leg and difficulties \ communicating. She was abandoned by her mother and adopted by her current parents who now bring her to the kindergarten every day. They couldn’t be happier with her improvements. “Erka has learned to sing, dance and play. She says to me: Daddy please take me to the kindergarten in the morning and don’t forget to pick me up in the afternoon,” says Erka’s father.

    The mobile learning facilities are built on UNICEF’s Child-friendly principles providing a safe, healthy, protective and inclusive school environment in which, amongst other essential skills, children learn the values of respect, tolerance and democracy through active learning mythologies.   As a result, their presence is breaking harmful social norms and making education more accessible for girls in the communities where they operate.

    Extreme weather conditions is no longer a barrier to education in Ethiopia
    Hassena Ibrahim is a 13 old girl from Amibara Woreda of Afar, Ethiopia, who is determined to become a teacher and fight against child marriage.  Hassena is a student at Sedehafage Full Level Primary School, a mobile school supported by UNICEF to provide education for children of the pastoralist communities who often move during the draught session.

    In addition to everyday classes, Hassena is also attending Girls Mini Media Life skills Clubs supported by UNICEF. But so far, she is the only girl in her class level. “I think the main cause of female students drop outs is cultural influence. Parents force students to get married before the complete primary school,” said Hassana. “I wish to become a teacher and transform this harmful practice by advocating for girls education for pastoral girls.”

    Innovative school structures offers hope in emergencies and remote areas in Pakistan
    In Rajanpur district in Pakistan, the Transitional School Structures (TSS) built by UNICEF have attracted community support and are bringing more girls to school. The structures were initially built in 2010 to respond to the flooding emergency which paralyzed the already over-burdened education system.  Two years later, when the floods again washed out many areas in Pakistan, the TSS were the only un-flooded schools in the affected area.
    Farhat, 14, is one of the oldest students at the TSS in Basti Poly village.  She is not only one of the brightest in her class but she is a strong activist of girls education.  Single-handedly, Farhat recruited all of her friends to attend classes in their temporary school. “The elders have realised that girls should receive education. Thanks to the social mobilizers and members of the youth group, the number of girls in our school has increased,” said Farhat.

    Gulnaz Jabeen Khan, education officer at UNICEF, explained that the TSS are highly supported by the community and many of them are constructed on the land donated by the villagers.  “The enthusiasm and the will of people of Basti Poli to educate their children, especially girls, is exemplary. It is an indication that people of even such a far off, remote and under privileged area, are realising the urgent need of our time – education for their children,” said Mr. Khan.

    Related links

  • Innovative partnerships are key to promoting girls’ education

    In an increasingly changing and interconnected world, partnerships are more important than ever to find innovative solutions for sustainable development. New ideas and approaches are important to UNICEF’s work; we aim to engage and partner with the right organizations from the public, private and academic sectors to develop effective innovations that help get girls into school.

    A school girl rescued from child marriage in Sierra Leone
    Thirteen-year-old Abibatu was happily going to school in Kono in the east of Sierra Leone when her education pursuits were almost interrupted: her parents wished to marry her off before she could complete her education. Her teacher was opposed to the marriage and tried to dissuade her parents from proceeding, but they refused to listen.

    © UNICEF Somolia

    Faced with little alternative, the teacher then brought the issue to the attention of Education Stakeholders Forum, which comprises community leaders, non-governmental organizations, school representatives, mother clubs and local councils.

    UNICEF set up this innovative coordination structure so that various stakeholders in education could come together and discuss education-related issues at the community as well as policy levels.


    The Education Stakeholders Forum stepped in and informed the parents of Abibatu about the adverse effects of child marriage. Abibatu was delighted that the Education Stakeholders Forum’s efforts resulted in holding off her marriage in favour of continued schooling. “I want to be a social worker after I finish my education because I want to help change some negative traditional practices and decisions that affect the development of the girl child,” she said.

    Community groups champion girls’ education  in Niger and Tajikistan
    UNICEF supports similarly cross-cutting community groups to champion education around the world. In Maradi, Niger, the Comité de Gestion des Etablissements Scolaires (COGES) is a committee comprising of parents and school administration that oversees the overall management of schools. The COGES does everything from providing safe drinking water to making home-visits in case of absenteeism from school.

    In Tajikistan, UNICEF supported the formation of an Education Support Committee (ESC) in the village of Nimich. The committee is comprised of education authorities, a local NGO, community and religious leaders, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, as well as school boys and girls. The ESC was instrumental in gaining the community’s trust and mobilizing every sector of the community to act on behalf of girls’ education – including building a secondary school in the village for all children, including girls.

