Somalia has one of the world’s lowest primary school enrolment rates at 9%, reflecting a context where the education system is being rebuilt after decades of conflict, recurrent natural disasters, and large-scale displacement.
With over 86% of the population dependent on agriculture and animal herding for a living, access to education is now further impacted by the prolonged drought and resulting hunger crisis which has displaced 1.3 million people. Current estimates suggest that around 400,000 children are at risk of permanently dropping out of school due to the drought.
While both girls and boys have extremely limited access to education, girls are disproportionately affected. For girls, challenges in accessing education are exacerbated by traditional gender norms which result heavy workloads at home and early marriage taking priority over attending school.
AGES: Helping girls to access, and stay, in school
Funded by UKAID/FCDO and USAID, CARE International’s Adolescent Girls’ Education in Somalia (AGES) project is a six-year initiative (2018-2024) aimed at increasing access to education for extremely marginalised girls in Somalia who face multiple barriers to education. These barriers may include displacement, minority identities, language, disability, pastoralist livelihoods, marriage, and motherhood.
girls enrolled in school between 2019 - 2022
target for number of girls reached by 2024
Shifting attitudes at home and in the classroom
To boost girls’ access to quality education, the AGES project uses a dual approach. AGES works with the Ministry of Education to enrol out-of-school girls in courses tailored to their needs. In parallel, AGES works with school-age girls, their teachers, families, and community members to shift social and gender norms affecting school attendance and learning outcomes.
AGES seeks to develop girls’ academic and life skills through activities including:
- Financial literacy and business management skills training
- Providing cash stipends and bursaries to address some of the economic barriers to girls’ education
- Savings groups and connecting girls to banking services
- Access to mentorship to develop girls’ individual and collective agency, and opportunities for planning and leading civic action to address issues affecting their rights
AGES project: Impact
Attitudes at home
- The prioritisation of household chores was identified as a key barrier to marginalised girls’ school attendance at the start of the project. Midway through the project, the proportion of caregivers who believed it was acceptable to keep their daughters out of school so that they could help with chores at home had decreased from 36% to 12%.
I miss school when I'm ill or when my parents ask for my assistance. Over the last two to three years, however, this has changed and improved as my parents have come to understand the consequences of my absences and no longer need my assistance."
AGES student, Kismayo
Overcoming economic barriers to girls’ education
- In a qualitative study conducted by CARE, 90.6% of respondents who received financial support through AGES said it made their daughter’s enrolment more likely.
- 91% said the financial support has improved their daughter’s attendance.
Financial skills training
- Responding to CARE’s qualitative study, girls talked about how financial skills training has had a transformational impact on their ability to engage in business, enabling them to increase profit, expand businesses, and teach their families about financial products.
At first, I was not able to do business and I used to believe that I could not get anywhere, but now I am a businesswoman. I believe I can do business because I learned math. The school helped me not just to learn but to do business as well."
AGES student, Baidoa