Girl in front of a blackboard in India

Girls' education

Secondary education for girls can transform communities, countries and our world.

It is an investment in economic growth, a healthier workforce, lasting peace and the future of our planet. That’s why Malala Fund advocates — at the local, national and international levels — for resources and policy changes that improve access to education for girls.

Why are nearly 120 million girls out of school?

Threats to girls’ education — like poverty, war and gender discrimination — differ between countries and communities.

Child labour

Zainab received less than one cent per day stitching footballs, but she knew she could achieve more for herself and her family by finishing school.

Child labour

In areas of the world with few restrictions on child labour, families often choose to send their daughters
to work instead of school. Secondary school graduates can earn higher
wages and contribute to their country’s economic growth.

Early marriage

When the day came for 14-year-old Najlaa to be married, she felt her dreams of finishing school slipping away. So she ran away from home — still in her wedding dress.

Early marriage

Early marriage often prevents girls from continuing their education and realising their full potential. 12 years of education for every girl would result in a 64% drop in child marriage. Secondary education also helps to prevent early pregnancy.

Source: Rose, P. and Zubairi, A., (2016) Supporting primary and secondary education for refugees: the role of international financing, Malala Fund


By age 17, Zaynab was a refugee of three wars — in Yemen, Somalia and Egypt — and had been out of school for two years.


War and violence drastically reduce opportunities for girls to continue their education. In areas of conflict, girls and women are the most vulnerable. Girls are 90% more likely to be out of secondary school than those living in areas without violence.

Source: GEM Report, Policy Paper 21, June 2015, p.3


Like many girls in Nigeria, expensive school tuition fees put Amina’s education and future at risk.


The high cost of education prevents the most marginalised girls from getting an education. Eliminating school fees and offsetting indirect costs of girls' schooling has helped to increase enrolment and keep girls in school all over the world.

Gender bias

In Pakistan, many girls like Nayab drop out after grade 5 because their parents believe it is a waste of money to send a daughter to secondary school.

Gender bias

Long-held misconceptions and cultural norms can keep girls from reaching their full potential — and further inequality in society.


In Ecuador, Daniela graduated secondary school, becoming one of seven girls in her class with a high school diploma — and a child.


Uneducated girls are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancy and other health complications. If all girls received 12 years of education, the frequency of early births would drop by 59% and child deaths would decrease by 49%.

Source: Malala Fund (2016) Beyond Basics)

Natural disasters

When an earthquake struck Sydney’s village and damaged her home in Oaxaca, Mexico, she worried about falling behind in her studies.

Natural disasters

Going to school was already difficult before the earthquake. Poverty, early marriage and machismo culture force many girls in Sydney’s community out of the classroom.

Poor quality

Living in a refugee camp in Jordan, the only class available to 12-year-old Rehma is for five and six year-olds.

Poor quality

In Syria, Rehma was a promising student, but today in her one-tent school, she’s repeating lessons she learned years ago - the alphabet, numbers, the names of colors and animals. Rehma says her dream is to graduate, but if no higher grades are available to her, she never will.

Evidence for investing in girls' education

Girls’ education strengthens economies and creates jobs.

Millions of educated girls, means more working women with the potential to add up to $12 trillion USD to global growth.

Communities are more stable — and can recover faster after conflict — when girls are educated.

When a country gives all its children secondary education, they cut their risk of war in half. Education is vital for security around the world because extremism grows alongside inequality.

Educated girls are healthier citizens who raise healthier families.

Educated girls are less likely to marry young or contract HIV  — and more likely to have healthy, educated children. Each additional year of school a girl completes cuts both infant mortality and child marriage rates.

Investing in girls’ education is good for our planet.

The Brookings Institution calls secondary schooling for girls the most cost-effective and best investment against climate change. Research also suggests that girls’ education reduces a country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

Explore our research library to learn more about Malala Fund's work.


How we advocate

Whether we're meeting with heads of state, conducting research or giving girls opportunities to speak truth to power — our advocacy is focused on ensuring 12 years of free, safe, quality education for every girl.

Our advocacy