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Photo Credit: Fred Mednick

Girls’ Education and the Millennium Development Goals: NGO Challenges

855.716 Contemporary Approaches To Educational Problems
SPRING, 2014

Table of Contents
Context and Millennium Development Goal Achievements .............................................................2! Millennium Goal Challenges .............................................................................................................3! Questions and Challenges ..................................................................................................................9! Required Readings and Media ...........................................................................................................9! Recommended Readings .................................................................................................................10! Notes ................................................................................................................................................12!

Context and Millennium Development Goal Achievements
Girls’ education is front-page news. Malala Yousafzai, the sixteen-year-old Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for her efforts both to attend school and advocate for girls’ education, recently addressed the United Nations General Assembly and was nominated for a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize. Widely released feature films such as “Girl Rising” and “Half the Sky” have popularized a substantial body of research correlating the education of girls with measurable progress toward reaching all 8 United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted formally by 189 member states and 23 international organizations in September 2000, the Millennium Development Goals serve as a standard for global measurement by focusing on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and building global partnerships for development. According to the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), the 8 MDG goals (including 21 targets and measurement frameworks) “are the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific development goals the world has ever agreed upon” (UNGEI). From a global perspective, progress has been impressive. The goal to halve the number of those living in extreme poverty has been met, due in large part to large-scale initiatives by India and China. So, too, has the aggregate figure for halving the number of people without reliable access to clean drinking water. “On average, gender equality in terms of access to primary education has been achieved” and, “in many cases, on par with those of boys” (UN General Assembly, 2012).

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


Efforts to stem malnutrition, remove barriers to school enrollment, curtail unsanitary conditions leading to child mortality, combat malaria and tuberculosis, and provide access to water have been impressive. Public-private partnerships have flourished. Unprecedented advances in technology have led to greater levels of access to vital resources and information exchange. As coordinated efforts have unfolded, research continues to strengthen the case that the education of girls serves as a catalyst for overall development. “Educated mothers are 50% more women are likely to immunize their children than mothers with no schooling” (Lewis & Lockheed, 2007). With an extra year of education, a girl can earn up to 20% more as an adult and often reinvest 90% of her income into her family. A child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5 (UNESCO, 2012). Over the past 40 years (particularly from 2000 to the present), women’s education has prevented more than 4 million child deaths. (UNGEI, 2012). The Millennium Development Goals also include a 2015 expiration date. With fewer than 850 days to go, a vigorous and contentious post-2015 debate is well underway.
Photo Credit: UNDP

Millennium Goal Challenges
For many regions of the world, the Millennium Development Goal report card has been nothing short of tragic. Most poor countries will not meet MDG targets. Net aid disbursements have declined. Of the wildly discrepant global accounting of children who do not attend school, some regions have excluded approximately 70% of its girls. In the least developed countries, more than a third of young women (15-24 years old) cannot read (World Inequality Database, 2013). The 46 per cent increase in carbon emissions since 1990 and the rapid rate of climate change threaten environmental sustainability. 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry. In several regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the number of mobile phones outstrips the number of latrines or flush toilets.

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


he MDGs themselves have faced withering criticism. “Halving” poverty has been considered “ridiculously under ambitious (Pogge).” Others claim that a “one-size-fits-all” approach undermines case-by-case capacity-building efforts in favor of global aid. The blogosphere is filled with questions about the accuracy of data from monitoring, evaluation, transparency, and accountability tools. Watchdog groups harbor deep suspicions toward the allure of privatization and influence peddling. Others decry the lack of a framework for the protection of human rights beyond a fleeting, tokenistic, or rhetorical embrace (Alston, 2004). The Millennium Development Goals have also faced criticism from claims that it reflects a negotiated, donor-driven agenda (2) MDG data design, collection methods, and reliability have been viewed as flawed (3) MDGs have been criticized for not having considered dependent variables enough – most notably the meteoric rise in population, climate change, and the dominance of India and China’s data – thus skewing the results (4) MDGs have been called to task for its omissions. Girls’ education may have received a great deal of media attention. However, the progress report toward the realization of MDGs in these areas is mixed, particularly in the areas of education quality and equity, education and public health, and education in emergencies.

