Girls' Education and Gender Equality

Girls' education and gender equality are central to GPE's vision of improved learning and equity for all, through stronger education systems by 2020.

Since 2000, GPE's developing country partners have made commendable progress in boosting girls' enrollment in school but girls from the poorest households, those living in remote or rural areas, those with a disability or from minority ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, remain disproportionately disadvantaged in getting into primary school and in completing secondary.

There is compelling evidence that keeping girls in school and ensuring they can learn in a safe and supportive environment, leads to many benefits for girls themselves, for their families, for communities and society as a whole.

However, girls in many countries continue to need support to overcome multiple barriers to education. These include the distance to school, gendered cultural norms and practices, school related gender based violence and early or forced marriage. Boys as well as girls face barriers to getting a good education, in conflict affected areas where safety and security can be compromised and in households that depend on their labor or income.

Fortunately, there are many proven investments that overcome the barriers to gender equality in education. These include ensuring safe and secure schools, hiring more women teachers, developing gender sensitive teacher training and learning materials, providing cash transfers, scholarships or stipends, awareness-raising campaigns and community mobilization. Investing in in education and gender equality not only supports girls' directly but also boys too and their families, communities and future generations.

Education plays a key role in making progress toward gender equality, empowering girls and boys with the skills and competencies needed to stay healthy, take decisions about their lives, secure better paid work and play an active part in the development of their community and society.

Sustainable Development Goal 4, on achieving quality education and Goal 5, on gender equality, combine powerfully with positive impacts on many other SDGs, including economic growth, good health and well-being, and poverty reduction.


Over 500 delegates from 33 countries gathered in Lusaka for the Forum for Women Educationalists (FAWE) Conference on girls’ education in Africa. The conference explored various issues including the...
A girls’ education advocate, 20-year-old Amina, uses her voice to demand a global commitment to ensure all girls have the opportunity to go to school and learn.
In this slideshow, learn about the many challenges children and young people around the world face when trying to access a quality education.
Learn the benefits of investing in girls' education, how GPE supports inclusive and equitable quality education, as well as the results it has achieved.
GPE supports country investments in more equitable and gender-responsive systems in order to improve outcomes in access, retention and learning for all girls and boys.
The Guidance has been designed to help deliver on the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals and Education 2030 to achieve gender equality in education.

The challenge

While progress in parity in primary enrollment has been achieved in many countries, girls enrollment and completion of secondary schooling lag behind.

  •  61 million girls of primary and lower-secondary school age are out of school.
  • Girls are 1.5 times more likely than boys to be excluded from primary school.
  • At the primary level, only 26% of low-income countries show gender parity in enrollment; 58% show disparity and 16% do not have recent data available.
  • Women represent nearly two thirds of the world's illiterate.
  • Barriers to gender equality in learning environments include stereotyping and sexism in curricula, textbooks, gender biased teacher attitudes and classroom practices; school-related gender-based violence; and a lack of separate water and sanitation and menstrual hygiene management facilities for girls.


GPE's response

A school girl holds a black board in Madagascar. Credit: GPE/Carine Durand

Increasing gender equality is one of eight guiding principles of GPE 2020, the partnership’s strategic plan for 2016-2020.  Achieving increased equity, gender equality, and inclusion is one of three key strategic goals under this plan.

GPE’s Gender Equality Policy and Strategy 2016–2020 reflects a shift from a narrower focus on girls’ education to gender equality more broadly, and includes areas where boys are disadvantaged, as well as gender issues concerning teachers, administrators and systems. Specifically, GPE supports gender equality in the following ways:

  1. Gender-responsive education sector plans: GPE supports countries’ efforts to develop, finance, and implement education sector plans that are gender-responsive. These plans include specific measures to reduce gender disparities, and make teaching and learning more responsive to the needs of both girls and boys. Improvements in the physical school environment such as separate toilets for girls and access to menstrual hygiene products are also included. Together with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative GPE has developed guidelines to support gender-responsive education sector analysis and planning.
  2. Provision of grants to partner countries for implementation of education sector plans that promote gender equality: At least 33 GPE program implementation grants totaling US$1.5 billion supplement domestic investments in gender equality.
  3. Policy dialogue on gender equality led by national governments and inclusive of civil society and other partners, to foster strong mutual accountability.
  4. Tackling school-related gender based violence (SRGBV): Recognizing the prevalence of SRGBV and its impact on girls’ education, GPE has funded a global literature review on SRGBV and support to four countries (Ethiopia, Zambia, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire) to better understand the nature and incidence of SRGBV, examine effective approaches to address it and support countries’ design strategies and interventions.

GPE also works cross-sectorally with partners, including in the health sector, to promote improved health outcomes and better learning.


  • GPE support has contributed to an additional 8.7 million girls enrolled in school across GPE partner countries between 2002 and 2015.
  • The primary school completion rate between girls and boys in GPE partner countries has narrowed between 2002 and 2015. For girls up, it rose from 57% to 74%.
  • The lower secondary completion rate for girls in GPE partner countries increased from 35% to 48% for boys it has increased from 41% to 52% between 2002 and 2015.
  • In GPE countries affected by fragility and conflict, the number of girls completing school for every 100 boys has risen from 74 to 88 for primary, and from 68 to 82 for lower secondary, since 2002.


GPE's commitments to girls' education initiatives

The Global Partnership for Education supports other organizations and agencies in their efforts to promote girls' education around the world.