The Universal Declaration of Human Rights dictates the collective right to education. However, girls and women in South Asian countries, particularly in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, have less access to education and digital skills than boys and men. This issue results in a gender-based digital divide, leading to future skills imbalance and unequal life chances for women.
The problem is recognised clearly in the Sustainable Development Goals, most prominently through
- Goal 5 which aims to ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’ and
- Goal 4 highlighting the need to ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’.
The programme aims to contribute to the achievement of these global goals by establishing a network of non-formal, community-based clubs for girls, which are effective in reducing barriers, developing the girls’ skills and increasing educational, social and economic opportunity. In particular, English has been shown to be an increasingly necessary skill for young people in South Asia and across the world to access employment and higher-level educational opportunities. (Azam et al., 2013; Chakraborty and Bakshi, 2016; Euromonitor International (2010))
In 2012, Bangladesh initiated a successful programme English and ICT for Adolescent Girls (EITA) with BRAC (Bangladesh Adolescent Development Programme). With the success of the programme in Bangladesh wherein the learners demonstrated an 100% improved confidence in English and digital skills, the programme was further developed into English and Digital for Girls' Education (EDGE) and piloted in India and Nepal in 2015.
The British Council sees issues of equality and diversity as a crucial part of our work in cultural relations. We have adopted a strategy of embedding them in everything we do, through our equality, diversity and inclusion policy.
We recognise empowerment as addressing the fundamental rights of women and girls. But we also believe that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls has benefits for wider society. Reducing gender gaps in economic life, in leadership and decision making, in education and in health, improves the lives of men and boys as well as women and girls.