International Women’s Day: helping girls to fulfil their potential

Girls' education, International Women's Day

The statistics are damning and depressing. Half a billion women still cannot read and 62 million girls around the world are not in primary or secondary school.

As the latest United Nations data shows…

But girls and women in countries across the globe are working tirelessly to change that – backed by millions of men who are also committed to ensuring equal gender rights and opportunities.

March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is “Planet 50-50 by 2030”. That means ensuring equality in education, economic opportunity and human rights as laid out in the 15-year Sustainable Development Goals agreed by world leaders.

Here we’ll bring you the best of education-related #IWD events, social media shares and pictures. Last year we ran a quiz about International Women’s Day – you can still test your knowledge here and learn more about the day and why girls are still struggling to get into school.


Theirworld – the campaigning charity behind A World at School – is challenging embedded values that hold girls back by launching the #RewritingTheCode campaign.

Kenyan schoolgirl in Kibera with #RewritingTheCode poster Picture: Theirworld/Adriane Ohanesian

Celebrities, business leaders, influencers, campaigners and youth from all over the world are supporting the #RewritingTheCode campaign with one simple social action.

Find out how you can add your voice to the #RewritingTheCode campaign.

Here is Laura Carmichael – star of the hit British TV series Downtown Abbey – tweeting her support.

Bonnie Wright, best known for playing Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter film series, has a message for girls too.

And here’s American film-maker Steve Nguyen, who made the inspiring RISE #UpForSchool video for A World at School last year.


Technology can empower girls – so Theirworld is giving them the chance to learn vital technology skills in a safe space through an innovative pilot project.

Its Code Clubs will benefit between 600 and 700 females aged five to 24 in Kenya, Uganda and Senegal. The project will expand to three more countries later this year.

Students at the first Theirworld Code Club in Kibera, Kenya Picture: Theirworld/Adriane Ohanesian

Code Clubs are low-cost, sustainable and scaleable safe spaces where girls can build, learn and create through technology, creativity and coding. Learn more about them here.

Find out how the Code Clubs were launched at a Facebook event in London to mark International Women’s Day.


American TV host Oprah Winfey and many other celebrities have written an open letter on the eve of International Women’s Day, urging world leaders to put girls at the heart of anti-poverty efforts.

Oprah at the launch of her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in 2014

As a new report by campaigning and advocacy organisation ONE titled Poverty is Sexist revealed Niger is the toughest country to be a girl, she asked the international community to improve girls’ and women’s access to education, justice and technology and help them fight HIV and malnutrition.

Among others who signed were boxing legend Muhammad Ali singers Elton John and Bono and film stars Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron and Robert Redford.


Want to know what other events are being held to mark this special day? The official International Women’s Day website has the answer.


“In South Sudan, many parents say ‘you should get married – don’t waste time at school.’ I wanted to teach them that having an education meant independence and strength.”

Dimanche, a World Food Programme Field Monitoring Assistant, tells about her work with women traumatised by the conflict.

Click on the link above to read more about how she is helping to build a generation of educated women.


Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld, is one of 16 women asked by Marie Claire magazine why we should be shouting about #IWD.

Talking about the launch of Code Clubs in Africa, Sarah says: “It’s vital that we acknowledge and change the embedded values that hold girls back whether in the heart of the UK or the most remote part of Africa or the Syrian refugee camps.”

Read what the 16 women have to say here.


The famous Google Doodle that appears on the search page is focused on International Women’s Day for March 8.

Education campaigner Malala Yousafzai delivers part of the last line of the film, which is: “One day we will see every girl in school.”


We mustn’t forget that it’s not just about getting girls into school. It’s also about making sure they stay there by providing them the facilities they need – including safe, separate toilets and washing facilities.

Alice Namonje, 38, a teacher at Lubunda primary school in Zambia says: “Girls should not stay at home because of menstruating. We are breaking the silence, because menstruation is natural.”


The United Nations agency UNESCO has unveiled a new prize for girls’ and women’s education to mark International Women’s Day.

Suppported by the Chinese government, the prize will award $50,000 each to two winning individuals, groups or organisations who make execptional contributions to educating females.

Learn more about the prize here.


#SheIsInspiration is the hashtag being used to encourage people to share their thoughts on which females are their role models.


This is one of our favourite videos today – about the power of literacy to change people’s lives.

It pays tribute to many female writers, including Harry Potter author JK Rowling and Mariama Ba, the Senagalese femanist who highlighted gender inequality in her work.

The video asks people to sign the Project Literacy petition, which will be presented to the United Nations on International Literacy Day in September. Find out more here.


And here’s another really powerful video released for International Women’s Day – this time produced by Plan International and featuring a girls’ choir in Uganda who sing about the empowerment which education gives to females.

Girl Power was also written by the singers, who are part of a 100-member girls’ club at the secondary school. They work together to support each other through school and also spread the message of girls’ education.


Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE launched a global campaign on International Women’s Day – called #LevelTheLaw – which urges world leaders to change discriminatory laws that hold girls and women back.

Working with a range of partners on specific laws that need to be changed, the immediate priorities are:

  • Pakistan, where new laws to criminalise honour killings are on the brink of being passed
  • Tanzania, where marriage for girls is legal at age 15 with parental consent
  • Iraq, where rape against the Yazidi people needs to be considered a war crime and brought to the International Criminal Court

Learn more about the campaign here.


And here’s something to remind us exactly why every girl in the world deserves a quality education.

Around the world, 65 million girls are not in school. #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2016
Posted by HuffPost Women on Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The photos were published by Huffington Post on #IWD to celebrate the day and give us a glimpse into the lives of girls across the globe.

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