    Scholarships bring hope to vulnerable girls in Somalia
    Literacy levels and school enrolment in Somalia are among the lowest in the world. Moreover, out of the small number of girls that enrol in the first grade, only one in five girls complete a full cycle of basic education.

    Naima Abdikarin Hirsi, 16 years old, is among thousands of girls across Somalia who cannot afford school fees. To boost girls’ education in Puntland and Somaliland, UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Education’s Gender Unit to grand scholarships to 450 vulnerable girls through the Accelerated Female Participation in Education (AFPE) programme. The scholarship covers tuition fees and other basic needs girls would need to go to school, such as transport money, textbooks, uniforms and small pocket money.

    “If it wasn’t for this scholarship, I would probably be at home doing nothing,” says Naima. “Most of my friends who did not make it to school are married, some work at the market, others have become housemaids and others are still idling around.”

    Across these regions, the Gender Unit has worked on innovative ways to raise girls’ participation levels in schools. The AFPE programme has demonstrated that with continued support and collaboration among donors, UNICEF, the Ministry of Education, partners and communities, many more girls in Somalia could get the chance to go to school. Due to these successes, UNICEF and partners are planning to expand the programme to other parts of the country.

    Working in partnership for innovation in education
    Partnerships are key to providing quality education and ensuring relevant learning outcomes for all children. UNICEF continues to explore unique and innovative partnerships throughout the world to ensure successful education programming, calling for integrated approaches on advocacy, curriculum review, financial aid strategies and gender responsive policies.

    © Innovation Team UNICEF/Sudan

    In Sudan, young women have played an important leadership role in two Innovation Labs that UNICEF Sudan has set up in partnership with two universities. Simply put, an innovation lab is a physical space that allows for collaboration among academia, government and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

    Once established, they become national facilities for building local technological capacities to support humanitarian development efforts. The project involved setting up two innovation lab pilots for a period of four months to (1) prototype software solutions for selected priorities at the UNICEF Sudan Country Office; and (2) use pilots as capacity-building mechanisms for innovation teams at participating universities.

    In collaboration with colleagues at the Faculty of Mathematical Sciences (University of Khartoum) and the Computer Centre (Sudan University of Science and Technology), the Innovation Labs pilot project started in October 2012. The uniqueness of the approach of the innovation labs in Sudan is that they are proposed to be established inside a university campus that allows for sustainable local technical support (to augment that provided by the Innovation Lab Network). This will also ensure that they labs benefit from the steady flow of young innovative graduates – men and women – with fresh ideas and minds.

    Related links: 

  • Girls Empowering Girls through Mentoring

    UNICEF/Madagascar/Sonia Sukdeo
      Around the world, UNICEF and its partners are capitalizing on an untapped resource to promote girls’ education: girls.

    Innovative girl-to-girl mentoring programmes engage girls to play an active part in achieving gender equality in education. In these programmes, older girls are matched with younger girls in need of support to stay in school and succeed in their education.

    Big sisters are a big thing in Madagascar
    Six year-old Samera at the Marogisa School on the Eastern Coast Madagascar is a great example. Samera’s first grade teacher observed that she was having a very difficult time adjusting to school, suffering from extreme emotional stress as well as untreated chiggers infecting her feet.

    The school principal suggested Samera be paired with a mentor, encouraged by what he had learned in a Girl-to-Girl Strategy (GGS) training provided by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education. Juliana, a fourth grade student, was identified as a good match to be Samera’s “big sister.” As part of her role, Juliana accompanies Samera to and from school. The two girls play together during recess and Juliana also helps Samera learn to read and write, as they live in the same village.

    “I am more enthusiastic to go to school now,” Samera says. Both the school principal and first grade teacher at Marogisa have noticed a positive difference in Samera – she is more confident and her school performance has improved.

    Catching up on Schoolwork through Homework groups in Nepal, Yemen and Mozambique
    Other girl-to-girl interventions include UNICEF Nepal’s homework groups, where adolescent girls help each other to do homework in subjects that students have difficulty with. These groups are also a chance for girls to catch up on schoolwork they’ve missed due to household duties or other reasons – with one another’s support, the girls avoid having to drop out of school because they’ve fallen behind.

    In Yemen, 17-year old Saeeda Salam volunteered as a Young Facilitator for UNICEF’s ‘Getting Ready for School Program.’ Saeeda herself started school late due to poverty, and at 17 was only completing grade seven.

    “I joined the programme to help young children prepare for school,” said Saeeda. “I enjoy being part of this programme, because I learn how to deal with younger children.”

