Standard Chartered’s GOAL Initiative tackling inequality and increasing opportunities for adolescent girls and young women 5 years on


“Papa I wanna be in school. Mama I wanna go to school. I want to learn reading and writing. Teacher, I do wanna be in school…oh yea. Send your girl child to school, send your girl child to school…”

It seems like just yesterday when these lyrics from part of a popular advertisement were blaring on Ghanaian television sets every evening. I remember efforts by non-profit organizations  advocating for girls to be sent to school due to the low enrollment ratio of boys to girls at the time. For many young students like me then, the song rolled off our tongues anytime it played and I remember bits and pieces of its lyrics to this day.

Through many careful interventions, Ghana has made significant progress in bridging the gap between girls’ and boys’ access to education since then, especially at the primary and secondary levels. Nonetheless, there are still a lot of opportunities for improvement and to close this gap, seeing that a considerable number of girls are unable to complete their education or unenrolled in school. Education has great potential to raise women and their families’ socio-economic standards of living and provide some level of comfort in their daily lives.

Ghana was the first country in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, lots of girls and young women in many of our communities are vulnerable and face challenges such as a lack of education, cultural bias and gender-based violence that limit their personal and economic freedom and threaten their security. These vulnerabilities have been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A study in 2021 by UNICEF on protecting and empowering adolescent girls in Ghana, outlined how early pregnancy, violence, and excessive household chores among others, thwart the opportunities of many girls aged between 10-19 years. The issues women face in adolescence limits their potential to learn, earn and grow as individuals.

The GOAL Programme

At Standard Chartered, we recognise that gender equality is critical to economic growth and we believe we are uniquely positioned to help bridge the gender gap.  As such, 5 years ago, we began an all-important journey as a bank of investing in the lives of girls and young women in underserved communities in Greater Accra and the Eastern Regions. Key was to provide them an opportunity to be future leaders through our Goal Programme which forms part of ‘Futuremakers by Standard Chartered’, our global initiative to tackle inequality by promoting greater economic inclusion.

The Goal Programme uses sport, play and life-skills education to transform the lives of girls and young women in our communities. The programme equips girls with the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to become economic leaders in their families and communities. Working with global partners Women Win, Goal is implemented in Ghana by the Right To Dream Academy we have empowered over 10,000 girls in low-income communities in the Greater Accra and Eastern Regions to date.

The fact remains, though, that traditional social norms continuously prioritize education for the boy and position girls as homemakers whose roles include performing house chores and maintaining the home in preparation for their future marital homes. This ultimately presents a stumbling block to women empowerment.

Through the Goal Programme, we have made tremendous impact across various themes including Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights, Gender Based Violence and Rights, Leadership and Confidence. Data from our programme shows that 95% of girls who took part in Goal reported a higher level of confidence and ability to make decisions about their future.

The programme also positively impacted school attendance. In addressing issues of gender-based violence, the Goal Programme made considerable impact in educating girls on their Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights with 81% of girls reporting that they knew a place to report violence, 95% of them acknowledged they have a right to say ‘no’ to unwanted advances and 94% reported knowing how to keep healthy during menstruation.

International Day of the Girl Child

As we commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child in 2022, inspired by our brand promise, – “Here for good” – we will continue to invest in adolescent girls, especially those in underserved communities to ensure that they are empowered at an early stage in their lives to unleash their economic potential resulting in increased prosperity for their families thus transforming lives and lifting participation in our economy.

Through our Employee Volunteering Programme, many of our colleagues will continue to volunteer their time and skills through reading, mentoring and financial education to support adolescent girls and young women.

We believe that prioritising the well-being of girls and young women has an incredible intergenerational multiplier effect on communities and societies. In fact, research shows that women who are more educated are healthier, as are their children who are more likely to attend school and study to completion.

Educating girls and providing them with additional tools through the Goal Programme enables them to address their own challenges themselves thus transforming their lives for the better. Not only have these girls been transformed, but the ripple effects show in some of the decisions made by their families and friends alike.

Harriet Agbodja, one of the beneficiaries of the Goal Programme describes as phenomenal the impact of the project in her life while she was in Junior High School 2.

“Through the Programme and the real-life stories told by our coaches, I gathered courage to stand for head prefect elections in my school. I didn’t win, but I was made assistant prefect. It was through the leadership topics and the motivation of the coaches that I was able to do this. At first, I thought leaders were only boys, because that was what I had seen but the Goal Programme changed that idea for me and now I can say I am a prefect. Thank you, Goal Programme,”

Harriet’s testament goes to confirm the gains made in building girls’ confidence and leadership qualities.

Like Harriet Agbodja who has benefited from the Goal Programme, we are convinced that the foundation has been laid for many more girls in less-privileged communities to overcome their current socio-economic challenges through education. These ladies will also become role models to their peers and younger generation instilling a sense of purpose and hope in their future.


Asiedua Addae is the Head of Corporate Affairs, Brand and Marketing at Standard Chartered Bank Ghana Plc.

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