ISLAMABAD-National 100-day action program to support girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment launched on Wednesday at Quaid-i-Azam University, supported by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Human Rights, and the World Bank Group.

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ (GLWE) initiative launched today in Islamabad with an evidence for policy-making conference in Islamabad. Sessions focused on challenges and opportunities in eliminating learning poverty and increasing women’s economic empowerment. The initiative highlights statistics that show that 55 per cent of Pakistan’s 22.5 million out-of-school children are girls and only 26 per cent of women are active in the country’s labour force. The 100-day campaign calls for awareness, advocacy and action on a national scale to address this.

Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood led discussions on the need to address ‘Learning Poverty.’ Three in every four children in Pakistan cannot read and understand a simple story by age 10, says a recent report from the World Bank, Ending Learning Poverty: What will it take? It highlights that Learning Poverty in Pakistan is at 75 per cent, which is substantially higher than the average in South Asia of 58 per cent. The report argues there are two underlying factors to this.

First, 27.3 per cent of all children remain out of school, which particularly affects girls, who are more likely to never be enrolled and to drop out faster in early adolescence. Second, 47.5 per cent of children cannot read and comprehend a simple paragraph by age 10, even though they make it to school.

This means that literacy instruction in schools is not adapted to the needs of children, particularly those from illiterate families.

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on women’s participation in the labour force, led by Dr. Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Program.

The session focused on enabling women as a crucial aspect of inclusive growth, and on ways to provide more women with the education, skills, opportunities and environments to become contributing members of the economy.

The ‘Girls Learn, Women Earn’ initiative invites any institution to sign up to be a GLWE champion from December 31, provided they meet the registration criteria, which will be set by an independent panel of advisors. The GLWE campaign began on December 1, 2019 and will continue until March 10, 2020, just after International Women’s Day on March 8.