13th annual conference

This year, our annual conference took place on November 12th at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. Of the approximately 160 guests who attended, there were students from Collège Sainte-Anne, Collège Reine-Marie and Beaconsfield High School, as well as many of our partners.

Before the conference, two students, Charlie Twigg and Laura Massi, recent graduates of Collège Saint-Anne, showed their innovative project that they and six other students had set up in Nepal to combat chronic illiteracy. These secondary 5 students created an education centre, complete with library, computers and the RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning), which would provide a wealth of educational material to the Nepalese students.

Our president, Wanda Bedard, described our Mobile Learning Lab’s remarkable journey from an idea to its inception. In 2013, during a trip to Sierra Leone, Wanda witnessed firsthand that, for children living in remote rural communities where over-crowded classes have few educational materials and whose teachers are often lacking in training, a quality education is out of reach. To bridge the gap, the Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) was born: a tool that provides students offline access to a wide range of open source learning tools. Remarkably, it is a tool that can be used by the students themselves without direction from teachers or other adults.

Wanda was able to report on the success of our two-year project in northern Sierra Leone. 750 students from grades 4, 5 and 6 in five communities used the MLL in two-hour sessions after school every week for a period of 8 months. Participation was voluntary and the children had to get to the MLLs on their own. The results of this study were very exciting! The students’ literacy and math scores improved and their participation and motivation in class significantly increased. The MLL proved what we had believed: given the right tools, children can learn on their own.

Our guest speaker, Taylor Thompson shared the path taken by Curious Learning to improve literacy. Taylor leads partnerships at Curious Learning, building collaborations to develop new products and reach new users. Curious Learning is a non-profit organization, that builds and distributes free mobile software to help kids learn to read. Taylor showed us the evolution of the apps, such as Feed the Monster, that allow children to learn basic reading skills on their own. This extraordinary literacy app has been translated into more than 50 languages around the world.

At the end of the evening, we launched our 10-day matching donation campaign. At the end of the campaign, we had raised over $21,000 – far surpassing our objective of $10,000!

We are very grateful for the generosity of our many friends and supporters who made both the evening and the doubling campaign so successful. Thank you!



12th annual conference

Our annual conference, which was held on November 16th, was tremendously successful. Of the approximately 170 guests who attended, there were students from McGill and Concordia Universities, as well as Collège Sainte-Anne, Collège Reine-Marie and two groups of grade 5 students from The Priory. These enthusiastic students distributed pamphlets with information about Wanda and the Foundation and presented a mini-documentary that they had prepared.

Our guest speaker, Ndinini Kimesera Sikar from MWEDO (Maasai Women Development Organization), described her personal journey from her struggle to become educated to the founding of MWEDO with two other Maasai women in her native Tanzania. Her organization ensures that Maasai girls in remote Tanzanian communities have access to a secondary education. This year, a $100,000 grant from 60 million girls will enable 100 girls to attend high school for one year. Too often, these girls are married before the age of 15, have little access to secondary education, and are marginalized by their communities.

Ndinini Kimesera Sikar

Our president, Wanda Bedard, spoke of the Foundation’s recent work in northern Sierra Leone. For a second year, we are supporting the peer literacy facilitators. These girls work to improve the literacy skills of small children. In exchange, they receive a bursary to cover their tuition, school fees and uniforms. Wanda also described the Mobile Learning Lab (MLL), which offers a wealth of interactive videos and exercises on basic literacy, math and science to 750 students inseven communities. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this self-directed computer-based learning. To Ndinini’s delight, she received an MLL from Wanda: a small suitcase filled with thirty tablets and a rechargeable server called a RACHEL-Plus.

At the end of the conference, students from Collège Sainte-Anne presented a cheque to Wanda. In addition, many of our supporters continued to show their support by making generous donations. That night, we launched our matching donation campaign and, at the end of the 10 days, we surpassed our goal of $12,000!

Our grateful thanks to our many friends and supporters who made the evening such a success!