    As a Young Facilitator, she held classes to prepare young girls and boys for school, providing an opportunity for early learning and helping to break the cycle of exclusion and late enrolment for her young peers.

    Such girl-to-girl programmes also help to challenge perceptions of girls’ limited capabilities by proving that they are in fact agents for change and contributors to their community.  Just ask 14 year-old Amina Gulama Katamo, leader of the UNICEF-supported “Os Bradas” school club in Mozambique.

    “They [other girls in school] will ask me about anything! One could say that I am like an older sister to them even though sometimes am younger. The questions range from anything about school assignments and cooking to very personal matters and the things we discuss in the club… It’s a very big responsibility to be a Brada.”
    These approaches allow for tailored support to marginalized young girls, provided by those who most closely understand the issues that they themselves face. Furthermore, the mentor can act as an older sister, whom younger girls can look up to and confide in more readily than a parent or teacher.

    Harnessing the strength of girls in the fight for their right to quality education is an innovative approach that holds great promise not only in promoting education, but also in positively transforming attitudes about girls’ capabilities.
    Related links

  • Thinking Outside of the Box, through Film and Art

    One of the greatest hurdles in guaranteeing every girl’s right to an education is to change the mindsets of policy makers, community leaders and family members. Film is an original and promising vehicle to transform attitudes and move people to act on behalf of girls’ education. Film is a powerful tool to amplify the voices of girls speaking out on their own behalf. Around the world UNICEF and its partners are using the power of film to highlight the importance of girls’ education.

    To Education a Girl in Nepal and Uganda
    The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) supported the production of To Educate a Girl, which tells the inspiring story of young girls pursuing their education despite odds. Filmmakers Frederick Rendina and Oren Rudavsky traveled to Nepal and Uganda in 2010 to document the lives of girls determined to follow their dreams amid poverty and in the aftermath of conflict.

    “I will go to school. I will take my notebook and pen,” says Mercy, a resolute and unforgettable six-year-old growing up in post-war Uganda. On the other side of the globe, in the hills of Nepal thirteen-year-old Sanju reminds viewers of the damaging effects of poverty on girls’ opportunities. 


    She also knows that if only given the chance, she could do great things: “If I were rich,” she says, “I’m sure I would become a scientist.” To Educate a Girl has been screened at numerous film festivals and at many colleges and universities.

    UNGEI also teamed with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to create lesson plans to accompany the film, helping students to learn about the disparity in education for boys and girls and take action to eliminate these disparities.

    A bright spot in darkness in Guinea
    In Guinea, UNICEF supported the production of the Eva Weber’s acclaimed documentary Black Out. The film follows crowds of youth as they congregate around gas stations and the G’bessia International Airport at night – to study.

    Extreme poverty dictates mandatory power outages in Guinea. So during exam season in Conakry, hundreds of students – boys and girls – make a nightly pilgrimage to find light.

    One young woman featured in the film tells viewers: “I come from far away to study here [a gas station]. Sometimes I have to spend the night here. As a woman it can be dangerous to go back around 11pm. So sometimes we are forced to spend the night here, because of the lack of electricity.”

    Teaming with UNICEF, the filmmaker returned to Guinea to screen the film for local officials, hoping to spark discussion about ways to improve conditions for these students, whose brave determination to pursue an education offers a bright spot in darkness.

    “One minute” is more than enough in Romania!
    In countries like Romania, UNICEF puts girls behind the camera through OneMinutesJr videos. OneMinutesJr, a partnership between UNICEF and the One Minutes Foundation, is an international initiative that gives marginalized youth an opportunity to create 60-second videos, affording them a chance not only share their views with the world.


    In Romania, 14-year-old Alaxandra Dima produced A Part of Me to express her escape life in the slums: “Every day I take the same road to school and my tutoring classes. Everything I see makes me sick: addicts and prostitues…But I don’t blend in. I try to stand out from the crowd and avoid becoming a bad example. Even though it is hard, I put a lot of effort in everything I do, because I do it for my future! I want to graduate from school and high school, get a job and move out of this neighbourhood. It’s the only way.” 

    Film is an innovative advocacy tool for girls’ education, changing minds and inspiring action by allowing people to see and hear from girls themselves.

    Related Links:


  • Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit to Fund Education

    © UNICEF Thailand/2012/Brown

    On-the-job career training for disadvantaged youth

    One of the biggest barriers to girls’ education is the lack of financial means to pay for school-related fees. However, through innovative entrepreneurial programmes – targeted at girls themselves or their family members - girls and boys have a better chance of going to school, and staying in school.

