– Education transforms. There is strong anecdotal and empirical evidence pointing to the economic and cultural impact of letting girls learn, globally. This transformation is amplified dramatically when young women are also provided with entrepreneurship and leadership training in addition to a traditional programme of reading, writing and mathematics. Work already being done in Africa points towards the outsized returns on investing in this type of education for young women while they are still in secondary school.
In 2015, the Educate! Project in Uganda reported significant improvements in the livelihood of girls who received entrepreneurship training during high school. Their likelihood to graduate increased by almost 6%, and their incomes by an impressive $200, a 120% improvement versus those who didn’t complete a similar programme (according to Educate!). This education enabled the women to take on leadership roles within their communities. I’ve seen similar results at the African Leadership Academy (ALA), an innovative secondary school that I founded more than a decade ago.
ALA, like Educate!, places entrepreneurship and leadership at the heart of its preparatory academic programmes. Prepared by this intensive and hands-on education, ALA’s young women have done extraordinary things. Sophie Umazi, for example, launched the ‘I am Kenyan’ campaign hot on the heels of the post-election violence that plagued her country in 2007. Using the platform she created, she galvanised more than 21,000 young Kenyans, at home and in the diaspora, to foster an atmosphere of national cohesion and identity that helped ensure peaceful elections in 2013. This is a single story; to date, ALA’s students have founded more than 130 ventures, most of them not-for-profits, that employ hundreds of young Africans, creating immeasurable impact day-to-day.
As we celebrate International Day of the Girl, I want to keep the experiences of these young women at the forefront. The global community has made tremendous progress in bringing girls into the classroom, but there are still almost 62 million girls out of school worldwide.
We must continue to bring and keep more young women in school and address in tandem the utility of the education our girls receive. It must empower them to face the challenges of tomorrow.