Targeted reading for teams working on this theme: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education. Retrieved from: and corresponding interactive database, eAtlas of Gender Equality in Education. Retrieved from:

Photo Credit: Human Rights Watch

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


Issues of gender equity have been central to the development of a gender sensitive lens designed to link social justice and gender equality with education for sustainable development (Enarson, 2000). Researchers and NGO leaders have demanded publicly viewable data and accountability measures designed to ensure that policies governing and protecting gender equity and women’s empowerment are enforced. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals 2013 Report states: “…persisting genderbased inequalities in decision-making continue to deny women a say in the decisions that affect their lives” (UNMDG Report, 2013). According to the Global Campaign for Education, “the existing MDG doesn't really do enough to provide a strong incentive to worry about the hard-toreach groups." (Williams, 2013) While evidence can substantiate significant global development progress through the education of girls, progress toward those MDGs focusing explicitly on health, equity, and economic opportunities for girls and women has consistently fallen short. In several countries rated at the bottom of the United Nations Development Index, the pace of progress toward equity and human rights has not only slowed, but also gone backward. The issues are rarely understood from a single perspective. Sociological, psychological, and anthropological perspectives tend to focus on regional contexts and cultural memory. Girls may not attend school in a region of Pakistan because families may fear retribution by authorities, a human trafficking network, or sexual violence. They may have been told that religious doctrine forbids it. From an economic standpoint, those same families may not comprehend the longerterm financial benefits of removing girls from the task of carrying water, especially when required to pay school fees for uniforms or supplies. As the world becomes increasingly aware of educational and equity disparities, the momentum to build more schools has met with resistance from those who seek assurances that those schools are staffed with qualified teachers capable of promoting inclusion and fairness. In short, Malala has a right to attend a good school and learn from well-trained educators. Global watchdog groups have exposed those governments that manipulate their dependence upon foreign aid to abdicate their primary responsibility of educating their citizens (Dambisa, 2009). Governments have been accused of deferring any national measures toward achieving MDGs until after World Bank loans have been approved or fabricating statistics in order to curry favor with lending agencies or the international donor community.

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


Targeted reading for teams working on this theme: Temin, M. & Levine, R. (2009). Start with a girl: A new agenda for global health. Center for Global Development. Retrieved from:

Photo Credit: Human Rights Watch

The connection between education and public health is dramatic and cuts across all areas of development. Issues include female genital cutting, child marriage, poor maternal care, HIVAIDS transmission, human trafficking, gender-based attacks, limited access to health services, protection, or mechanisms to make their voices heard. “Women in sub-Saharan Africa continue to be more likely than men to live in poverty” (UN Women, 2012). “Reducing maternal mortality is unfortunately a goal that’s far away from being achieved and, of course, that fundamentally requires that women achieve their rights and are able to make choices about when they have children” (UN Women, 2012). The report of the Secretary General of the United Nations in 2012 identifies a majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where women, especially those between the ages of 15 and 24, are at higher risk of living with HIV and 30 per cent more likely to be infected with HIV than men (UN Secretary General 2010).

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


Nevertheless, Public Health initiatives have made remarkable success. In Malawi, voucher programmes for fertilizers and seeds have addressed decades-old famine, and have transformed the country into a net food importer. Immunization programs, particularly measles campaigns, have surpassed expectations. “Providing mosquito nets in the Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mali, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe” has “resulted in 44 per cent fewer deaths from malaria than among children not protected from them. (MDG Resources).” Public and private partnerships have made substantial inroads to provide mobile maternal health units, initiate campaigns to end Fistula, provide free access to antiretroviral treatments, slow HIV infections amongst youth, control and treat tuberculosis, distribute vitamin A supplements and parasite medication, and install water purification systems. The remarkable success of these health initiatives, however, has evaporated in those regions where public health education campaigns are insufficient and where women are not empowered.

