Bridge Liberia is empowering a new generation of confident, successful girls. If you’re an 11-year-old girl living in one of the world’s most marginalised communities, you face less access to education than your brother, a greater likelihood of economic and social marginalisation, the prospect of forced marriage, early pregnancy, and increased maternal mortality. Being a young girl in many communities can be the most difficult hand to be dealt.
- 63 million girls between ages 6-15 are out of school and 16 million girls between ages 6-11 never enter one
- Only 34% of girls from the poorest households, living in the poorest countries complete primary school
- In Liberia, a girl is more likely to be married by 18-years-old than to know how to read and 63% of girls between the ages of 15-24 are illiterate.
Educated girls are healthier, have the skills to make choices about their own future and can lift themselves, their community and even their county out of poverty. For instance, a percentage point increase in girls’ education boosts GDP by 0.3 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points. Again, one extra year of education for girls increases their wages by between 10-20%. By educating girls we change the future of entire communities as women reinvest 90% of their income in their families, as opposed to 30-40% for men.
Bridge Liberia significantly improves learning outcomes for girls. Historically, in Liberia the poorest boy reader was scoring higher than the best girl reader. As a result of the Ministry of Education programme in Bridge Liberia’s supported schools, 5th grade girls’ average performance on reading fluency increased by over 27 words per minute. Once lagging by 10 words per minute, girls now outperform boys.
Bridge Liberia designs its programming to improve opportunities for girls in and out of the classroom:
- Bridge Liberia commissions all of its artwork and creative stories in text-books and work-books to ensure equal visibility of male and female characters, and specifically represent female characters in powerful, unconventional roles
- Teachers are trained to call on both boys and girls in the classroom. As fewer girls than boys usually tend to volunteer in class, teachers are trained to practice more cold calling to ensure equal participation.
- Professional development and classroom management techniques focus on encouraging girls to be leaders in and out of the classroom
Gender-sensitive school management
- Female teachers, school leaders and Area Supervisors provide role models within the classroom and community
- Pregnant girls are allowed and encouraged to stay in Bridge Liberia schools; a policy which has now been adopted nationally by the Government
- Young first time mothers are actively encouraged to return to Bridge Liberia supported classrooms by school and community leaders.
- A strict policy against the expulsion of teen mothers from our schools (read Jestinah Barleah’s story in the New York Times)
- A strict policy against the use of corporal punishment —meaning girls become more confident, expressive and engaged in class.
- Girls are given school leadership roles through appointments of Head Girls and Prefects.
- Girls can wear dresses, skirts or trousers depending on school activities.
- All schools have well maintained single-sex sanitation facilities
- Local partnerships with organisations teaching girls about sanitation and sexual health
- Regular child safeguarding training for teachers and school leaders.
- Through its innovative wireless technology, Bridge Liberia engages in systematic gender-responsive monitoring to ensure effective evaluation of the progress of each girl child across indicators like attendance and academic performance
- Attendance is carefully monitored to ensure girls can not drop out from the system unnoticed.
- Parent-teacher associations meetings parents form a network of empowered partners—seeking accountability for their girls’ education