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  • Students at the AKES Early Childhood Development centre in Khorog, Tajikistan.
    AKDN / Akbar Hakim
Celebrating International Day of the Girl Child
Improving the quality of life for girls and women

“If I had two children and one was a boy and one was a girl, and if I could afford to educate only one, I would have no hesitation in giving the higher education to the girl.”
Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III (1945)

Did you know…

  • Women spend 90% of their earned income on their families; compared to 30-40% for men, therefore improving a women’s income benefits the family positively
  • Closing the gender gap in the field of agriculture could lift up to 150 million people out of hunger
  • Evidence shows that corporations run by women are more focused on sustainability
  • When 10% more girls go to school, the GDP of a country increases by an average of 3%
  • Women who use maternal health services are more likely to seek healthcare for their children

Improving the quality of life for girls and women through access to quality education has been a long-standing priority of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).  The first Aga Khan schools, which were established in India, Pakistan and Tanzania in 1905, provided education for boys and girls at a time when girls’ education was not broadly considered a priority.  For over a century, the AKDN has been investing in access to quality education as a vehicle for empowering women and girls to become agents of change in their own communities.  Over the last 30 years, more than 10 million girls and young women across all levels of education, from early childhood through to higher education have directly benefited from the AKDN’s efforts throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Investing in the education of girls and women not only benefits individuals, but also their families, communities and society at large, yielding dramatic improvements in nutrition, health, economic prosperity and even environmental protection and sustainability.  Women’s earning potential and standards of living are significantly impacted by the level of schooling they achieve, with women who have completed primary, secondary and tertiary education earning an average of 14.4%, 78.4% and 270.2% more, respectively than women who do not.

The AKDN’s education programmes for young girls and women have been ground-breaking for the sector and life-changing for beneficiaries.  For example, in Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) is leading a consortium of partners to provide access to quality education for 210,000 girls across 15 provinces, which has led to improved literacy and numeracy skills, a 142% increase in school enrolment rates and 10-fold increase in girls’ high school graduation rates in just four years.  This is the biggest DFID Girls Education Challenge project - Steps Towards Afghan Girls’ Educational Success (STAGES) programme.  STAGES 1 was from 2009-2013, and AKF is now implementing STAGES II (2017-2020), a grant of £47M (US$ 58 mio).  The partnerships formed, the trust built and the lessons learned have been instrumental in helping AKDN better understand what works, for whom, and in what context, especially for girls and young women.