Empower Girls – Is the World Girl-Friendly?

Setting up a mini NGO to promote MDG No. 2 – Education for all, our three Transition Year groups participated in the schools network project organised by Schools Across Borders (SAB) during the 2013/2014 school term.

As a justice-oriented Development Education (DE) project, the students started their research and reflection on issues of inequality and injustice which led to further exploring the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Class presentations were made to advance further reflection on a number of justice issues facing young people in the world, such as child labour, homelessness and conflict.

Agreement was eventually reached by everyone to focus on MDG 2 with a special focus on education for girls. Three mini NGO groups formed to work on MDG 2 – one of them was our Empower Girls mini NGO.

The overarching question for the purpose of the subsequent research and action project was to question:

“Is the world girl friendly?”


73 transition year students at St Wolstan’s Community School Students from the Centre for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, Bosnia & Herzegovina Youth from Yafa Cultural Center, Balata Refugee Camp, occupied Palestinian territories Darran Irvine, Schools Across Borders. See the case study on the mini NGOs in schools programme on this website for more info.


  • Schools Across Borders Pilot timeline: Sept 2013 to May 2014 (eight months)
  • This activity could be done over a term or as a module within, for example, TY Religion.

3 Big Ideas

  • Establish a mini NGO to raise awareness and take action on the issue of girl’s right to an education.
  • Hold an Awareness Week and create our own online petition campaign using the SAB website.
  • Set up a blog to document research and promote gender equality.


Materials required to carry out this project:

  • Materials – art/craft for poster making.
  • Access to internet for research. Email address (with Gmail) to set up a free blog on Blogger
  • Sound recorder for podcasts, Audacity for editing podcast (free open source audio editing software available fromaudacity.sourceforge.net)
  • Digital camera to take photos and document activities
  • Optional: video for making movies, free Movie Maker or iMovie software for editing short movies (student friendly software).
  • Optional: students using own phones to document photos, record videos for the project


  1. Students researched the 8 MDG’s, made class presentations and decide one issue to progress within the MDG.
  2. Set up class blog using Blogger. Use blog to document research and progress. Identify a group of Admins for the blog.
  3. Establish mini NGO with officer holders (divide up responsibilities, etc.) and decide plan of action on how to promote the issue. See the SAB mini NGO toolkit.
  4. Hold an Awareness Week to promote the issue and share learning with other students across other age and class levels in the school, such as screened the short film Girl Rising. We then surveyed them about what they thought and whether they were inspired to take action. Survey results here.
  5. Invite a speaker to the school and prepare questions in advance.
  6. Make a video on the issue. Record a vox pop podcast. Upload to blog.
  7. Skype sessions with other schools to discuss the issues.

Case Study: involving everyone in the project

The group-work element of this project worked very well as it ensured every student was actively involved. Students worked in small groups to complete the following activities:

  • 8 research groups on the 8 MDG’s (final topic chosen was MDG No2 especially education for girls)
  • Website committee
  • Poster committee
  • Survey committee
  • Promotion committee
  • Video committee
  • Podcast committee
  • Letter writing/Petition committee
  • Awareness Week committee
  • Skype room set-up committee
  • Question committee
  • Presentation committee
  • Each group would report an update back to the class on a regular basis so everyone knew what was happening.

ICT was a key element of this project. Students enjoyed creating and updating the project website (seeagirlfriendlyworld.blogspot.ie) making their own MDG movies, recording a class Happy video and hosting skype sessions.

Often students used their own mobile devices to undertake these activities and so they were seamlessly integrated into the project and collaboration took place easily for the students. This project was greatly enhanced by the use of technology.

Students decided to record their own Happy video because, while they were (most times!) happy to be in school they realised that this was not the case all over the world. They wanted all girls to be as happy in school as they were.

Another highlight was recording podcasts at different stages of the project to interview other students and even the Minister of State for Education and Skills, Mr Ciaran Cannon (May 2014).

Project Learning

  • Integration of IT into the project worked well. All students researched the MDGs and made their own short videos. These were uploaded to the blog and students benefitted from ‘learning by doing’.
  • Podcasts were made of anyone the students engaged with during the project such as: representatives from IDEA; Trócaire; and the Minister of State for Skills and Training.
  • Posters placed around the school prior to the Awareness Week were commented on by both students and staff.
  • Statistics about girls in education were made on the school announcements daily.

Some challenges

  • Getting class agreement on ONE issue to progress with. Organising such a large group of students (70+) into various working groups helped to narrow the focus and for the groups to pitch ideas on MDGs and potential campaign options to the overall group, which proved very successful.
  • Maintaining interest with overseas partners after the Awareness Week. Interest was renewed through the subsequent Skype sessions with Students from the Centre for Peacebuilding in Sanski Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina. However we missed an opportunity to Skype with our Palestinian partners because of time and availability constraints. A way forward would be to set up a joint timetable well in advance.

Measuring Impact

How we measured project impact

  1. We carried out a base line questionnaire on the main concepts (citizenship, globalisation, inequality, injustice, development, power, etc.) and on the project aims and objectives.
  2. For our Awareness Week action the TY’s interviewed other students before and after the film screening in order to find out if they had any changes in their knowledge and attitude to MDG 2 and the right of girls to an education.
  3. Engaging students in a petition: The number of signatures to the online petition testified to its success.
  4. Sent our petition letter to the Minister of State for Trade and Development, Mr Joe Costello, on MDG 2. We received a letter reply from the Minister.

5. A graffiti wall at the SAB final showcase event also allowed students to post comments on the creative and critical thinking skills which each school group demonstrated.

6. We carried out end of project online surveys to self-evaluate on knowledge and attitude skills, as well as communication, social, and action skills. See survey templates here (project survey 1 and project survey 2).

Engaged in a range of external events, which included:

  1. 10th May 2014: interviewed Mr Ciaran Cannon, Minister of State for Department of Education, at ICTEdu conference in LIT Thurles. Minister interviewed on education in the digital era and MDG2 with special focus on the issue of education for girls.
  2. Podcasts: listen to podcasts in Links to project activities below.
  3. 9th May 2014: we made presentations and set up our stand to share our project with the other mini NGO school groups from across Ireland at the final SAB showcase event
  4. 27th – 31st January 2014: this was our Girls and Education Awareness Week in school.
  5. 27th November 2013: students Ciara, Aoife and Melissa delivered a workshop to trainee teachers duringDevelopment Education Week in NUI Maynooth (podcast of the session available below).
  6. 21st November 2013: the initial network workshop event, organised by SAB, which allowed each group to share its research findings to date and to learn campaign skills from different NGOs present. Our group also gave a workshop on how to create blogs to other school groups and their teachers!

Links to the Project

Visit the Empower Girls website


  • Happy video – “We made this video to show that we consider ourselves to be happy in school and wishing that all girls could have the same opportunities as we do.”

  • Other student video reflections on MDG 2 available at https://agirlfriendlyworld.blogspot.ie/p/videos.html
  • Responding to our campaign on MDG2 and our “Walking to School” video, our Palestinian partners also made their own “Walking to School” video which highlighted the cramped living conditions in their refugee camp and how much school means to the school girls involved:

Podcasts 10 podcasts on development education recorded by Radio TY – https://radioty.blogspot.ie/p/development-education.html

Interview did with Minister of State Ciaran Cannon at the ICTEdu conference in Thurles in May 2014.https://audioboo.fm/boos/2158735-rty-at-ictedu-conference

Other project activities:

Other Information