Children are naturally hungry to learn, but face daunting barriers to attending school, especially girls. CARE works to address the roots of those impediments as a way to increase learning opportunities.

Among those barriers are hunger, lower social status, chores, early marriage, school safety and sanitation.

CARE implements gender-synchronized approaches: projects may begin with identifying and addressing the unique barriers that keep girls out of school, while at the same time working with boys and men to help identify and address such barriers. Other projects may engage both girls and boys from inception, to build equitable environments through which all students can learn, thrive and grow.


Through CARE’s work in Cambodia, Tanzania, and Mali, household and community discussions, supported by CARE’s research studies, identified that girls can have six times higher domestic workloads than boys their same age. As a result, girls often miss class and/or arrive late to school, missing critical learning hours. Furthermore, they frequently spend daylight hours doing household chores or labor for wages, preventing them from studying while it is light outside (for many, sunlight is the only source of light available for studying and work. Although workload distribution is deeply linked to girls’ overall lower social status in their communities, household and community-level discussions are making a difference.

Early Marriage:

Girls are entering into early marriages at an alarming rate.  They are often married early to alleviate their family’s financial burden, far before they are ready for marriage physically and mentally.

Lower Social Status:

Because girls generally have a lower social status than their brothers, their education is valued less.  When resources are scarce, and there are both real and opportunity costs associated with going to school, many families opt to educate their boys over their girls.  Additionally, classroom teachers, materials, and methodologies are often skewed to favor boys.

School Safety:

School safety remains a critical barrier for girls to attend school.  If the journey to school and the school environment are not safe, parents will not enroll their daughters, and girls will not attend.


Having access to basic clean water and a decent toilet saves children's lives, gives women an advantage in earning money and ensures a good food supply. Improved sanitation can keep a girl in school by making facilities available to her when she reaches puberty.


Malnutrition affects every stage of life and has severe consequences that can impact generations. Children born to malnourished mothers are at increased risk for disease and death. Chronically malnourished children face lifelong consequences in reduced mental capacity, lower retention in school and reduced lifetime earnings.


Education can be a life-saving resource that reestablishes a vulnerable child’s sense of normalcy and builds self-esteem and hope for the future. Many experts consider education an essential humanitarian response to complex emergencies, closely following food, water and shelter.

Consider these facts:

  • Education empowers women: one additional school year can increase a woman’s earnings by 10% to 20%.

  • No education for girls=economic loss: some countries lose more than US$1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to the same level as boys.

  • Education increases awareness of rights: educated women are more likely to have decent working conditions, delay childbearing, resist violence, denounce injustice and participate in political processes.

  •  Over the past four decades, the global increase in women’s education has prevented more than 4 million child deaths.

  • In sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 1.8 million children’s lives could have been saved in 2008 if all their mothers had at least secondary education.

  • Women with secondary education are more likely to know how to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, an infection that contributed to 230,000 fatalities in 2011 alone.

  • Some 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty – reducing the global rate by 12% - if all students in low-income countries acquired basic reading skills.

  • Getting all children into basic education, while raising learning standards, could boost growth by 2% annually in low-income countries.

  • Education improves long term environmental stability, by promoting concern, awareness and new attitudes.

  • Environmental skills education leads to environmental sustainability: understanding local environments, designing greener technologies, changing consumption and production patterns and coping better with the impacts of economic and natural shocks are all skills essential to environmental sustainability.

CARE knows that investing in the needs and rights of all children, supporting their access to quality education, healthcare opportunities for safe paid work and freedom from abuse is critical to overcoming poverty.


Defeat Poverty

Global barriers to girls education