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Improving the Lives of Marginalized Youth: Key Takeaways from FHI360’s ‘Fostering Systemic Change for Adolescent Girls’ Education’ Event

October 25, 2021

Girls' Education

Millions of girls around the world struggle to complete their education. Cultural bias, gender discrimination and safety concerns discourage girls from learning, and the pressure to drop out hits them from many angles – the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating the issue. So, how do we improve the lives of marginalized youth, and foster systemic change for girls’ education? 

Room to Read recently participated in an online roundtable – led by FHI360 -- with CAMFED and leaders from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) to discuss exactly that. This virtual event was the first in a series to provide a platform to explore ways to make adolescent girls' education equitable and accessible. Participants focused on how sustainable partnerships maximize global efforts to build back better in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; how supporting systemic change leads to girls having the ability to stay in school; and analyzed the importance of an inclusive education.  

Below we share three big takeaways from the event.


For Sally Gear, Head of Profession, Education at FCDO, it’s important to have ambitious goals. By investing in programming with adolescent girls, FDCO has its sights on new targets -- ensuring 40 million more girls are in school and 20 million more girls are reading by age 10 in lower to middle income countries.

“Ambitious targets need ambitious partners. Together we can advocate for and support global education, particularly for girls, to change lives, communities, and the prospects of nations.” 

Which brings us to the second takeaway:


LeAnna Marr, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID said there is always a need for more partnerships and collaborations.  

We know we are more effective when we work together. We are moving from the concept that donor coordination is just information sharing – but a true partnership where we are doing joint design, where we are co-financing activities, where we are sharing research and lessons learned – in every aspect we need to be partnering.


For Dr. Geetha Murali, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Room to Read, it’s about continuing to invest in and practice what works that leads to true systemic change. 

We have known for a long time that girls need access to life skills development, high-quality learning materials, trained teachers, mentors and role models, and family and community support. And they need access to essential information on topics that directly impact their choices – sexual and reproductive health, financial education, and climate justice.” 

Human connectivity is essential to continue to support and encourage girls to overcome the everyday challenges that the inherently face in their communities. These human connections foster resilience as girls continue their studies and learn to address their own well-being even while situated within sometimes dire circumstances. As an individual girl facing unexpected and overwhelming situation where she may be isolated knowing that her mentor believes in her future and cares about her success in the long-term can serve as a lifeline and help her see beyond the immediate struggles she faces or help her navigate her way through them. 

You can watch the entire virtual roundtable here:

Fostering Systemic Change for Adolescent Girls' Education: A Roundtable with FCDO and USAID