International Day of the Girl Child is 11 October. This year’s Day focuses on innovating for girls’ education. Smart and creative use of technology, policies, partnerships and, most of all, the engagement of young people, themselves, are important for overcoming barriers to girls’ learning and achievement.
NEW YORK, United States of America, 11 October 2013 – This year, on 11 October, the International Day of the Girl Child focuses on Innovating for Girls’ Education. The day provides a platform to highlight the continued importance of girls’ education as well as examples of successful, scalable and innovative approaches for tackling lingering challenges related to access, keeping girls in school and ensuring that their education is relevant and meaningful to their future.
“For UNICEF and partners, this year’s International Day of the Girl Child is an opportunity to work together and make sure that, for 2015 and beyond, we are committed to ensuring that girls everywhere get an education for the twenty-first century,” says Anju Malhotra, UNICEF’s Principal Adviser on Gender and Rights.
There is overwhelming evidence that girls’ education is the most consistent driver of development goals. Secondary education for girls is especially transformative for girls, themselves, and societies.
And yet, despite significant progress in getting girls to school, girls’ education remains a challenge, especially in certain regions and countries – and at the secondary level. About 31 million girls of primary school age and 34 million girls of lower secondary school age were not enrolled in school in 2011.
Innovations to address barriers to girls’ education
“To change girls’ lives, to empower them, we need to think outside the box: We need to innovate. Innovation can mean using the power of technology to give girls a voice, or to teach them skills they can use to get jobs. But, it also means reaching out to new partners, using money and resources differently, mobilizing communities, the media, and, most of all, engaging young people,” says Ms. Malhotra.
A range of innovations can be found around the world. In the Niger and Somalia, among other countries, UNICEF supports grants and scholarships to covers tuition fees and other basics that girls need in order to go to school, such as transport money, textbooks, uniforms and small pocket money. In Afghanistan, to mitigate pervasive safety issues related to girls attending school, innovation means the construction of schools just for girls. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Back to School campaigns empower girls to advocate for their own right to a quality education.
In South Africa, Technogirls – a partnership among UNICEF, the government and the private sector – is a mentoring programme targeting 10,000 girls from disadvantaged communities who excel and show an interest in science, mathematics and technology. These girls are enrolled for internships at companies within the sector and mentored by successful professionals who guide them towards a career path in these fields.
UNICEF’s global network of innovation labs engages young people, technologists, the private sector and civil society in problem-solving. For example, Innovations Lab Kosovo works to foster active engagement with the community and teach youth marketable skills. In Uganda, the Lab serves as a physical prototyping workshop, a RapidSMS service development hub, an electronics workshop, a video production set, a place for hosting skills workshops and an informal, accessible venue that allows for greater co-creation between UNICEF and communities.
The South Sudan Innovations Lab has organized workshops for young people to reflect on the challenges and prospects of their new nation. For International Day of the Girl Child, UNICEF’s Innovation Labs from South Sudan have partnered with Intel and Stanford University in a Google Hangout to discuss some of the key issues that affect girls and women. The Hangout will be live-streamed on 11 October from 9–10:00am EDT.
UNICEF and partners will use this year’s International Day of the Girl Child as an opportunity to map a way forward that is empowering for all girls and boys.
More information on events around the International Day of the Girl Child 2013, as well as stories from the field and regional and national activities.
Story by Taleen Vartan