Econet Wireless has pledged to bring marketing and outreach assets to bear in Zimbabwe to help dispel harmful social and cultural norms keeping girls from attending school and learning. This work is part of the new Girls’ Education Awareness Program (GEAP), an initiative coordinated by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Additional companies will announce their commitments to the program in the coming weeks.
The GEAP is designed to harness the business community’s marketing and outreach capabilities to disseminate targeted messages to local communities. The messages will address key underlying factors that result in girls not going to school.
Globally, girls are one and a half times more likely than boys to be excluded from primary school, often due to cultural norms and practices such as early marriage and the prioritization of the education of boys over girls. Pre-COVID, 130 million girls were out of school. That number is expected to rise, as many girls who left school due to COVID-related closures may never return.
Econet has pledged both strategic and tactical support to the partnership. In addition to collaborating with country officials and other business partners to create a campaign strategy, Econet will conduct focused SMS drives, carry messages on its social media channels and support the creation and airing of advertisements on local radio and television.
The commitment by Econet contributes to advancing GPE’s goal of helping transform education systems in up to 90 countries, home to more than 1 billion girls and boys, over the next 5 years. GPE sees the business community, with its knowledge assets, strategic capabilities and advocacy potential, as a valuable partner.
Econet’s work in Zimbabwe is one of three localized campaigns the GEAP will roll out. The others will be in Ghana and Kenya. All campaigns are expected to begin by August 2021 and run for 18 months.
“This program is especially timely as we begin to set our sights on getting girls back to school post-COVID, though we know that the pandemic continues to rage in many of our partner countries” said GPE CEO Alice Albright. “Social distancing and confinement make girls particularly vulnerable. We’re seeing more instances of early marriages and teen pregnancies, for example, which tend to keep girls from going to school. Econet’s pledge brings valuable capabilities and tools to the work of addressing those norms.”
“Getting girls into school and learning has to be a priority as we transition to a post-COVID Africa,” said Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet Global. “My team and I are pleased to be able to put some of our marketing assets to work to help make that happen.”
The GEAP was created after several ministries of education and representatives of the business community identified marketing around girls’ education as a potentially high-impact area, in which country priorities and business capabilities intersect. That grew out of a high-level convening hosted by GPE and FCDO, designed to explore ways for public-private partnering around girls’ education.