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Improving Education, Skills & Prospects Of Girls In Africa

When thinking about girls’ education, picturing little girls sat at desks in African schools is not enough.  To really help girls to lead a successful life, we need to pay equal attention to what happens before and after  school.

Girls and young women entering the 21st century job market will need skills and knowledge that can be developed only throughout their lifetime. They need our support at every step along the way.

Early Childhood Development

First give girls a strong foundation through early childhood development (ECD). Disadvantages built early in life are difficult to remedy, but effective ECD programs can avoid such disadvantages and thereby yield high payoffs.  ECD programs build the technical, cognitive, and behavioral skills conducive to high productivity later in life. Successful interventions emphasize, among other areas, nutrition, stimulation, and basic cognitive skills.

Basic Education For Girls

The second step focuses on basic education. Gaps remain, to be sure: Data suggests that in 24 low-income countries, only 34% of girls in the poorest 20% of households complete primary school, compared with 72% of girls in the richest 20% of households. These income-related gaps can be reduced through interventions to reduce the opportunity cost of schooling for girls, such as conditional cash transfers.

Job Skills, Training & Employability

Education for its own sake certainly has an intrinsic value, but education and training that proves useful in the workplace is also essential.  The third step in helping girls grow is to provide them with job-relevant skills that employers actually demand, or that they can use in launching their own business.

Self Employment & Business Start Ups

Step four relates to the creation of an environment that encourages investments in knowledge and creativity.  This requires innovation-specific skills and investments to help connect people with ideas, as well as risk management tools that facilitate innovation.  Again, girls are at a disadvantage when compared with boys, with fewer opportunities and, therefore, lower rates of entrepreneurship in many countries.

Women’s Rights In The Workplace

Finally, and this is the fifth and last step, it is important that societies promote flexible, efficient, and secure labor markets. Apart from avoiding rigid job protection regulations while strengthening income protection systems, providing intermediation services for workers and firms is important to transform skills into actual employment and productivity.