In November 2021 around 900 adolescent girls in South Punjab from two Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA) projects will start attending weekly EDGE clubs, safe spaces in their community where they join their friends to improve their English proficiency, digital skills and their awareness of social issues. These girls, aged between 13 and 19, are from remote or marginalised communities and have either dropped out of school or are at risk of dropping out and are being given the opportunity to continue with their education. 75 Peer Group Leaders (PGLs), drawn from the same communities as girls, and within the same age range, have been trained to facilitate the clubs.  The British Council together with ITA are setting up 60 clubs, 30 in Muzaffargarh and 30 in Bahawalpur.

The purpose of this programme is to improve the life prospects of adolescent girls in socio-economically marginalised communities. It focuses on enhancing participants’ English language and digital literacy. It also provides an opportunity for the girls to discuss social issues, building up their social awareness. As a result, they will be better able to make more informed and independent life choices, as is their right, in order to contribute more fully to the family, economy and society. In addition, the PGLs improve their leadership skills as they are trained and mentored in facilitating the clubs.

During recent PGL training the British Council team observed the eagerness with which the girls learnt and practiced the skills they need to facilitate EDGE activities with their friends. At the ITA Girls Education and Enterprise Alliance event two PGLs from Bahawalpur, who had just completed their training, described how they had impressed their families after only five days by using some simple English at home. One PGL who had never opened a laptop before was able to use and save Word documents and search using Google. They spoke confidently and enthusiastically at the event, exited by their new abilities.  Data from last year’s EDGE pilot supports the enthusiasm the programme generates, as we recorded 88% attendance from the PGLs and 92% attendance from the girls.

How does it work?

EDGE clubs, held in community centres, schools or even family homes, meet once or twice a week for a total of three hours. The British Council provides specially created materials, including course books, flash cards and videos, and laptops. In each club, there are at least two PGLs. ITA coordinators support PGLs as mentors or coaches but do not participate in the club activities. The girls develop English communication skills and digital skills, working through the activities together as the PGLs provide input and guidance. The girls learn simple English, basic digital literacy (in English) and internet usage including social media and online safety. In the social awareness section, the girls watch videos which touch on context relevant issues such as gender inequality, health and education and then discuss these together.

EDGE in South Asia

EDGE has been running for several years across British Council globally and operates in Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Afghanistan in South Asia. British Council and ITA have upscaled the successful pilot, delivered in South Punjab in 2020 and are also looking for opportunities to expand to other parts of Pakistan.