Education Matters, Now More Than Ever

If a girl finishes education, she is much more likely to stay healthy and happy, make a decent income, be engaged in community life and raise healthy and educated children. In Ethiopia school dropout rates are high among girls, especially in rural areas.

This project aims to ensure that adolescent girls attend and complete primary and secondary education. Building on the success of two projects, Education Matters (2015-2017) and Education Matters More (2019-2020), which have directly reached and changed the lives of over 6.000 girls and their communities, ICDI and Ethiopian partners Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Hiwot Ethiopia will join forces once more to empower girls and to increase their agency, through youth-led research and inclusive sports activities.

While efforts in 10 schools will be continued and strengthened, activities will be expanded to 10 new schools, to reach even more girls, boys and communities. By ensuring a supportive environment, involving the community and making school and sports facilities more girl-friendly, we will remove the obstacles that push girls out of school and thus contribute to a brighter future for vulnerable girls and young people in general.

The Context

In Ethiopia, many adolescent girls do not finish their education. Although enrolment rates for girls in both primary and secondary education have increased in the past years, the rate of girls that complete primary school, attend secondary school and continue to college are still low: respectively 53%, 25% and 10% (UNICEF 2018).

School dropout is caused by issues like teen pregnancy, gender-based violence or harassment in and on the way to school, lack of hygienic facilities for girls, and cultural norms that value girls’ education less. Underlying causes include unbalanced power relations and beliefs in society on the role of men and women, lack of information on sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), and poverty. High rates of child marriage – officially not allowed – sustain the cycle of early childbearing, low educational attainment, poor health and poverty. School-related factors are also at play, such as a lack of motivated and gender-sensitive teachers and girl-friendly school environments, such as separated toilets which girls can use during menstruation. Targeted interventions to support girls and to promote gender equality in education remain rare.

The challenges of girls’ education are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey by Hiwot, ESD and the Malala Fund, lockdowns and school closures forced girls out of school, into child marriage and caused increased rates of gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices. Limited access to distance learning initiatives are obstacles for girls to continue their studies at home. Fears of COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the pandemic make returning to school uncertain for many girls.

Our Solution

Education Matters, Now More Than Ever aims to tackle the problem of school drop out of girls in rural areas in Ethiopia and keep them in school by identifying and removing barriers that keep them from attending school or causing them to drop out, through meaningful participation of girls and boys and through strong cooperation between schools, government and communities.

Overall Objective:

To ensure that girls in the target areas attend and complete primary and secondary education


Strategy 1. EMPOWERING GIRLS through youth-led research and sports
Removing obstacles for girls to go to and stay in school on the individual level. Strengthening girls and boys and investing in their knowledge, skills and confidence to promote gender equality.

Strategy 2. GIRL-FRIENDLY SCHOOLS – improving access to education for girls
Removing obstacles girls to go to and stay in school on the level of the school. Creating more girl-friendly school environments, that are accessible and safe for girls.

Strategy 3. SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY – enabling and encouraging girls’ education 
Removing obstacles on the level of the community, mobilizing parents and other community members and creating an environment that enables and encourages girls to attend and stay in school.

Strategy 4. IMPACT – evaluation and scalability
Providing policy makers with relevant data and recommendations for sustaining and scaling up the approach.


  • Action-oriented youth-led research: trained staff will train and support girls and boys in conducting their own research, which will focus on overcoming the causes of girls’ school dropout and the barriers to education.
  • Sanitary pad production, SRHR and WASH training for girls and boys by trained girls club leaders
  • Economic support and training to disadvantaged girls and/or households in order to minimize school dropout caused by economic problems.
  • Inclusive sports activities: shifting gender norms, attitudes and practices by increasing girls’ self-confidence, encouraging them to express their views, and providing them with role models/mentors. If girls play football or volleyball, which is currently not socially accepted in the project target area, it challenges existing gender stereotypes in the community. 
  • Engaging boys and men to promote gender equality and to encourage and enable boys and men to take responsibility for their behavior and their social and family roles and to contribute to changing social norms and power dynamics.
  • Child Safeguarding: creating safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all through assessing and improving child safeguarding and protection policies in schools.
  • Capacity building of teachers, club coordinators and/or sports coaches on SRHR and child safeguarding.
  • Construction and/or upgrading of school facilities (for example a girls club, a sports facility or sanitary pad changing rooms) to make schools more girl-friendly.
  • Youth-led mini projects to improve school environment: following their research, boys and girls will come up with solutions and action plans to prevent adolescent girls dropping out of school and, based on these, will implement their own “mini projects” to further improve the school environment or remove other obstacles for girls.
  • Two steering committees and 20 task forces (one per village) will be created or strengthened that will play an important role in the monitoring, coordination and day to day operations of the project
  • Training and awareness raising of parents, mothers group facilitators and community representatives on SRHR and girls’ education to change attitudes and practices that cause school dropout and to engage them in actively promoting girls’ education and SRHR.
  • Community exposure and awareness raising events to enlighten communities on the importance of educating girls and the benefits to the community as a whole, gradually challenging and changing conservative social norms and stereotypes.
  • Baseline kick-off and end-line event with key stakeholders and signatories to share the results of the projects and the impact study.  
  • A rigorous impact evaluation and scalability study will be conducted to provide policy makers with relevant data and recommendations under the coordination of ICDI. 

Expected impact

The project aims to reach:

Primary target group:

9.460 girls and boys (12-18 years, with a special focus on girls) will actively participate in sports, youth-led research and girls’ club activities on a regular basis.

7.400 girls and boys (12-18 years) in schools will benefit from the youth-led projects and improved school facilities.

20 schools (18 primary and 2 secondary) will benefit from the project. These include 10 schools from the Education Matters More project and 10 new schools.

Secondary target group:

126 people will be trained girls’ education, SRHR and related topics, including teachers, school management, sport coaches, parents, mother groups facilitators and community representatives.

2 local organizations will be strengthened through capacity building on child safeguarding and child-led research.

1.600 stakeholders (government office staff, community members and others) will be reached indirectly through sports events and other awareness raising activities.

Facts and figures


Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
Hiwot Ethiopia


Dioraphte and other donors

Project Manager