Story at a glance

  • The coronavirus pandemic shut down schools all over the world and many have not reopened.
  • In countries where virtual learning is not possible, a new initiative is reaching girls through radio programming.
  • The nonprofit Global G.L.O.W. is working to expand the existing programs in Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, millions of girls around the world were out of school for reasons ranging from poverty to child marriage and even gender-based violence. The outbreak of COVID-19 sent millions more home, putting an end to out-of-school programs that helped keep many girls safe. 

“There was a moment when we thought things might slow down,” said Gabriella Abrego, a senior program manager at Global G.L.O.W., a nonprofit that partners with programs in 23 countries. “But it was almost the complete opposite, we amped up.”


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Almost immediately, the nonprofit’s partners in 23 countries began to pivot, adapting their curriculum and sending home packets to help keep girls connected and battle isolation amid the ongoing pandemic. 

“When any kind of disaster or break from the norm happens, girls are the first that are affected,” said Abrego. And “when children can’t attend school, girls are usually the most likely not to return.”

Even in the United States, where most schools have gone virtual, Internet access is limited and unreliable in many communities. In other countries, Abrego said the resources their partners have been able to provide are the only education many girls are receiving right now. So when the Child Welfare Society, the nonprofit’s partner in Sierra Leone, was able to reach girls through the radio, Global G.L.O.W. got creative with their programming. 


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“The radio is a very important resource in Sierra Leone, so to have a connection with your radio station is normal,” especially following the ebola crisis, Abrego said. The initiative has been able to directly reach roughly 400 girls and hundreds more listeners not only in Sierra Leone but also Nigeria, with plans to expand their reach to nearly 11,700 girls across 23 countries and about 50 partners.

In Sierra Leone, the initiative originally started a few years ago as a way to teach girls about radio broadcasts and give them a platform to talk about issues that were important to them. When Abrego visited last year, she was inspired by one young woman’s speech to the First Lady of Sierra Leone, “a call of action to listen to girls and make sure that their voices are lifted and their rights are upheld.”

Now, those same airwaves are carrying lifesaving COVID-19 health information as well as vital education to girls in their homes and communities. In Nigeria, they have even reached an Internally Displaced Persons Camp that is home to some of the millions displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Just knowing that everybody is willing to go the extra mile to make sure that girls are safe and have some sense of wellbeing has really been a motivator,” said Abrego.


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Published on Jan 26, 2021