    Urairat Srisara is from the northeastern province of Nongkhai in Thailand.  Urairat’s father died when she was just seven months old. She was raised by her grandfather and relatives who had no money for her to further her studies after 18. So Urairat participated in a 5-month hotel services training programme supported by UNICEF. “I was afraid that my family couldn’t support me until graduation,” says Urairat, “so I’d like to thank this programme for such a good opportunity in life.”

    In Thailand, the Youth Career Development Programme (YCDP) teaches a trade to young people from disadvantaged communities, either in hotels, banks or hospitals. The income they receive can help pay for their school fees, while at the same time, it is a way of tackling child trafficking and sexual exploitation by providing employment. Not only has it changed the lives of the young people, but also the lives of their brothers, sisters and families because of the money that they sent back home for their education.

    Upon completing her training, Urairat feels excited and accomplished. “I’m glad I’ve made it. I didn’t expect that I would come this far. What has changed in me? I’ve gained knowledge. But as a person, I think I’m still the same.”

    A focus on entrepreneurship is one innovative route to addressing the financial barriers to girls’ education. Entrepreneurship initiatives targeted at young people have also shown to foster enterprising individuals with an innovative spirit. In the long run, this can help alleviate youth unemployment as well.

    School garden project bearing fruit (and vegetables) for girls in Uganda
    In the Nwoya district in Northern Uganda, 14-year-old Jennifer was taken out of school to be married to an older man in order to pay off her father’s land debt. Financial hardship is one of the common barriers to girls’ education. When families are trapped by desperate circumstances, it is often girls like Jennifer who pay the price.

    Fortunately, the local school garden committee in the district intervened on Jennifer’s behalf. The school committee worked together to negotiate as one community and were able to repay the debt in order to get Jennifer back into school. Further, the decision was made to recruit Jennifer’s father into the school garden committee so that he will be able to earn more money in the future, which he did.

    The school committee is part of an innovative school garden demonstration project supported by UNICEF Uganda, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the local community-based organization African Revival. The committee, composed of 26 women and 16 men, promote gender equality through support to girls’ enrolment through support for school fee payments directly associated with income generation from the garden, thereby increasing both enrolment and retention.

    At age 15, Jennifer is now determined to complete her education and wants to become a teacher.

    Related links:

  • Social inclusion through Community Mediators

    Stereotypes and cultural discrimination are invisible barriers to girls’ education that need innovative solutions and community involvement

    Ei, tziganii…” Aliona Cozma is the first child of a Roma family who lives in a very small village called Schinoasa situated in the centre of Moldova. Her school is miles away from home and she wakes up every day at 6 o’clock to catch the bus in time. Miss it by 5 minutes and she’s missed the entire school day.

    © UNICEF Moldova / 2013 /Aliona
      After her long journey to reach school however, she is often discriminated against by teachers, children and parents.

    Children sometimes shout after her “Ei, tziganii (this is how Roma are called in Moldova)…let’s not talk or play with her. “In the beginning I was very upset, I was crying during the nights, but starting all over again next morning,” she says.

    Social exclusion is one of the undesirable results of our increasingly globalized world. Children of ethnic minority groups often find it challenging to access social services - including education. In Moldova, it is no different.

    Mediation by trusted community members
    To address this, UNICEF supported the creation of the Roma Community Mediator programme. Through this initiative, Roma families select a person in the community whom they trust, to help them in their social inclusion process. The mediator has helped Aliona and other Roma girls to go to school. Sessions with Roma and non-Roma parents and teachers are organized to understand Roma traditions and culture to overcome stereotypes and eliminate cultural barriers.

    Ala Popcov, a Roma Community Mediator reflects, “When I became a Community mediator, two years

    ago, the situation was catastrophic –Roma children from our village didn’t go to school, get vaccinated or pass the medical examinations. Now the situation looks different: every morning I go and check if all 52 kids are in school, if not, I go to their home and talk to parents. I help them to get ID documents and obtain social cash benefits. There’s less discrimination now – the principle and the teachers no longer offend our children, they treat them equally to others”.  

    Ala is supporting Aliona on the way to realizing her dreams. “Now I’m not crying anymore. I know I have another scope in my life. I want to become a lawyer. And I think half of the way to get my dream true is done”, said Aliona. Meetings with Roma parents help to emphasize the advantages of school education and the rights of their own children to receive an education through the public school system.

    This innovative programme has proven both effective and scalable; UNICEF advocated for incorporating the Roma Community Mediators in the Action Plan to support Roma ethnic group in the Republic of Moldova 2011-2015. 

    Related links:



Concept Note

Key Messages

Innovate to Educate: 

New enhanced search