10th anniversary conference

20161107-18760 million girls has come of age. Since our inception 10 years ago, we have invested $2.4 million in 20 projects, helping over 20,000 children in 14 countries in Asia, Central America and Africa. We have funded projects that range from school construction to teacher training to providing supplies, fees or equipment.

On November 7th, we celebrated this milestone with many friends and supporters, as well as partners from CAUSE Canada, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the World University Services of DSC_3291Canada, the WE Charity (Free The Children) and Handicap International. Wanda Bedard, our founder and president, described how our fledgling foundation grew in both size and presence in the field of girls’ education. She also explained how new advances in technology will help to bridge the gap in girls’ education in our project in Sierra Leone.20161107-227

Following the conference, guests were treated to cake, cupcakes and fudge. Many continued to show their support by making generous donations. That night, we launched our matching donation campaign and, at the end of 10 days, we surpassed our goal of $10,000!

Our grateful thanks to our many friends and supporters who made the evening such a success!



Vancouver conference


On May 4th,  our BC Chapter held a very successful fundraising event, with guest speaker Bev Carrick, co-founder of CAUSE Canada, our 2016 project partner.

The event, held at Hycroft, the lovely heritage home of the University Women’s Club of Vancouver, was enjoyable, inspirational and informative. Bev is an excellent speaker and kept the audience engaged with her personal stories and thoughtful insights into the issues surrounding girls’ education in Sierra Leone.

1243Bev was very appreciative, not only of 60 million girls’ financial support, but also of the extensive research undertaken by 60 million girls into the RACHEL (Remote Areas Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) server on a Raspberry Pi, that delivers our offline technologies, and of program content, such as Fantastic Phonics. Clearly, CAUSE Canada thinks as highly of 60 million girls’ work as we do of theirs.

1234A RACHEL-Pi, the tough and tiny offline server, was demonstrated, showing the guests its tremendous potential for its use as a learning tool in remote areas. As with all who ‘meet’ the RACHEL-Pi for the first time, the audience was astounded by its capacity for content and the number of learners it can accommodate.

In keeping with the theme of the event, delicious homemade raspberry pies were served at the end of the evening. A wonderful evening was had by all, feeding both our minds and our bodies!!


Annual Conference

What a brKBC 2illiant way to celebrate our 10th annual conference! It began with a stunning and moving performance by the Kenyan Boys Choir. This was followed by our president’s address. Wanda Bedard described the Foundation’s many activities and achievements over the past nine years and this year in particular.
Craig 20151124-303

Then, we listened to our keynote speaker, Craig Kielburger. A passionate and motivating child rights activist, Craig traced the transformation of Free The Children over the last two decades – from its founding, when he was only 12 years old, to an organization that works today in 8 countries. He talked of the incredible impact that our partnership has had both on the children themselves and on their communities.

Jackson & ZahraFollowing the conference, our guests were treated to dessert and coffee, during which many continued to show their support by making generous donations. They also had an opportunity to speak to some of our partners: T. Jackson Kaguri of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, Zahra Mohammed of the Stephen Lewis Foundation and Lorraine Swift and Nicole Farn of Change for Children.

Our grateful thanks to our many friends and supporters who made the evening such a success!






Luncheon at the Beaconsfield Golf Club

RPiBeaconsfield Golf Club Luncheon – self-directed computer-based learning in a rural environment

Our June 4th luncheon, at the Beaconsfield Golf Club, was a tremendous success: a chance to meet up with our many friends, donors and supporters, the opportunity to share our latest projects in self-directed computer-based learning with our partners, and an occasion to witness your wonderful generosity!! Thanks to your generous donations, we raised close to $20,000!


Learn About Technology & Education at our June 4th Luncheon

The 60 million girls Foundation invites you to attend a luncheon on Thursday, June 4, in Beaconsfield, Quebec.

Our Founder & President, Wanda Bedard, will talk about a new approach to educating children in developing countries. We believe that information technology and communication (ICT) improve girls’ academic success and that self-directed computer-based learning gives children an extra educational boost. In a rural environment, where trained teachers, educational resources and internet access are often hard to come by, Rachel Pi offers an innovative way to reach these children and gives them an opportunity to get a quality education.



