Girls’ education is a vital force – not only does it change the lives of girls, but also has a tremendous ripple effect, with impacts ranging from improved health, stronger economies to the creation of a new generation of leaders.
Yet barriers to girls’ education persist. COVID-19 has exacerbated these barriers. With school closures, girls face disparity in accessing the internet, increased risks of gender-based violence and early marriage, which increases the likelihood of them never returning to school. Businesses have the know-how and resources that can help address some of these obstacles and turn ideas into action. Aligning business action with country-level priorities on girls’ education creates avenues for collective impact at scale.
For companies, there is a strong direct business case for investing in girls’ education. A report by the Global Business Coalition for Education states that educated girls will become skilled employees, innovators, consumers and leaders – making girls’ education a core business opportunity for companies, in addition to serving social and strategic development initiatives.
In a recent dialogue on girls’ education, hosted by GPE and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Ministers of Education from GPE partner countries and business executives from major regional and global companies came together to discuss how the business community’s initiatives around girls’ education could be aligned to national education priorities. Here are three takeaways from the discussion on why businesses are critical partners in advancing girls’ education.
1. Different industries bring comparative strengths and expertise that can address key barriers
During the dialogue, Ministers of Education noted a growing mismatch between industry employment demand and supply, highlighting the need to integrate 21st century skills in education systems to equip young women for the labor force. The business community is uniquely positioned to bridge this gap.
Companies can bring their voice to advocate for 21st century skill development and advise ministries on what skills are most important to their industries. Through employee-engagement programs, they can mentor young women, support leadership training for girls and teachers, offer apprenticeship programs and foster future women leaders in the workforce.
For example, Ecobank – a pan African financial institution and GPE business partner - collaborated with the Ekiti state government in Nigeria to empower women entrepreneurs in the region through special loans and training programs. These initiatives can give women the opportunity to break the barriers of poverty and financial exclusion, enabling them to send their daughters to school, access healthcare for their children and empower future generations of girls.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, different industries came together to support continued learning for both girls and boys. Emerging partnerships between governments, telecom companies, technology companies and content providers have provided free data and access to e-learning portals to ensure continuity of learning during school closures.