Report | 2016

Executive Summary

Today, 62 million girls around the world are not in school, and at least 20 million of them live in conflict-affected and fragile settings as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), or otherwise vulnerable populations. For policymakers and practitioners alike, understanding and being able to address this nexus between girls’ education and fragile settings is crucial. Crises deepen gender inequities – four of the five countries that currently have the largest gender gaps in education also experience high levels of conflict. An increasing consensus exists on the value of education for displaced girls. However, the challenges to providing quality educational opportunities remain significant. Within this context, educating displaced adolescent girls is particularly challenging, but is imperative for long-term stability and prosperity.

Since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, significant progress has been made in increasing girls’ primary school enrollment, but secondary school enrollment remains limited. Fewer than one in three girls in Sub-Saharan Africa and less than half of girls in South Asia are currently enrolled in secondary school. Of at least 14 million refugee and internally displaced children between the ages of 3 and 15, only one in two attend primary school and one in four attend the lower secondary school grades. When crises strike, adolescent girls are acutely vulnerable. In these settings, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school as compared to their male peers.

While these challenges are increasingly well documented, little is known and even less is shared regarding evidence-based solutions. This brief highlights the organizations and institutions driving innovation in this space, and demonstrates possible pathways and successful strategies for confronting components of this global challenge. With the solutions featured in this brief, engaged organizations can leverage their unique capacities to let the 62 million girls who are not in school learn.

Why it matters

Educating girls is the world’s single best development investment. Ensuring access to quality and consistent education for girls across the globe is crucial to:

  • preventing early or forced marriage;
  • lowering maternal and neonatal mortality;
  • spurring a woman’s financial independence;
  • reducing fertility rates;
  • creating smaller, more sustainable families;
  • improving health and nutrition outcomes for families;
  • shrinking rates of HIV/AIDS and malaria;
  • opening opportunities for women’s political leadership;
  • increasing children’s educational attainment levels;
  • building familial resilience vis-à-vis natural disasters and climate change; and
  • boosting national economic growth.

Innovative Solutions

To access education, displaced adolescent girls must overcome several interrelated challenges:

  • transition and disruption;
  • host country, camp, and emergency response capacity gaps;
  • financial support for families;
  • personal insecurity; and
  • social norms.


While these challenges vary in degree based on context, organizations seeking to facilitate adolescent girls’ education must address these issues to deliver effective programming. This report explores organizations initiating innovative solutions in this space.


Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (2016). Closing the Gap: Adolescent Girls’ Access to Education in Conflict-Affected Settings. Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, Washington DC. Retrieved from: 

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