Wanda will share with you the success of our pilot project in Sierra Leone, as well as her experiences from her recent trip to Uganda and Kenya.

The luncheon will take place at the Beaconsfield Golf Club from 12:00-1:30 pm (registration from 11:30 am).
The tickets cost $100.
A tax receipt of $50 will be issued.

To purchase tickets, please click here to connect to paypal.



All children should have an opportunity to learn and while growing up a rural area can make it challenging for children to get access to school, technology and a little creativity can make this possible.

Please join us on June 4th.

Reaching the Out-of-School Children

The expression “knowledge is power” is something of a cliché, yet in our technology driven world, it has never been more true. In its new report on out-of-school children, Fixing the Broken Promise of Education For All, UNICEF and the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) highlight where the global community has made huge strides in getting more children in school, and where we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that every child is able to go to school.

What stands out in the report is the breadth of our knowledge. We know which children need more help. We know not just the countries in which they live, but also the regions, whether they are urban or rural, girls or boys, and the socioeconomic status of their families. We know which children drop out of school and what precipitates their decision to leave. We know that income earning opportunities can trump the benefits of going to school as the child gets older, especially if the family needs the extra income they would gain by putting their child to work. We know that the transition from primary to secondary school is often when we lose the girls, as parents decide that one level of school is sufficient and that it makes more sense to marry the daughter off than continue to pay for school fees, a uniform and books. We know what barriers to schooling children face in specific geographic locations. This knowledge really is power. It gives policy makers the ability to target their interventions and to put scarce resources to reach the most vulnerable children.

When Sheena Bell, an author of the UIS report, spoke at the 60 million girls’ Annual Conference in November 2014, she noted that to reach the most vulnerable children it is necessary to go village to village, door to door, to convince village leaders to educate their daughters. The data help us to understand where we need to go.

What a sea change this is from 1990 when the World Bank published the first World Development Report. The Brookings Institute notes that 25 years ago, policy makers barely had poverty data from a dozen countries with which to make assessments and recommendations.


Our current data also show how we have succeeded over the last 15 years, through the introduction of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in getting more children into school, improving gender equality in educational opportunities and raising literacy levels of children around the world. The next round of targets and objectives outlined in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have the potential to make the next 15 years the most successful yet in getting all children in school and seeing the end of extreme poverty.

So what do the data say?

  • 58 million children of primary school age (6-12 years old) are out of school. Of these children:
    • 23% attended school in the past but left;
    • 34% are likely to enter school in the future;
    • 43% will never attend school.
  • 63 million adolescents of lower secondary school age (12-15 years old) are out of school. (p. 18)

That’s 121 million children who are still denied an education.

Globally, the number of out-of-school children fell by 42% from 2000 to 2012. That’s an impressive achievement and the world is better off for it, as these educated children are more likely to help their families rise from poverty as income earning potential increases. Their own children are more likely to go school themselves and they will be better nourished. Fewer babies will die as a result and maternal mortality will also fall. This is already apparent. According to the Gates Foundation annual letter, the number of child deaths under five has fallen across all regions. In sub-Saharan Africa, it declined from 179 deaths per 1,000 births to 92 over the last 25 years.

The data show that South Asia experienced the largest decline in out-of-school children, with a fall of 23 million between 2000 and 2012. However, they also reveal that one-third of out-of-school children live in West and Central Africa where population growth has meant that demand for school has risen faster than supply. That’s almost 20 million primary-aged children who are out of school in this region, about 31% of the world total. At the lower secondary age level it’s even worse, proportionally, with 12.5 million children in this region out of school, 40% of total out-of-school children in this age range.

bosawas12-school girls


The barriers that children face to getting an education are multifaceted and often complex. They include poverty, living in a rural area or conflict zone, gender, and disability. When school is not offered in a child’s mother tongue, teaching and learning also become more difficult.

Poverty is one of the most egregious barriers. Poor children have the highest out of school rate at 22% of the total compared to 6% for children from the wealthiest families.

