The Bixby Center was one of the founders of the Centre for Girls Education (CGE) in Northern Nigeria. The Centre is now a joint program of the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and the Population & Reproductive Health Initiative at Ahmadu Bello University. Since 2008, the Centre for Girls Education (CGE) has worked to delay early marriage and reduce related maternal health outcomes in rural communities in northern Nigeria by addressing barriers to girls’ education, particularly in increasing demand for, access to, and retention in secondary schooling. More information can be found at centreforgirlseducation.org.
CGE’s core strategies evolved over 8 years of careful ethnographic study and community-based research with girls, their parents, community members, religious leaders, and other key stakeholders. After much participatory work with the community, CGE chose to focus on two areas where it believed would have the strongest impact in improving maternal and child health outcomes: literacy and gender equality in education.
CGE is currently pioneering the use of intensive mentor-led “safe space” girls groups for adolescent girls to acquire the basic academic competencies (including iteracy and numeracy) and critical life skills they would need to succeed in school and beyond. The life-skills training in particular help the girls develop the knowledge (reproductive health, gender, rights) and behavioral (communication, critical thinking, problem solving, leadership) skills needed to enhance their agency and voice. Through peer group solidarity and effective mentoring, a safe environment is fostered in which girls can reflect on their lives and the kind of life to which they aspire, and then using the life skills they have acquired, to negotiate for their self-defined strategic life choices related to education, marriage, and livelihood. In short, the groups enhance participants’ potential for living the lives they want.
CGE is currently conducting rigorous operations research on the effectiveness of such formal and informal educational strategies in improving maternal and child health outcomes in the region.
Daniel Perlman, Director of the Centre for Girls Education, describes the Centre’s research on early marriage at the UC Symposium on Gender Equity and Global Reproductive Health in San Diego (March 19-21, 2014).
- Decision-making Leading to Early Marriage in Northern Nigeria
- Delaying Age of Marriage through Girl-Child Education in Northern Nigeria
The MacArthur Foundation, a sponsor of the Transitions project, features and highlights the Centre for Girls Education.