Targeted reading for teams working on this theme:
Kirk, Jackie. 2006. UNESCO Bangkok. Education in Emergencies: The Gender Implications – Advocacy Brief. Retrieved from:

Photo Credit: Zachary Adam

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


In 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals were formalized, the Inter-Agency Network for Education (INEE) was founded in order to create education clusters of NGOs and global agencies that coordinate interventions and establish standards based upon the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Dakar 2000 Education for All goals.

Some rogue states have kept their borders porous in order to ensure a steady stream of profits from the drug or arms trade. Human Rights Watch and UNESCO report numerous cases of education under attack, and schools as battlegrounds – where teachers are attacked, girls and women are raped, and the school itself used as a storehouse of weapons (Human Rights Watch, 2010-11). The recent financial downturn and both large-scale natural and national disasters have disenfranchised millions, resulting in the largest number of refugees in history. In turn, crises expected to last months become protracted, seemingly intractable crises lasting years, compounded by the issues that emerge in overcrowded, unsanitary, refugee communities. In Syria alone, 4 million people are fighting for survival, and there is no end in sight. Over just a few months earlier this year, states bordering Syria faced the herculean, humanitarian task of absorbing 2.5 million displaced people into makeshift camps. In those same camps, polio – once eradicated – has returned and incidents of gender violence have soared. Often responsible for basic livelihoods, the carrying of water, and care for children, women suffer the most. Relegated to a lower rung on food, power, and housing hierarchies, women are subject to higher rates of infectious and water-borne diseases (IUCN). In natural and national disasters, girls are particularly at risk. During the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami in 2004, two-thirds of the casualties were women. “Disasters reinforce, perpetuate and increase gender inequality, making bad situations worse for women” (UNDRR, 2009). Natural and national emergencies have magnified existing social, political, and economic disparities. Sexual and domestic abuse increases. Care for displaced families falls squarely on women’s shoulders, yet traditional power structures have not effectively mainstreamed a gender perspective” (UNDRR, 2009). The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has expressed concern that: “existing approaches in disaster risk reduction are not only unable to address gender-based vulnerabilities, but also mask the skills and capabilities of women as individuals and as a group. (UNDRR) The InterAgency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has drawn a considerable amount of attention to the instrumental role women have played in mitigating the effects of hazards in rescue and recovery, relief, and reconstruction (INEE, 2010). The “Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters” resolved to ensure that knowledge, prevention, and planning would be taken seriously in schools (UNISDR, 2005).

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


In 2009, The International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction and the United Nations Development Programme published “Making Disaster Reduction Gender-Sensitive: Policy and Practical Guidelines,” to ensure that gender mainstreaming is incorporated into disaster management initiatives; the science and technology of safety; communications, training and education; and disaster preparedness and planning, intervention, post-disaster relief, and reconstruction efforts” (UNDP, 2009).

Questions and Challenges
The questions and challenges these NGOs face are not dissimilar to those faced by organizations anywhere: • • • • • • •
• • •

How do we build the capacity necessary to evaluate our work and demonstrate impacts? What successful methodologies and best practices should we use to negotiate power relationships and stakeholder pressures? What are the processes by which successful gender mainstreaming practices in one region might be of valuable to, and take root in, in our region? Considering our environmental, political-economic, social, and cultural context, how do we address threats to our work in girls’ education? What tools and resources have been successful in measuring the effects of girls’ education on a given community? How can our girls’ education efforts be sustained, replicated, communicated, and measured? How might we address the opportunities and challenges of communicating these impacts to policy makers, planners, field workers, and community organizations? How do we manage change? How do we cultivate leadership? How do we ensure community support?

