"[The DFID Girls' Education Challenge] is about resources... it's about partnering... but it is also about levering more than just the individual project, so we invested ...in evaluation of the programmes which will track over 70,000 girls in over 37 projects in 17 different countries... so we'd be able to really understand what's preventing these girls completing their education but also what's working and also what's really making a difference in their lives...." Sally Gear

Panel Discussion: Spotlight on Progress "Building Bright Futures for Girls through Education and Economic Opportunities"

Context: This presentation is from one of the 14 "Spotlights on Progress" video-recorded sessions from the Girl Summit 2014, London, United Kingdom (UK). The sessions were organised to share best practice between practitioners, grassroots activists, and government ministers across the issues of female genital mutilation (FGM) (also FGM/C - female genital mutilation/cutting) and child, early, and forced marriage (CEFM). Girl Summit is a project of the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.

Profile of speaker: A featured panelist of this Spotlight session was Sally Gear, Senior Education Adviser, DFID, Government of the UK, whose presentation was entitled "Going Global - the DFID Girls Education Challenge". From The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) website: "[Ms. Gear] currently leads the UK’s £355mn Girls' Education Challenge programme and has worked on girls’ education for over fifteen years. Prior to joining DFID, she lectured in Social Development and Gender and Development at Manchester University, worked for the British Council as Regional Education Adviser in Africa and Education and Gender Adviser at the VSO HQ. Sally is a member of the UNGEI Global Advisory Committee."

From the Summit introduction: "DFID's Girls' Education Challenge programme was launched in 2012 to address the fact that the most marginalised poor girls were still not completing primary education: in 2011 only 23% of poor rural girls in sub-Saharan Africa were completing primary school.  Although the majority of parents wanted their girls to be educated, deeply held attitudes about gender roles still held girls back. The programme used a variety of approaches including partnering with the private sector, ensuring thorough evaluation to understand what works to keep girls in schools and working with communities to address views on gender roles." Click here for the Project Profiles paper  [PDF format] on the Challenge projects. Click here for the Development Tracker, graphics on project budget and locations.

Strategy overview: Among Ms. Gear's comments: DFID’s Girls Education Challenge has partnered with organisations like Camfed (see related summaries below) and with the private sector like Discovery Channel, Coca-Cola, and Avanti, in order to use new technologies and develop new learning opportunities in some of the most challenging contexts. The Challenge is not measuring success only by keeping girls in school, it is measuring success by learning outcomes. It is the enabling elements of education - the empowerment over the various aspects of their lives - that is the measure.

Ms. Gear shared a snapshot of baseline messages from the programmes taking part in the Challenge (with more information to come over a three-year period as further study is made).

  • Parents want their girls to complete their education.
  • There are still strong attitudes on gender roles preventing that.
  • From 31 of 37 projects: Child marriage is a huge reason why girls are not in school and are dropping out of school.
  • The poverty is a key driver to these attitudes: if more choice were available and more opportunities, that would affect parent decisionmaking.
  • Poverty is not the only issue. There is a need to make sure that, when girls go to school, they are safe and learning something meaningful that will enable them to move on and have choice, voice, and control in their lives.

From Summit documents: "Department for International Development and has been policy lead for UK government's work on girls' education since 2009. Sally currently works as lead Adviser on the UK's Girls' Education Challenge. In May 2012, the UK government launched the £355mn Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) - the world’s largest global fund dedicated to girls' education. By 2017, the Girls' Education Challenge (GEC) should enable up to 1 million more of the world’s marginalised girls to benefit from an education of sufficient quality to help transform their lives. The Girls' Education Challenge called on NGOs, charities and the private sector to find better ways of getting girls in school and ensuring they receive a quality of education to transform their future. There are currently 36 projects across the 3 funding windows of the GEC. Through one of the funding windows (GEC Strategic Partnerships), DFID is teaming up with global businesses to match-fund their investments in GEC project. Discovery Communications is investing a match-funded total of £24m in a girls' education project aimed at reaching 1.2m marginalized girls in Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria. The Coca Cola Company is also running a project in Nigeria. As part of the evaluation running alongside the programme, the Girls' Education Challenge is tracking over 70,000 girls .... The Girls' Education Challenge will provide better understanding key factors which impact on girls attending and learning in school and interventions which can make a difference."

Overview of this Summit Session: From the Girl Summit summary document: "The session considered the role of education, access to finance and cash transfers in empowering girls and women and providing them more voice, choice and control over their lives. The session heard from the experience of panellists on the impact of education and economic empowerment initiatives on early and child marriage. Supporting girls through education and training was an effective way of delaying the age of first marriage and motherhood and also increasing a girl’s earning power and prospects. Some initiatives were already working effectively at scale. To sustain change more needed to be done to engage with communities to address social norms to change these established cultural practices. Other complementary measures such as improving the quality of education and school safety, and supporting women leaders were also important to deliver sustainable change."

The speakers for this session are:

Introduction: Irina Bokova, Director General, UNESCO.

Angeline Murimirwa, Regional Executive Director (Southern Africa), Camfed.

Roshni Sen, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Woman and Child Development, Government of West Bengal, India.

Dr. Priya Nanda, Group Director for Reproductive Health and Economic Development, ICRW Asia.

Sally Gear, Senior Education Adviser, Department for International Development.

"The session is moderated by Joy Hutcheon Director General Country Programmes, UK Department for International Development. Joy oversees DFID’s work in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, and is the Department’s lead on the priority area of improving the lives of Women and Girls. "

Footage of this (available below) and other "Spotlights" are available on DFID’s YouTube channel.

The Girl Summit is a project of DFID. Click here and scroll down to see the full list of individuals and organisations committed to working on girls' issues, as well as a list of Girl Summit Charter signatories.


DFID Girl Summit Outcomes website and the Gov.UK website, accessed on August 21 2015.

See video