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Gender equality

2013 Case Studies

Ethiopia - Girls dance i a child-friendly space in a refugee camp of Ethioia's Somali Region.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0614/Jiro Ose

Innovation will be an important strategy in addressing the nature and scale of barriers girls continue to face and ensuring they receive an education commensurate with the challenges of the 21st century. As the world evaluates gaps in achieving the global goals for gender equality in education and defines the post-2015 agenda, it is critical that innovative solutions are brought to light for the achievement of more effective, demonstrable and sustainable results for girls’ education.

Smart and creative use of technology is one route to overcome gender barriers to girls’ learning and achievement, but innovation in partnerships, policies, resource utilization, community mobilization, and most of all, the engagement of young people themselves, can be equally important catalytic forces.  UNICEF has been collecting case studies from various countries, both from UNICEF Country Offices and external partners and stakeholders, highlighting innovations that promote girls’ education, including learning and empowerment. These case studies showcase innovative approaches to advancing girls’ education, including a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) career mentoring programme; a mobile education scheme for girls; the production of washable and re-usable sanitary pads; scholarship initiatives; and more.

  • Gender Sensitive Flexible Learning for Lower Secondary Education

    Lao PDR:  While Lao PDR has made progress in narrowing gender gaps in school enrolment, there are still fewer girls enrolled than boys at the secondary education level. Gender disparities in education are most pronounced in remote areas, among ethnic minorities, and among the poor. UNESCO and the Department of Non-Formal Education have partnered to provide youth and adults with a second chance to get an education.

    A gender-sensitive equivalency program at the lower secondary level helps to improve access to learning. With a focus on marginalized populations, such as girls, poor children, internally displaced children, youth immigrants, and ethnic minorities, Community Learning Centres (CLC) provide an accelerated lesson plan. In addition to a gender-sensitive curriculum, this programme provides multiple layers of flexibility, including scheduling, languages of instruction, and venues.

    After completing the programme, children are able to transfer to formal institutions or re-enter the labour market with enhanced skills through a vocational training component. Though the programme is relatively new, 50,000 children and youth stand to benefit from its implementation.

  • Pastoralist Afar Girls' Education Support Project (PAGES)

    Flexible and Mobile Education for Pastoralist Girls, Ethiopia

    Pastoralist girls in Afar, Ethiopia encounter immense barriers to accessing an education. As a primarily mobile population with limited access to social services, traditional educational facilities typically remain out of reach. In instances where girls are able to reach them, schools lack materials in the Afar language, gender-segregated latrines, and schedules that fit with their pastoral way of life. Rigid gender roles compound issues of access, with girls holding main responsibility for domestic tasks and facing risks of early marriage and female genital mutilation. Consequently, at the primary level, a considerable number of girls in Afar are out-of-school.

    In response, the Pastoralist Afar Girls' Education Support project (PAGES) aims to provide access to primary education through a multi-pronged approach. PAGES plans to establish 40 new Alternative Basic Education Centers that will provide flexible education for approximately 36,000 girls that will suit their pastoral lifestyle. Schools will have untraditional schedules, and many of these centers will be mobile. Moreover, camels will transport portable libraries to facilitate maximum access to materials for girls in Afar. Another ground-breaking aspect of this project includes developing child-friendly learning materials for girls in the Afar language; this initiative will represent the first time that Afar will be used as the language of instruction in Ethiopia. Other components incorporate teacher training, the provision of water and sanitary facilities, alternative livelihood opportunities, and community advocacy about the importance of girls’ education.

  • Second Shift Schools

    Evening School for Girls in Rural Pakistan

    Despite the elimination of school fees in 2002, Pakistan’s gender gap in education is one of the largest in the world. In Sindh, the second most populous province, 50 percent of girls are out of school. Girls experience exclusion from education due to high dropout rates or as a result of never having enrolled in school. Barriers to their education include limited mobility due to security concerns, household responsibilities and the threat of early marriage.  Moreover, the direct costs associated with schooling, such as spending on materials, examination fees, and transportation are often prohibitive for families. Consequently, development actors have focused on increasing access to education for out-of-school girls in remote rural areas of Sindh.

    Second shift schools use the infrastructure of nearby boys’ schools and provide alternative and flexible evening classes in basic education for girls. These schools use a cost-effective and innovative approach to deliver education to marginalized girls. The project hires and trains female teachers specifically for these courses and offers a monthly honorarium and quarterly performance incentives. Community engagement and participation facilitate accountability mechanisms as local community organizations ensure that project monitoring exists at the micro level.  Community-based partner organizations help to monitor students’ participation and attendance rates, while School Management Committees (SMCs) monitor teachers’ attendance. Since its inception in 2012, Second Shift Schools have already reached over 1500 girls. Flexible schedules, the use of existing infrastructure, and extensive community involvement work together to promote girls’ education in rural Pakistan. 