 The UIS report states that “…not only are children from poor families less likely to be offered an opportunity to go to school, but their parents are far less likely to take advantage of schooling opportunities when they are available.” (p. 41)

Poverty and lack of education feed into each other and create a vicious circle as uneducated children find it more difficult to rise up and generate the income they need to make life easier. The trick for policy makers will be to break that cycle through specific policies such as eliminating school fees, providing cash transfers to families conditional on keeping their children in school, and providing meals at school as an additional incentive for attendance.

The gender gap in education is also an issue yet, thankfully, there is a lot of positive momentum in rectifying this imbalance. Globally, the gender gap has fallen for both primary-aged children and those in the lower secondary age range. Girls, though, still account for 53% of all out-of-school children.

It is important to note that, like the total out-of-school figures, the global reduction in the gender gap belies important regional discrepancies. Half of all out-of-school girls live in sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, West Central Africa, the region with the highest out-of-school rate overall, also has one of the largest gender gaps: 31% of primary-aged girls in this region are out of school compared to 23% of boys. On the other hand, outside of sub-Saharan Africa, the gender gap is much less apparent as children in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are on an almost even footing.

Now that we know which children need the most help, policy makers can target efforts and make a push to see Universal Primary Education fully achieved. We hope to see all children in secondary school and an end to the gender gap in schooling.

We at the 60 million girls Foundation believe that in our information-driven world, technology will play an important role in getting education to all children. Computers will not replace teachers, but along with the right mix of software, know-how, interest and will, technology has the potential to help bridge the learning gap. But this is a topic for another post.


Conference Recap: Literacy, Technology, and Data – What is the Connection?

Thanks so much to all of you who came out to our 9th Annual Conference last week. We raised over $10,000 in the silent auction to help support our educational projects in Afghanistan and Kenya this year. Guests with the winning bids went home with theatre and hockey tickets, restaurant vouchers, store gift cards and wine. One lucky participant bought a dinner with Kim Thuy, award winning author of Ru and Man. We also presented a cheque for $280,000 to our partner in Kenya, Free The Children, and a $80,000 cheque to our partner in Afghanistan, CARE Canada. For more information on the projects this money will fund, please visit our web page: www.60milliongirls.org. Conference Our speakers illustrated so perfectly the roles that both large and small organizations have in getting vulnerable children into the classroom, ensuring they stay in school and that they get a quality education. Bev Carrick, Co-Founder of CAUSE Canada, spoke about her organization’s efforts to get kids to school in Sierra Leone. Sheena Bell, from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, told us about the importance of getting the right data to be able to construct appropriate programs for children and families who face different barriers to schooling depending on where they live. Both are so important in the process of reaching Universal Primary Education. Where were the girls? When Bev and her colleagues at CAUSE Canada were building schools for children in Sierra Leone in the aftermath of that country’s civil war, they realized that girls, many of whom had been victimized or coerced into fighting as child soldiers, were far less present in school than the boys. Where were they?

CAUSE decided to implement a peer literacy program to give girls the confidence to come to school. Not only did this strategy get more girls into the classroom, it also created a virtuous circle: the younger ones learned from their older classmates through a mentoring program and in return, CAUSE gave the older girls the financial help they needed for tuition, books and uniforms, to continue on to secondary school. A win-win for all.

A small organization has the flexibility to innovate and find new ways to improve educational outcomes. Together, CAUSE and the 60 million girls Foundation implemented a pilot project with an inexpensive mini server called Raspberry Pi (photo below). We downloaded math and science tutorials along with an encyclopedia on the server which was then connected to computers in the Learning Centre in Sierra Leone. The girls could use these educational programs after school for two hours per week.

The objective was to see if “self directed learning” led to improved educational outcomes. In other words, are children able to teach themselves some of the basic skills which the teacher may not have time to cover? In communities where qualified and motivated teachers are hard to come by, and where large class sizes make individualized teaching and learning difficult, we hope that the appropriate use of technology may be a way to fill some of the gaps. We are still analysing the results. More details about our pilot project methodology, objectives and results to follow in a later post. The outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone has put a damper on regular schooling as all schools have had to close to prevent the spread on infection. Groups larger than 15 are not permitted to meet. However, the children in the communities CAUSE works in will have access to the educational software 60 million girls provided for the pilot projects. CAUSE will be keeping the Learning Centre open on a full time basis so kids can have access to the computers and tutorials – an unexpected positive side effect of our small project. What do the data tell us?

