For every year that a girl is enrolled in school, she is more likely to avoid early marriage and to survive childbirth. She will be less likely to suffer domestic violence, or be trafficked, and will have a higher future income. She will have a smaller, healthier family and will be 50% more likely to immunize her kids. She’ll leave her mark on future generations, as climate scientists rank girls’ education as number six out of 80 actions that can reverse global warming. And she’ll be twice as likely to educate her own girls — keeping the cycle going. Yet despite all these proven economic and societal benefits, across the globe, millions of girls are still excluded from school because of their gender. India is home to one of the largest such populations, with more than 4.1 million girls outside the classroom.
Girls’ education has always been an urgent matter, but now — unlike ever before — advanced analytics can reveal exactly where the problem of out-of-school girls is most concentrated. This data can guide smart strategies to target those areas. Educate Girls, a nonprofit taking on gender inequality in education in India, has built a predictive model that shows just 5% of the country’s villages are home to 40% of the out-of-school girl population — a staggering 1.6 million girls who aren’t currently in school. With support from The Audacious Project, Educate Girls will focus on those specific villages, and deliver a significant blow to almost half of India’s elementary education gender gap in just five years.
Educate Girls works district-to-district and village-to-village, creating educational pathways for girls by seeking fundamental shifts in local norms. Through The Audacious Project, they will work in 35,000 villages, mobilizing field staff and a large team of local volunteers to knock on every door and identify every out-of-school girl. Using a smartphone app, these workers will collect data — and insights from it will help Educate Girls build a plan to change collective mindset, using tactics like individual counseling for parents and holding neighborhood and village-level meetings. Once girls are enrolled in school, Educate Girls will track them to make sure they stay there — and they’ll repeat the process until they’ve achieved success. At the same time, through its volunteers, Educate Girls will provide schools with a remedial curriculum that supplements the government’s and strengthens confidence in these new students and their classmates. Collectively and at scale, these efforts will permanently disrupt India’s education gender gap and set an entire generation of young women — and their communities — on the path to a brighter future.
Since 2007, Educate Girls has grown from a 50-village test project to a 13,000-village movement, working at a scale greater than the education ministries of many small countries. Their network of community volunteers and field staff has enrolled more than 380,000 girls in public elementary schools, with a 90% retention rate. Learning outcomes have risen by an average of 25% to 30% for students of all genders thanks to their remedial curriculum. Leveraging advanced analytics, their team now has a comprehensive, codified, scalable model that delivers behavior change. And their method has been successfully adapted to fit a wide variety of environments.
Safeena Husain is the Founder and Executive Director of Educate Girls, and she’s well acquainted with the problem she’s trying to solve. As a girl in Delhi, she found refuge and opportunity in her studies — and while she later dropped out of school, a loving parent helped her to return to her education and go on to graduate from the London School of Economics. After working at a startup in Silicon Valley, Safeena felt called to social impact. She led the US-based organization Child Family Health International for seven years, and in 2004, returned to India to take on the issue closest to her heart. In 2007, she launched Educate Girls in Rajasthan, a region of India where women and girls face some of the greatest disparities in the country. She has shepherded the organization through dramatic growth.
Girls’ education affects so many aspects of life. Share this talk to get more girls in school.
The Educate Girls DIB, which kicked off in 2015, was one of the first development impact bonds launched. The new model was the result of some in the aid community looking to find new financing tools that could reduce risk to donors and have the potential to bring in private investors.
Every day in India, more than 4 million girls aged between seven and fourteen fail to show up at school. Why? In almost every case, the reason is simply their gender. As Husain puts it, for many families, “it’s rooted very much in a mindset where you believe that a goat is an asset and a girl is a liability.”