Required Readings and Media
Additional readings are targeted to the themes (access and equality, public health, and emergencies), as well as readings provided by team members to support the paper. Video Girl Rising (2013). “Remarkable stories of nine girls around the world - told by celebrated writers and voiced by renowned actors.” Instructors are in the process of obtaining permission from film producers to make the film available for students in this course Girl Shot in Head by Taliban Speaks at UN (2013): Malala Yousafzai United Nations Speech (2013). A 19:36 second video of Malala Yousafzai speaking on her 16th birthday
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Web Slides Educating Girls: Storify collection assembled by Fred Mednick. Retrieved from: Storify: Designed to familiarize oneself with the issues through web resources UN Report Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW): The formal document itself (about 10 pages, 30 Articles) Interactive Worldwide Inequality Database on Education (2013). Education for All Global Database Monitoring Report Interactive database based upon Education for All monitoring data Global Case Exclusion, Gender and Education: Case studies from the developing world. Center Study for Global Development, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from: Analysis
Preface, ix-xi; Social Exclusion, pgs. 1-27. These case studies by the authors of Inexcusable Absence: Why 60 Million Girls Still Aren’t In School and What to Do About It, examine the correlation between the lack of school attendance and social marginalization and how NGOs have achieved parity

Theory of Theory of Change. Retrieved from: Center for Civic Partnerships. Change - !theory-of-change/c6i2
Definitions for theories of change, along with an annotated list of references.

The Spark Initiative’s Theory of Change. Retrieved from: df A two-page overview based upon change factors, transition strategies, outcomes and impact demonstrations, and scaling mechanisms – developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Recommended Readings
Alston, Philip (2004). A human rights perspective on the millennium development goals. Special adviser to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the MDGs, for the millennium project task force on poverty and economic development. Retrieved from: Education from a Gender Equality Perspective. USAID. Retrieved from:

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


Fast Tracking Girls Education: A Progress Report by the Education for All Initiative: Enarson, Elaine (2000, May 3-5). Gender issues in natural disasters: Talking points and research needs. ILO inFocus Programme on Crisis Response and Reconstruction. Human Rights Watch (2010). Schools as battlegrounds. Retrieved from:; Education Under Attack (UNESCO), retrieved from: Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies. Gender Task Team. Pocket guide to gender:.; Pocket guide to gender Implementation tools. Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies. IUCN. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Disaster and Gender Statistics Retrieved from: Lewis, M. & Lockheed, M. (2007). Rich world – poor world: A guide to global development. Center for Global Development. Education and the developing world: Why is education essential for development? Retrieved from: Mayo, Dambisa. (2009, Mar 21). Why foreign aid is hurting Africa, retrieved from: Wall Street Journal, Milanovic, Branko. (2012). "Global income inequality by the numbers: in history and now --an overview--," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6259, The World Bank. Pogge, T. Interview. ASAP: Academics stand against poverty. Retrieved from: Shapiro, Ilana (2005). Theories of Change. Retrieved from: Beyond Intractability. Retrieved from: Spark Initiative’s Theory of Change. Buck Institute for Education. Retrieved from: Temin, M. & Levine, R. (2009). Start with a girl: A new agenda for global health. Center for Global Development. Retrieved from: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization. World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education. Retrieved from: and corresponding interactive database: United Nations Development Program (2009). Making disaster risk reduction gender-sensitive: Policy and practical guidelines. ISDR (International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, UNDP). 2009. United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). Retrieved from: United Nations General Assembly (2012, Aug 6) accelerating progress towards the millennium development goals: options for sustained and inclusive growth and issues for advancing the UN development agenda beyond 2015. Annual Report of the Secretary-General, 65th session. Retrieved from: United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI). Millennium Development Goals. Retrieved from

Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems


United Nations Girls Education Initiative (2002). Engendering empowerment report, 2012: Global partnership for education. Retrieved from: United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (2005). Hyogo framework for action: 2005-2015. Retrieved from: United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Resources for speakers on global issues. Retrieved from: United Nations Millennium Development Goals Report (2013). Retrieved from United Nations Secretary General’s Report (See Footnote 3), and UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic 2010, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) (Geneva, 2010). United Nations Women. (2012). How women and girls are faring: Charting progress on the millennium development goals. Retrieved from: Williams, R. (Mar 11 2013). Why girls in India are still missing out on the education they need. Retrieved from: The Guardian online:


Girls’ Education Case Study: 855.716 Contemporary Approaches to Educational Problems