Girls' Education through the UNdaunted program

One of the greatest obstacles to progress today is the inequity experienced by girls and women, and this is widely observed in sub-Saharan Africa. Adolescent girls are a major force for positive social and economic change and to unlock this potential, investing in them is critical; this includes providing them with the education and knowledge they need to be successful and productive in their future careers.

The UNdaunted program gives Canadians an opportunity to support young women and girls in building better lives for themselves through access to education and contribute to the health, safety and prosperity of their communities, families and the world.

The UNdaunted Program's support to Girls' Education in Somalia

The UNdaunted program in Somalia aims to improve learning outcomes for adolescent girls, including those with disabilities, by increasing access to safe, quality and inclusive education. 

The program is supported by the Government of Canada in Somalia and run by UNICEF as part of the UNdaunted program, that has reached more than 500,000 girls and their communities in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Importance of girls’ education In Somalia

Three out of five children in Somalia are out of school, with decades of conflict having destroyed the education system – infrastructure and services both taking a hit. While this has impacted all children, adolescent girls are particularly impacted and those with a disability even more so. They face many challenges to receiving an education like child marriage, pregnancies and being pulled out of school to help out at home. 

Moreover, girls with physical and mental disabilities face many barriers to inclusion both physical and societal, and hence are often not sent to or accommodated in schools. And in periods of crises and instability, such as the one in Somalia currently, girls with disabilities are often caught in a vicious cycle of violence, social polarization, deteriorating services and deepening poverty.  

Supporting access to education for adolescent girls and those with disabilities can help them be more in control of their future.

Young girl with a physical disability on her bike in front of her school in Puntland, Somalia.
Katra is a student at a school in Somalia supported by UNICEF Canada's UNdaunted program, which provides access to education for girls with disabilities. © UNICEF/Mulugeta Ayene

“I would advise the girls like me who failed to get education not to give up and try hard to study. Education is one way a person with disabilities can develop themselves.”

Katra, 17, supported by the UNdaunted program.

The UNdaunted program's impact on education of adolescent girls

UNdaunted in Somalia uses innovative and sustainable methods to help girls return to school or even go to school for the first time.

  • Through scholarships and cash grants for families 
  • Providing food rations, uniforms and sanitary supplies to school-going children
  • Supporting schools with infrastructure to accommodate girls with disabilities, such as installing ramps and making toilets accessible 
  • By making schools and the education system more responsive to the needs of girls with disabilities
  • By educating communities to reduce the stigma towards children with disabilities 
  • By empowering teachers to provide gender- and disability-sensitive lessons 
  • Encouraging female teachers through capacity building measures to increase the gender balance in schools
Ayan: UNdaunted by being differently-abled

Reach of UNdaunted

in 2021

22,548 girls received learning materials  
33,280 text books distributed 
1,200 students received scholarships 
325 children with disabilities received food rations 
School uniforms
3,543 girls received school uniforms
2,376 girls received a six-month supply of sanitary pads 
Disability friendly toilets with ramps rehabilitated or constructed in 20 schools 
Four girls play in the courtyard in their primary school in Somalia.
Girls at recess in the courtyard of a primary school supported by UNdaunted in Somalia. © UNICEF/UN0635171/Ayene

UNICEF and Government of Canada’s partnership

As part of UNICEF’s UNdaunted program, the Government of Canada and UNICEF partners are improving learning outcomes for girls in Somalia, including girls with disabilities.

UNICEF and the Government of Canada have a long history of partnering to improve the health and well-being of children around the world, with Canada funding projects that address some of the most urgent needs of women and children. 

Canada is a strong advocate and supporter of girls' education and Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy places gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the center of Canada’s international assistance.   

As a G7 leader Canada is a signatory to the Charlevoix declaration which advocates for inclusive, equitable and quality education in achieving empowerment and economic equality for girls and women, making their support of UNdaunted in Somalia significant.