​GIRLS Inspire - a new initiative to reach the hard-to-reach women and girls in five Commonwealth countries to achieve their potential through learning

8 March 2016 - Vancouver, Canada – The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved unless we provide girls and women with equal opportunity to benefit from learning and education.

To support this goal, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is partnering with community organisations to support schooling and skills development for some of the world’s most vulnerable women and girls using open and distance learning (ODL).

GIRLS Inspire, a new initiative that the Commonwealth of Learning is pleased to launch today on International Women’s Day, encompasses two projects supported by the governments of Canada and Australia to end the cycle of child early and forced marriage and reach the unreached women of the Commonwealth.

Through the GIRLS Inspire initiative, COL is partnering with community organisations in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Mozambique and Tanzania and leverage their collective expertise in open and distance learning to provide schooling and skills development to some of the world’s most vulnerable and hard-to-reach girls.

According to UNESCO, almost one-quarter of all young women (aged 15-24) in developing countries 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’ and that ODL can be especially helpful in enabling women and girls to access educational opportunities while they fulfil their other responsibilities.

School fees, geographical distance, safety, and early or forced marriages are significant barriers to education for young women and girls.

In northwestern Bangladesh where climate change has escalated levels of migration, poverty and food insecurity caused by flooding, schooling falls even further out of reach for young women and girls.

COL is partnering with organizations like Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS) which operates a fleet of floating schools, health clinics, and training centers that deliver learning right to the doorsteps of close to 115,000 families affected by flooding.

Working with this partner, we are reaching the most vulnerable young women, including those who have been married early or are at risk for early and forced marriage. Through open schooling, innovative teaching, and technology enabled learning, they are developing the skills, and confidence to inspire the level of participation that is so critical for sustainable change and development.

“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,” said Professor Asha Kanwar, President & CEO, COL. “Empowering women and girls to shape their own future has an incredible multiplier effect on economic growth that leads to increased prosperity not just for individuals, but for entire families.”

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to promote the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.