  • Solar-Powered Floating Schools for Year-Round Education

    In Bangladesh, innovative solar-powered floating schools are helping ensure uninterrupted learning for girls and boys living in communities affected by floods and rising sea water.

    Bangladesh, During the monsoon season, severe flooding leaves many parts of Bangladesh inundated for three to four months out of the year.

    In addition to the destruction of crops and property, which disproportionately affects the poor, flooding also prevents many children from attending school.

    Girls living in impoverished rural communities experience an additional dimension

     of vulnerability as a result of social and cultural norms that restrict their access to education. During their transition to adolescence, girls’ dropout rates tend to rise dramatically. Reasons include restrictions on their mobility, the increased opportunity cost perceived by families of sending them to school, and early marriage.

    Recognizing the threat to educational outcomes for all children, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a local non-profit, decided that if they could not go to school, the schools would come to them. Mohammed Rezwan, the organization’s founder, invented solar-powered floating boat schools. Each boat has a classroom for 30 students, a laptop with an internet connection, and a library.

    These mobile internet education units (MIEUBs) use solar energy and generators to power laptops, projectors, and other equipment. Instructors integrate lessons on children’s and women’s rights, and other practical training into their basic education curriculum. In addition to providing education, boat schools also provide solar-powered lamps for many students, as well as solar-charging stations, to improve the conditions in which students study at night.

    Although Rezwan originally set out to ensure that all children, boys and girls, have year-round access to education, the impact on women and girls has been particularly pronounced. Since 2002, 90,000 families have benefited from this service, and women and girls make up over 70 percent of the beneficiaries.

  • Teacher Training to Promote Girls’ STEM Education

    Cultural, economic, and social factors limit access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for girls in Kenya. Those who live in rural or informal settlements experience an added dimension of exclusion from these fields. Some barriers include inadequate infrastructure and insufficient policy guidelines that work to promote girls’ access to STEM education.

    One programme has decided to focus on establishing a knowledge base and building the capacity of educators in gender-sensitive teaching methods. These efforts aim to increase the enrolment, participation, and advancement of girls and women in STEM courses. Led by UNESCO and GEMS Education since April 2012, the programme creates steering and technical committees to reach various actors in the education sector, including principals, STEM teachers, PTA representatives, and curriculum developers. It also engages representatives of NGOs that focus on girls’ and women’s issues.

    In addition to training, qualitative and quantitative research designed to identify the specific factors that determine girls’ access, participation, and performance at the secondary school level is being conducted. Other components include the gender sensitization of teachers and support for existing professional networks of STEM instructors.


  • Technogirls South Africa

    Technogirls is a mentoring programme targeting girls from previously disadvantaged communities who excel/show an interest in the fields of Science, Mathematics and Technology (SMT). Technogirls are enrolled for internships at companies within the SMT sector and mentored by successful professionals who guide them towards a career path in these fields.

  • Comprehensive Scholarship Programme

    Madagascar: Comprehensive Scholarship Programme
    Addressing Critical Intervention Points for Girls Education

    In Madagascar, the education system struggles to meet the needs of the country’s children in the context of political crisis. While data collection remains difficult, UNICEF estimates indicate that at the primary level, approximately 66 out of 100 children complete their education, and at the secondary level, only 25 per cent complete the ninth grade. Girls face particular obstacles in attaining their education in this context, particularly as they transition to secondary school. In some regions, less than two girls for every 10 continue past the primary level, and of the girls who transition to junior secondary school, only three out of 10 graduate. Reasons for school abandonment include early pregnancy, child marriage, domestic responsibilities, financial hardship, and socio-cultural norms. The distance to schools, sometimes as far as 30 to 50 kilometers, also poses a major challenge, particularly for adolescent girls. Consequently, girls sometimes rent small spaces in close proximity to school and live alone, thereby putting themselves at risk.

    Development partners embarked on an innovative, decentralized collaboration to keep girls in school despite the political crisis. NGOs, local education authorities, and UNICEF provide a comprehensive bundle of services that address girls’ barriers to schooling. Using three types of scholarships, the programme targets girls at critical intervention points in their education: 1) the point of transition between primary and secondary school; 2) when girls are considering dropping out; and 3) the point at which they have dropped out of school. Accordingly, transition grants target girls who cannot continue on to secondary school because of financial hardships; retention grants enable girls who are considering dropping out to stay in secondary school; and reintegration grants help girls who have already dropped out to resume attendance. The programme also addresses the obstacle of distance: Girls who live between 5 and 7 kilometers from school receive bicycles or canoes to facilitate their attendance. For others who live farther, they are housed in nearby dormitories.  Currently, this approach serves as an educational lifeline for over 5,000 girls in Madagascar. 



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