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How Malala Fund is responding to COVID-19

Malala Fund

Malala Fund

Malala Fund is working for a world where every girl can learn and lead.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a threat to girls’ education the world cannot ignore. Nearly 130 million girls were out of school before the crisis and an additional 20 million girls may never return to the classroom when it subsides. To mitigate these effects and ensure more girls can learn, Malala Fund has launched a Global COVID-19 Response Initiative.

Over the next three years, Malala Fund will focus our work on addressing the key areas of risk our research indicates the pandemic poses to girls' education. Efforts will include partnering with local organisations, conducting research and advocating for girls’ education at global and national levels.

“When crises hit, education funding often drops in favor of other, more immediate needs and girls forced out of school are less likely to return. Years of progress made on girls’ education is put at risk,” says Suzanne Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer at Malala Fund. “Our response at Malala Fund aims to counteract this — education is the best protection against future shocks. When all girls go to school our public health improves and economies grow."

As part of our immediate response, Malala Fund worked with national partners to conduct a rapid assessment of COVID-19’s impact on girls’ education in marginalised communities in Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. These reports, co-written with Malala Fund’s in-country representatives and Education Champions, offer firsthand accounts of learning during the pandemic from girls and their families, and issue recommendations for what leaders can do.

Our assessments reveal that social and financial pressures related to the pandemic are already forcing girls to question whether or not they will be able to complete their education. In the communities we surveyed, girls report having greater domestic responsibilities and less academic support than boys. Our research also indicates current government responses are failing to mitigate the educational and economic consequences of the pandemic.

To help locally-led initiatives in our programmatic countries keep girls learning during and after the crisis, Malala Fund has also awarded $3 million in new grant funding to 34 organisations. From putting lessons on mobile phone apps in Pakistan to producing educational radio broadcasts in Nigeria, the educators and advocates Malala Fund supports are using the additional funds to address education gaps and equip girls with the resources they need to keep their studies on track.

Here are some ways we are helping girls learn:

  • In Brazil, our strategy centres on monitoring state and national education budgets, tracking the quality and effectiveness of distance learning and addressing violence and abuse against girls. 
  • In Ethiopia, we are working to reduce social and economic barriers affecting girls’ enrolment and retention rates by advocating for gender-responsive education funding and policies and providing girls with alternative learning, reenrolment and catch-up support during and after the pandemic.
  • Our work in India focuses on safeguarding girls’ mental and physical health and safety during school closures. We are also working to ensure reopening plans address the unique barriers girls face, help students catch up on missed lessons and equip teachers with the tools and skills they need to return to the classroom.
  • Our work in Nigeria focuses on securing national and state funding for education, ensuring school reopening plans are gender inclusive and providing girls with academic support during school closures.
  • In Pakistan, we are working to prevent rollbacks in education funding and promote digital learning in communities and schools. 

Malala Fund wants to keep girls learning through this crisis and long after. To achieve this, we must ensure our economies, societies and education systems work for girls, not against them. As governments and donor countries determine their priorities and devise budgets to recover from the pandemic, our advocacy efforts will centre on protecting progress for girls’ education and ensuring it is central to rebuilding efforts.

To learn more about Malala Fund’s COVID-19 response and the work of our grantees, visit: covid.malala.org

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