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Room to Read benefiting girls in Southern Italy

November 08, 2022

Skill building Content and curriculum Italy

In September, Room to Read implemented our first ever Girls’ Education Program in Naples and Palermo. The project, which will equip girls with the skills and tools they need to support higher levels of education, employability and improved life outcomes, benefits girls aged 14–19 with materials focused on critical life skills, in addition to digital literacy, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.    

Why Southern Italy? 

Although Italy is one of the wealthiest countries in the world by GDP, wealth and opportunity are not distributed equally. Room to Read conducted a feasibility study and found that of the 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, Italy ranks fourth for the highest female unemployment rate.    

Room to Read also found that in Italy girls are less prepared to look for work — this is especially prevalent in Southern Italy, where in 2018 only 25 percent of women had paid employment. Additionally, Southern Italy has on average higher dropout rates for girls and higher unemployment for women. In regions like Calabria, Apulia and Sicily, for example, fewer than 50 percent of girls complete high school.   


The Project 

Our feasibility study showed that graphic novels are an extremely popular form of media in Italy — especially among this age group. With that in mind, we are developing graphic novels that will help guide and instill educational lessons while engaging and entertaining students. Additionally, we have designed curriculum focused on the critical skills needed to support education and employment.  

The project consists of these three main components: 

  1. Developing local storybooks: Working with a local publisher and local writers, illustrators and designers, Room to Read will create a total of four graphic novels and one photo novel for adolescent girls, two of which are already published. The books will be distributed in schools and will be available in bookstores around the country in 2023.  

  2. Support for girls in schools: Room to Read is collaborating with local partners to create and implement a school-based curriculum for girls in vocational programs in Naples and Palermo. The program will consist of lessons focused on digital literacy, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.   

  3. Bringing together experts: Room to Read will convene an annual symposium, bringing together experts from local and national government, education and civil society to discuss gender equality in education and identify new innovations to promote employability for young women.    




Italy Symposium  

Room to Read recently hosted a two-day conference in Rome on October 14 and 15 in honor of launching our Girls’ Education Program in Southern Italy. The symposium, titled “Skills for Life,” focused on the gender gap in education and employment and featured speakers from the European Parliament, Ministry of Education, research institutions, academia, school administration, as well as Room to Read’s Vice President of Gender Equality and Girls’ Education, Lucina Di Meco, and many more. 

Together with our partner organizations — Fondazione Mondo Digitale, Fondazione per l’Educazione Finanziaria e al Risparmio (FeDUF), Consorzio Arca, L’Altra Napoli and Editrice Il Castoro — our team presented how we will contribute to the empowerment of girls, in Southern Italy in particular. The conference also featured a panel discussion with the teachers and students participating in Room to Read’s new Girls’ Education Program in Palermo and Naples, discussing the program and their experiences with life skills education.