English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE): Empowering girls to change their world
British Council, Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC), Digital Empowerment Foundation, Naandi Foundation, Sisters for Sisters' Education, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID)
Central and Southern Asia
Adolescents, Community, Clubs, Disadvantaged socio-economic contexts, Youth participation
Advocacy and coalition-building, Non-formal education and extracurricular contexts, Role models and mentoring
Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan
Around the world, the ability to effectively use new information and communication technologies (ICTs) is essential for education, work, networking and to build the skills, knowledge and expertise needed to participate fully in the 21st century. However, globally girls and women, particularly those in rural contexts, have less access to and training on how to use ICTs. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 32 million fewer women than men have access to the internet. In South Asia, 25 million fewer women have online access, and in the Middle East and North Africa, 18 million according to a World Bank report.
Evidence suggests that providing adolescent girls with opportunities to develop digital literacy skills can have a direct impact on their self-confidence and personal agency. It can also expose them to new ideas, connect them with others to reduce isolation and form networks for further socially transformative action. Digital skills development and higher education levels can lead to newer and more varied employment opportunities for girls. Studying English can support girls’ learning and use of digital technologies. It also boosts their agency toward social change and equips them to challenge discriminatory gender norms and improve their socioeconomic development according to a British Council report.
Originally launched in 2012 in partnership with Building Resources Across Communities (BRAC) Bangladesh, as English and Information Technology (IT) for Adolescents (EITA), the project has now further developed into English and Digital for Girls’ Education (EDGE) and spans across three countries.
Working with partners, EDGE focuses on improving and building English, ICT and social skills among adolescent girls aged between 14 to 19 in Bangladesh, India and Nepal. EDGE focuses on girls who are currently out-of-school or living in communities that are socio-economically marginalized. The programme’s goal is to support adolescent girls from marginalized communities to have a higher quality of life by making informed and independent life choices.
EDGE trains peer group leaders to facilitate after-school clubs for girls within their communities. In these clubs, using a British Council designed innovative and symbiotic mix of materials which impart digital skills through English and English through digital modes, the girls enhance their English proficiency and learn digital and other skills such as critical thinking and problem solving as well as discuss social issues. Peer-led clubs invite voluntary participation in a safe environment where girls can freely express themselves and learn at their own pace. A peer-led approach means that girls are able to share and learn from each other while also building leadership skills from peer leaders, who additionally act as informal role models. There is also engagement at community level showcasing the achievements of the girls with parents and community leaders. ICT fairs offer another opportunity for EDGE girls to demonstrate their learning, often to crowds of more than 1,000 people. The resulting skills improvement in these key areas (English and Digital) holds significant value in the communities, and engenders a marked increase in confidence of the girls, which lies at the heart of the programme’s empowerment objectives.
The British Council is delivering the project to adolescent girls in after-school, non-formal, safe spaces in their communities across South Asia, partnering with BRAC in Bangladesh; the Naandi Foundation and the Digital Empowerment Foundation, local organizations in India; and as a component of the wider DFID-funded Girls' Education Challenge project, Sisters for Sisters' Education in Nepal. A pilot project is also planned for Pakistan in 2020.
More than 14,000 girls have benefitted from EDGE clubs. A recent impact study showed that girls learned about their own personal agency and used it to transform their own lives. Because of these new skills, girls were able to return to school, delay early marriage or seek paid employment.
Around 1,200 trained peer leaders have supported over 530 clubs within their communities, reaching more than 12,990 marginalized girls throughout Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Over 17,000 parents, community leaders and employers have attended ICT fairs in communities in Bangladesh and Nepal.
210 hours of materials have been developed and have provided access to English and digital skills as well as raised awareness of social issues.
A recent celebration of EDGE in Bangladesh held for International Women’s Day engaged over 38,000 people on Facebook, 33,700 through a syndicated Facebook and Twitter campaign with the British High Commission and produced media coverage in 12 print and two online newspapers.
Overall, the programme focuses on enhancing girls’ English proficiency, digital skills and awareness of social issues. As a result, girls are able to make more informed and independent life choices in order to contribute more fully to their family, the economy and society. In addition, the programme aims to improve the leadership skills of a smaller group of peer leaders drawn from the adolescent girls’ respective communities.
Blunch, N.H. and Das, M.B. 2014. Changing norms about gender inequality in education: Evidence from Bangladesh. Discussion Paper Series No. 8365. Bonn, Germany: Institute for the Study of Labor.
Broadband Commission Working Group on Broadband and Gender. 2013. Doubling digital opportunities: Enhancing the inclusion of women and girls in the information society. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and Paris: UNESCO.
Manion, C. 2017. Gender and the Teaching of English and Digital Literacies. London: The British Council.
Plan International. 2010. Because I am a Girl: The State of the World’s Girls 2010: Digital and urban frontiers: Girls in a changing landscape. Surrey, UK: Plan International.
Sperling, G. and Winthrop, R. 2016. What works in girls’ education? Evidence for the world’s best investment. Washington, DC: Brookings Institute.