Empowerment, Aspirations, and Girls’ Education

As gender gaps in school enrollment and attainment continue to narrow around the world, global priorities have shifted toward focusing on the quality of education and the implications that a high-quality education has for broader societal outcomes including fostering gender equity. There is ample evidence illustrating the benefits of investing in girls’ education including that it supports improved social, economic, and health outcomes. While girls’ education offers many benefits, it is not yet a guarantee of more equal societies. If by and large girls are now receiving the same education as boys, why is there a persistent divergence in learning and later life outcomes?

A key component in the theory of change related to the relationship between girls’ education and equity is the empowerment of women and girls. Broadly defined, empowerment refers to one’s ability to have both control and power over the decisions and resources within their life. However, measures of ‘empowerment’ and the process through which it is achieved are understood in a variety of ways and are sometimes not defined at all thus making it challenging to achieve.

As a background piece to the CGD’s flagship report, “Girls’ Education and Women’s Equality: How to Get More out of the World’s Most Promising Investment,” this note provides an overview of the literature on the relationship between education and girls’ empowerment and aspirations. We outline the evolution of the concept of empowerment as it relates to girls’ education, discuss the necessary pre-conditions that schools and education systems must meet for empowerment through education to be possible, and summarize the evidence related to strengthening empowerment and aspirations. We conclude by identifying five key action areas moving forward:

  • Make school environments safe
  • Identify the mechanisms driving impact of successful empowerment programs
  • Include men and boys in efforts to strengthen empowerment for women and girls
  • Remove gender bias from classrooms
  • Make empowerment a central—not an additional—goal of schooling

Read the full note here.

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