EDGE: An educational program pushing gender and class biases to the limit

The development paradigm across the world has been emphasizing the issue of women’s integration and women’s empowerment ever since the “Gender in Development” approach was established and this trend has grown even more. included when the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) entered into force. The emancipation and empowerment of women have become the most important prerequisite for ensuring sustainable development. However, despite this holistic approach, many girls, adolescents and women remain on the periphery of human development. When we aim our lens at Bangladesh, there is no exception. Although Bangladesh is a success story in educating girls, the loophole remains in the scenario where these girls are not given the opportunity to learn the life skills that are most valued in any economic sector. to achieve high professional and managerial positions and secure a secure life for themselves in society. This is due to the lack of opportunities to learn English skills, digital skills and social skills.

The British Council has found this void in the current curriculum of the education system in Bangladesh, which also takes into account that to overcome this situation, we need to facilitate a curriculum only for girls.

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This is how the EDGE program was launched in 2012 to improve girls’ education by providing them with English, social and digital skills. The exceptional thing about this program is that it has an extensive safeguard protocol to provide a safety net for the girls who are enrolled in the program. Each club made up of participants from different parts of Bangladesh has focal points who intervene by being aware of or sensing anything unpleasant in the way of these girls.

Since 2012, the EDGE program has created 364 after-school clubs and engaged 799 peer group leaders and 8,973 club members. These clubs are the most integral part of the program, as the fundamental principle of the project is to tackle problems in the participatory approach with bottom-up direction. The peer group leaders and club members are girls from underprivileged marginalized communities from different parts of the country. The pilot phase, which was launched in September 2021, was conducted in Bagerhat, Gazipur, Manikganj, Dhaka districts. Through the partnership with Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC), the British Council is implementing the project through implementing partner Spreeha Foundation Bangladesh and Dnet.

Due to the pandemic, the pilot phase was carried out through virtual platforms, which include Facebook and other low-tech solutions. Teenage girls from these regions were admitted to the program with a view to acquiring the knowledge that would build their capacities, facilitate career guidance, mentoring, language skills development, digital navigation skills and most importantly, how to protect themselves. many social practices. that occur against girls; for example – early marriage, bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, etc. These lessons are primarily disseminated among peer leaders through elaborate training and later disseminated among club members by peer group leaders. This model was specially developed to ensure sustainability.

If we examine the work of the economists and development specialists, Amartya Sen and Nancy Fraser, we will see how they have emphasized capacity development in their approach to capacity development. According to them, development would only take place if people’s vulnerability and marginalization could be tackled through capacity building. It would make people confident in themselves and fulfill their life purpose.

This ideology is perfectly aligned with the driving spirit of EDGE. He wants to give girls confidence in themselves and their own abilities. This would be the first step on the development ladder. Therefore, the community learning system was a fundamental part of the process.

The program participant has come a long way. Whether it’s helping parents register for the COVID vaccine through the website or preventing a peer from marrying in an early marriage by advising parents against early marriage; these girls have done it all.

They have a longer way to go; given the pandemic situation in Bangladesh, which has seen a rapid increase in school dropouts and early marriages. The EDGE program intends to stop this upward trend by raising awareness among them and their families. The concern of this project also includes parents and aims to raise awareness among parents through their children. After the successful completion of the pilot phase, the EDGE face-to-face will begin its journey very soon.

The goal of this project is to push back and break down gender and class biases and ensure that girls can fulfill their potential and be their own people. Today’s girls deserve every bit of that effort.

The EDGE Project is here to push the boundaries for them and give them the opportunities these girls rightly deserve.