Sheena Bell from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) showed us the importance of data in gauging the outcomes of policies and improving learning. As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Universal Primary Education is a key development objective. At the moment, there are 58 million primary aged children who do not attend school, over half of whom live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, within Sub-Saharan Africa there are countries with better outcomes than others. Ghana has (just) 12% of primary aged children out of school and in Rwanda it is just 1.3%. Niger, on the other hand, has an out of school rate of 36% for girls and boys. Successes are possible, though to achieve them, it’s important to prioritize and find ways innovative ways to ensure that all children have access to quality education, with trained teachers and sufficient learning materials. How do we do that? Sheena said that nationwide statistics can hide regional variations within countries. It’s important to look at each unique context to devise a policy solution that works to get kids in school. UNICEF and the UIS are working together to find out exactly who the out of school children are, where they live, and what are the particular barriers they face to going to school. This article tells you about their collaboration. Barriers to going to school include poverty, child marriage, child labour, disability, safety, war, and lack of infrastructure, cost, discrimination, among others. The exact barrier faced by a child in West Africa, however, may not be the same as one in South Asia or Central America. The evidence provided by the data, along with the local perspective are key ingredients to achieving a quality Universal Primary Education. Literacy, technology and data can all work together to get vulnerable children around the world into school.

Stephanie Nolen to Speak at Vancouver Conference, November 9th

The Vancouver chapter of the 60 million girls Foundation has organized a Sunday afternoon talk with Stephanie Nolen, award-winning journalist and Latin American Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail. Ms. Nolen will bring her unique perspective on international development issues, honed through many years of living and working in Africa, Asia and Latin America. She has reported from 60 countries around the world.


Throughout her career, Ms. Nolen has covered world-changing events, including the invasion of Afghanistan and the fall of the Taliban, as well as war and its devastating aftermath in multiple African countries. Ms. Nolen’s coverage of the AIDS epidemic in Africa bared not only the health issues, but also the social, economic and political consequences, while opening our Western eyes to this tragedy. As the South Asian Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail, Ms. Nolen’s writings from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India provided the hard facts but gave us a very human perspective.

Ms. Nolen’s articles have highlighted the difficulties faced by school age girls in India and the pressures their families face to marry them off when they are in their early teens, despite the fact that the legal marriage age in India is 18. You can read here about Guriya, a 13-year-old girl in Bihar province in north-eastern India.

Ms. Nolen writes:

Sister Sudha and her remarkable schools have appeared in The Globe and Mail regularly over the past year and a half in Breaking Caste, a series highlighting the continued plight of young Dalits, the people once known as “untouchable.” The schools are for girls from the Mushahar community, the lowest of the Dalits, consigned to the bottom rung of the Hindu caste system, which remains rigidly in force in this marginalized corner of India.

A couple of semesters at Prerna can have a transformative effect – students are well fed for the first time, able to bathe each day, wear crisp new uniforms and, most important, have the scorn heaped upon their caste replaced with affection and respectful interest in their ideas. They bloom, these girls, transforming in a way that is a joy to behold.

Unless you are their parents. For them, it’s terrifying.

In this video, you can also listen to school girl Poonam talk about her desire to become a teacher. She wants her own daughters have the opportunity to go to school.

Stephanie Nolen’s skills have not gone unheralded. She is a seven-time National Newspaper Award winner and a four-time winner of the Amnesty International Award for Human Rights Reporting. Her book, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, was nominated for a Governor General’s Award and has been published in 15 countries. She has been the Dalton Camp lecturer and will give the Dal Grauer Memorial Lecture this year. As a summation of some of Ms. Nolen’s gifts, she received the Markwell Media Award for her “combination of creative brilliance, humanitarian compassion, personal courage, and the relentless pursuit of truth”.

We hope that you can join us on Sunday, November 9th, for tea, coffee and an interesting discussion. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit our website at www.60milliongirls.org.