BRAC commits to massive scale-up in girls' education

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Global anti-poverty leader pledges to invest at least $280 million to reach 2.7 million additional girls and train 75,000 teachers by 2019.

Adolescent girls in a BRAC empowerment club in Tanzania perform a dance to raise awareness about HIV.

Adolescent girls at a BRAC empowerment club in Tanzania perform a dance to raise awareness about HIV. These girls meet once a day for two hours to discuss life skills and receive livelihood training.

"Educated girls turn into empowered women, and as we have seen in my native Bangladesh and elsewhere, the empowerment of women leads to massive improvements in quality of life for everyone, especially the poor." -- Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder of BRAC

BRAC, already a global leader in providing opportunity for the world’s poor, has boosted its commitment to girls’ education in low-income countries with a five-year pledge to reach 2.7 million additional girls through primary and pre-primary schools, teacher training, adolescent empowerment programs, scholarships and other programs.

These commitments make BRAC a leading partner in CHARGE, the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls Education, a global collaborative of more than 30 partners working to advance the “second generation” of global girls’ education. The initiative was announced today by Hillary Rodham Clinton, former US secretary of state; Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation vice-chair; and Julia Gillard, former prime minister of Australia, at the 10th Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.

"We have always used an approach to development that puts power in the hands of the poor themselves, especially women and girls," says Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder and chairperson of BRAC, who joined other leaders at Clinton Global Initiative today to launch the initiative. "Educated girls turn into empowered women, and as we have seen in my native Bangladesh and elsewhere, the empowerment of women leads to massive improvements in quality of life for everyone, especially the poor."

BRAC is already the world's largest private, secular education provider, with 1.3 million boys and girls now enrolled in 43,500 primary and pre-primary schools and 311,000 participants in its adolescent development programs. Formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, BRAC is now active in a dozen countries, serving the poor through the empowerment of women and girls with tools such as microfinance, education, healthcare and a full-fledged university, BRAC University in Dhaka.

This commitment significantly expands BRAC's existing education programs by reaching an additional 1.3 million girls directly in BRAC schools, roughly 636,000 additional girls through teacher training in government schools, and 714,000 more through various other programs, including adolescent empowerment, gender harassment awareness, mentorship programs, and scholarships.

BRAC estimates the investments needed to fulfill these commitments will be more than $280 million, over half of which has already been raised from partnerships with AusAid, UK Aid and The MasterCard Foundation.

Specifically, BRAC commits to the following areas:

1. Getting girls into school: Since its inception in 1985, more than 10 million students have graduated from BRAC's primary and pre-primary schools, which target children who would otherwise be left behind by formal education systems due to poverty, displacement or discrimination. BRAC recognizes the unique role girls play in bringing health and prosperity to their communities, and the majority of its students are girls.

BRAC plans to expand its school programs to offer education to about 1.3 million girls in marginalized communities across seven countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan Tanzania, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.

BRAC recognizes that entering primary school is not enough. It further commits to providing 11,500 scholarships in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Uganda to ensure that girls have the support they need to stay in school at least through secondary education.

2. Ensuring school safety: BRAC’s approach to schooling relies heavily on community support. In all areas – including Pakistan and Afghanistan, where going to school is often dangerous for girls – BRAC works closely with members of the wider community to emphasize the importance of girls’ education. BRAC deepens community support through various local bodies and mechanisms, including school management committees, parent-teacher associations, and gender awareness to ensure that BRAC schools remain safe spaces for learning. As part of this commitment, BRAC pledges to expand existing programs in Bangladesh to improve school safety by raising awareness on gender harassment for 240,000 girls.

3. Improving quality of learning: BRAC recognizes that enrollment numbers do not describe the true depth of the problem of quality in the world’s education systems. Schools in poor countries tend to favor rote memorization over true learning, doing little to impart the life and work skills needed to prepare our youth for the 21st century knowledge society. Of around 650 million primary school age children in the world today, an estimated 250 million have not learned to read or count, regardless of whether they have gone to school. Children need classrooms, teachers, suitable technology, and an enabling environment that will encourage them to think for themselves. These elements will develop the problem-solving skills, critical thinking ability, and enterprising mindsets that are some of the greatest assets for navigating one’s way out of poverty.

BRAC seeks to improve the quality of education for girls in seven countries by training 75,000 teachers in child-centric education methods. These teachers, in addition to reaching girls in BRAC’s own pre-primary and primary schools, also includes government school teachers who will reach an additional 636,000 girls in state-run primary and secondary schools.

4. Helping transition to the world of work: BRAC recognizes that the economic empowerment of women has led to enormous gains for poorer countries, and that preparing women for the workforce needs to begin at an early age. BRAC’s Empowerment and Livelihoods for Adolescents (ELA) program aims to do this by providing adolescents girls with safe spaces, peer mentorship, life skills, health awareness (particularly reproductive health), vocational and leadership skills, and access to finance through microloans. ELA is the fastest growing program in BRAC’s operations outside of Bangladesh, with more than 70,000 girls now participating in Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia. They join more than 168,000 girls in similar clubs in Bangladesh, where a number of other trade-specific training programs have also led to girls breaking the gender barrier in traditionally male-dominated fields like driving and motorcycle repair.

BRAC plans to deepen and expand its adolescent girls empowerment programs in Bangladesh, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Liberia, reaching about 400,000 additional girls with robust and relevant livelihood training to ensure sustainable economic independence.

5. Supporting developing country leaders in girls’ education: BRAC is committed to providing thought leadership, advocacy and advisory services to advance successful girls’ education approaches and models around the world. BRAC plans to invest $6 million in the Institute for Educational Development at BRAC University in Dhaka to become a global learning hub for innovation, research, training, advocacy and assessment on approaches to quality education in the developing world. It commits to training 52,000 mentors in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tanzania and Sierra Leone to give them the leadership skills they need to support vulnerable girls in school, and to develop a local learning network in Uganda to share best practices in girls' education.

With a track record of implementation at scale with continuous impact evaluation, BRAC can serve as a source of evidence and learning to improve program effectiveness. It therefore commits to developing programs of technical assistance for other NGOs, development agencies, and governments. It will develop partnerships and a learning community for stronger global advocacy with the hope of furthering the movement for girls' education and empowerment across the world.

ABOUT BRAC
BRAC, a development organization founded in Bangladesh in 1972, is a global leader in creating opportunities at scale as a means to end poverty. With more than 120,000 employees, it is the world's largest non-governmental organization, touching the lives of an estimated 135 million people in 12 countries using a wide array of antipoverty tools such as microfinance, education, healthcare, legal rights training and more. BRAC University in Dhaka is a hub of higher learning with more than 6,000 students enrolled. Learn more at BRAC.net.

ABOUT BRAC USA
BRAC USA is an independent, US-based grantmaking affiliate of BRAC formed in 2006 to advance and support BRAC's global mission to create opportunities to unleash human potential and end poverty. Learn more at BRACUSA.org.

MEDIA CONTACT
Scott MacMillan
T: 212 808 5615
C: 508 310 3018
scott(at)bracusa(dot)org

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