GIRLS Inspire

GIRLS Inspire

Around the world, 129 million girls are out of school, including 32 million of primary school age, 30 million of lower-secondary school age, and 67 million of upper-secondary school age. (UNICEF)

Providing learning opportunities for vulnerable, hard-to-reach women and girls is one of the best investments we can make in working towards sustainable development. Yet, in developing countries, almost one-quarter of all women and girls aged 15-24 have never completed primary school.

COL recognises that advancing the goals of both women’s empowerment and gender equality are central to “Learning for Sustainable Development.” COL, with funding from the governments of Australia and Canada, launched GIRLS Inspire, a three-year project for girls’ education, in 2016. This project consisted of the CEFM, RtU and RtU Scaling up projects and ended in March 2021 . Through GIRLS Inspire, COL partnered with community organisations and institutions to support schooling and skills development for some of the world’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach women and girls using open, distance and technology-enabled learning.

In developing countries, 116 million young women, almost one-quarter of all women of this age group (age 15-24), have never completed primary school (UNESCO, 2014)


The RtU, CEFM and RtU Scaling Up projects under GIRLS Inspire produced a successful model for providing relevant skills that lead to livelihoods for unreached and marginalised girls in remote and rural areas in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Pakistan and Tanzania. The results showed that 100,757 women and girls successfully completed both life skills and vocational skills training, with 22,172 of them subsequently moving into income-generating activities such as employment or self-employment and 1,235 child marriages were prevented.

Significant gender inequalities continue to exist, especially in relation to educational attainment and economic participation. Girls have been even more severely disadvantaged due to the COVID-19 crisis. Following the success of the GIRLS Inspire model, COL made it a fully integrated initiative, which is included in the 2021-2027 Strategic Plan.

The GIRLS Inspire initiative aims to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment through skills development for livelihoods and will follow a context-specific and holistic approach with coordinated interventions operating at the individual, household, community and societal levels. This approach will provide linkages with employers for internships and employment opportunities and facilitate access to credit for self-employment. GIRLS Inspire will align its work with local and national development needs for scale and sustainability. It will use community mobilisation to influence change in national policy, while convincing government officials of the benefits of gender equality. COL will build on the previous success of the GIRLS Inspire project to scale it up and extend it to more countries: Bangladesh, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia , Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands and Tanzania.

Learn more about the GIRLS Inspire and its partners on the community of practice website.

Photo Credit: Institute of Adult Education, Tanzania

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