Educating one million girls to tackle poverty

Britain will help up to a million of the poorest girls in the world go to school, the Deputy Prime Minister announced today.

The Girls Education Challenge is a new project that will call on NGOs, charities and the private sector to find better ways of getting girls into school in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia which the UK has identified as a priority, including Bangladesh, South Sudan and Nigeria.

The projects will help provide:

  • 650,000 girls with a full six years of primary education or
  • Up to a million girls with a junior secondary education for three years.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of poverty. Investing in them early on and giving them an education not only radically alters their lives but has a massive knock on effect benefitting their families and communities. Girls who have been to school are likely to do significantly better financially, socially and be far healthier.

“The action we are taking is ambitious and something of which Britain should be enormously proud. It will help to lift hundreds of thousands of girls out of poverty so that they can fulfil their potential.”

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

“Educating girls tackles the root causes of poverty. Research shows that providing girls with an extra year of schooling can increase their wages by up to 20 per cent, while also lowering birth rates, which can have a profound economic impact.

“These initiatives will also have positive impacts on future generations. They will mean girls are more likely to go on to help their sisters and younger girls in the community to follow their example – go to school and widen their choices,  to get married later, for example, and to earn their own income.”

The Girls Education Challenge will be a competitive process that encourages organisations to set up schemes targeting marginalised girls of primary and lower secondary age. Non-government organisations – including businesses and charities – are being asked to put forward ideas to get girls into good quality education and there will be a focus on working with new organisations and partners – to try new approaches where traditional approaches have not been successful.  The British Government will then back the best of these.

In order to receive continued funding, the organisations will have to demonstrate measurable improvements in the quality of education and increased numbers of girls going to school. Only programmes which can demonstrate the most cost-effective ways of working will receive backing.

The programmes will also have to show  that they will get more marginalised girls into school. It is likely that some of the activities which are supported will ensure that facilities at school – for example separate latrines and “safe spaces” for girls – are provided. The types of initiative are those that provide a combination of support to girls and young women: scholarships which not only pay for school fees but ensure girls are able to buy their own uniform, travel safely to school and support them to find work once they leave school.

Girls who are educated are more likely to:

  • marry later – a girl who has attended secondary school is less likely to marry during her adolescent years
  • have fewer children – on average a woman’s fertility rate drops by one birth for every four years of additional schooling
  • get immunisation and other health treatments for themselves and their babies
  • avoid HIV – a study shows girls with secondary education are three times less likely to be HIV positive
  • find employment and earn more – an extra year of schooling sees wages increase 10 to 20 percent

The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will give more details at the UN General Assembly this week.

This new support is in addition to the Coalition Government’s commitment to support 9 million children from developing countries in primary and 2 million in secondary education by 2015.

Teen girl diet could cost NHS millions

Teenage eating habits are poor, with teenage girls worse, risking long-term effects on their health according to new Department of Health data published today.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which was led by the National Centre for Social Research and MRC Human Nutrition Research, found that teenage girls are only eating half their recommended portions of fruit and veg.  And just 56 per cent of teenage girls are getting enough iron in their diet. This could lead to them becoming ill far more often, and much more likely to be hit by diseases such as cancer and hear disease – which could mean the NHS being put under further strain.

While both teenage boys and girls are failing to get their recommended 5-a-day of fruit and veg, girls eat on average half a portion less each day than boys. The findings build on previous surveys and highlight that poor eating habits risk storing up a number of potential problems for later life, such as heart disease and some cancers.

However, the survey did find younger children’s eating habits are improving with parents taking positive steps to give their kids a healthier diet with fewer sweets, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and also switching them to high-fibre cereals.

Other key findings from the survey include:

• only a third of adults are getting their 5-a-day;
• intake of saturated fat and sugar are still too high;
• more adults are switching from whole milk towards lower fat versions; and
• trans-fats intake is now significantly below recommended levels.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“It is really important that teenagers eat a balanced diet – including eating five portions of fruit and veg a day. Eating well and being active can help prevent serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease later in life.

“For tips on what makes up your 5-a-day and how to be more active, visit the Change4Life website.”

Health Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“Over the summer, our Change4Life campaign will encourage families to take simple steps, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.

“We want people to know that they can change what they do and make a difference to their health. Over the last ten years, we have not seen the improvements we should have. That is why the Government is using new ways to achieve better results including bringing together key partners in charity and businesses to help people to make healthier choices. This will help us to move further and faster on issues like obesity.”

Dr Alison Lennox, one of the nutrition experts involved with NDNS said:

”We are seeing small but encouraging signs of healthy eating in the UK – more fruit and vegetables and less soft drinks and confectionery, especially by children – but we have a long way to go.  Our saturated fat intakes are still too high.”