CAMFED International

SISTER: A scalable solution to girls’ exclusion from education Highly Ranked

Lead Organization

CAMFED International

Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Girls’ education is heralded as one of the greatest opportunities of our time to tackle the biggest global challenges, including population growth and climate change. Yet millions of girls are denied an education because of poverty; the highest rates of exclusion are in sub-Saharan Africa. If we are to unlock the unparalleled returns from girls’ education for the benefit of humanity, the world needs a new solution, one that not only ensures millions more girls join school but enables them to capitalize on their education and step forward as leaders. Our project, SISTER, creates post-school opportunities for young women linked to their leadership in supporting marginalized girls in school. The result is an ever-multiplying number of girls who join school, succeed and then lead change for the younger generation. Within 5 years, SISTER will support 5 million marginalized girls in secondary school, and open the gates to millions more.

Problem Statement

The fundamental benefit to humanity of girls’ education is widely acclaimed by leading economists, most recently for its impact on climate change and its potential to unlock Africa’s demographic dividend.Despite progress in school enrolment globally, millions of girls remain excluded (96.5M globally). The highest rates of exclusion are in sub-Saharan Africa where 52.2 million girls are outside school. Disparities increase further up the education system; only 1 in 4 girls who enter primary school reach the end of secondary. Poverty is the greatest barrier and lies behind the many causes of girls’ exclusion. It is a key driver of practices like early marriage; in Tanzania, 49% of the poorest girls are married before 18. If girls do complete school they graduate into communities where there is a dearth of jobs, and they lack access to the capital, connections and assets to create their own employment. Consequently, they face an abyss of opportunity after school — the only perceived safety net being early marriage or migration leading to extreme vulnerability. We are therefore only realizing a fraction of the possible returns of girls’ education, because so much potential lies latent if young women graduating from secondary school cannot capitalize on their education.The world needs an urgent solution that not only enables all girls to go to school, but that opens up their pathways to a secure livelihood beyond school and ultimately, positions of leadership. In this way, we can unlock the full returns of girls’ education.

Solution Overview

Our solution – SISTER – tackles the problem of girls’ school exclusion by addressing the dearth of post-school opportunities for young women. It creates pathways of opportunity for young women that are linked to their leadership in supporting marginalized girls in their community to go to school. The result is an ever-multiplying number of girls who join school, succeed, and step up as leaders for the younger generation.Through SISTER, young women are offered skills training and soft loan capital to start small-scale enterprises or pursue further education after completing school. Instead of paying financial interest on loans, they repay in the form of ‘social interest’ by taking on accredited volunteer roles in schools and communities to support marginalized girls.SISTER is coordinated by CAMFED’s Alumnae of young women leaders in sub-Saharan Africa, currently numbering 140,000 and growing to 300,000+ within 3 years. Young women who join SISTER provide peer support, share good practice and use their collective voice. As experts on what it takes to support the most marginalized girls, they collaborate with local and national authorities to tackle the systemic barriers to girls’ education.Through connection to other young leaders in the Obama Foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance, SISTER will inspire action and replication of good practice in girls’ education globally.Within 5 years, SISTER will directly result in 5 million girls who would otherwise be excluded, continuing their education through secondary school in sub-Saharan Africa. Indirectly, millions more girls will benefit through the growing movement of girls’ education.

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Project Funders

  • King Philanthropies 2019 - 2022
  • Mastercard Foundation

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