3 questions about what GPE does to keep girls in school

Today a new report on the Economic Impacts of Child Marriage is launched by the World Bank and the International Center on Research for Women (ICRW).

A student answering a question at EPP ANOSISOA school in Madagascar Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Today a new report on the Economic Impacts of Child Marriage is launched by the World Bank and the International Center on Research for Women (ICRW). GPE contributed funding to this research. We asked Louise Banham, Senior Education Specialist and team lead for inclusive education and gender issues at the GPE Secretariat, to explain the report findings and discuss the work that GPE is doing with its partners to ensure that girls can stay in school.

What is the relevance of the new WB/ICRW report about the economic impacts of child marriage?

Louise Banham: Many of us are aware of the harmful effects of child marriage, and the negative impacts it has on an estimated additional 41,000 girls every day, worldwide, who are married before they are 18 (UNICEF 2014). This new report sheds light on an important new dimension, the economic cost of child marriage, and its significant contribution to extending inequality and extreme poverty, particularly in the poorest countries and amongst the poorest communities.

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As the report points out, there are multiple pathways and intergenerational effects through which the impacts of child marriage can be observed. Whether it is through the negative impacts on girls’ and young women health and nutrition, reduced participation in the labor force and restricted livelihood options, or lower education attainment and achievement, there can be no doubt that the costs to both the individual girl and to society, are extremely high.

This report is a timely reminder that development agencies and actors, and the communities we seek to serve and support, can benefit from working in partnership and cross-sectorally to achieve our goals and to tackle complex issues like child marriage.  

Indeed, GPE and our partners must work together if we are to stop child marriage, get girls and young women into school, help them to stay and to learn and achieve their life and career aspirations.

How was GPE involved in the report?

Louise Banham: GPE has provided financial support of over $1.5 million to the World Bank to conduct this research with ICRW, and other research in key policy areas of interest to education, over a three-year period.

GPE supports the poorest countries, and it is these countries that have the highest rates of child marriage.

Child marriage is more common amongst the poorest communities, in which families may prioritize a boy’s education over a girls’, or decide to marry a daughter early to offset a perceived economic burden.

Going forward, GPE has agreed with the World Bank to undertake analysis of the economic impacts of education on child marriage. This important work will help GPE countries to better understand the value of schooling and education for girls across a range of domains including health, nutrition and violence; fertility and population growth; decision making and investments; and participation in the labor force.

This work will provide new evidence to inform education sector policy reform dialogue and decision making and programming choices. It will also provide governments with analysis and costings to support investments in education for economic and human resource allocations that help girls to stay in school.

What is GPE doing to keep girl’s in school longer so they don’t get married too early?

Louise Banham: Our GPE 2020 strategy has as a key principle the achievement of gender equality and the theme of equity and inclusion runs through all our work.  Ending child marriage and keeping girls in school is an important goal to strive for and a necessary one if we are to achieve SDG 4 and other SDGs.  

GPE has developed guidance on gender responsive education sector analysis and planning to support countries to build knowledge around gender equality, undertake analysis of existing policies and programs and plan more effective education sector strategies in future, to boost gender equality.

Six country teams from Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar and Zimbabwe, participated in a regional workshop in March 2017 in Tanzania. Among the many issues raised during the workshop by country teams – comprising ministry of education and health officials, NGO representatives, donor partners and gender specialists – gender based violence in schools, early pregnancy, marriage and dropout of girls were acknowledge as significant challenges to the success of girls and young women at school.  A second regional workshop will be held for other GPE countries in South Asia in October 2017.

GPE published a report on girls and gender equality in GPE countries that takes stock of how girls’ education and gender issues are included in education sector plans in 42 countries. The report establishes an information baseline around several themes described in sector plans, including barriers to girls’ education. Of the 42 sector plans analyzed, 15 cited early marriage as a barrier and 12 cited violence at school.

Countries are investing in a wide range of demand-side strategies to support girls’ education, which include recruiting more female teachers, providing scholarships or stipends to girls, running campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of educating girls and providing gender training to communities.

Partner countries are also adopting supply-side strategies, including gender training for teachers, developing gender sensitive curriculum and textbooks, capacity building for school management committees and girls’ clubs.

Other important and effective strategies include national legal and policy frameworks promoting girls’ enrollment, establishing gender focal points in ministries of education, and gathering gender disaggregated data in education management information systems.  Together, these strategies are helping girls to get into school, stay and be successful.

GPE has also supported a global literature review on gender based violence in schools and a cross-country report on addressing school related gender based violence in Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Togo and Zambia.

Together these resources, guidelines and investments are contributing to keeping girls in school and ending school related violence and early marriage.


The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including...

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