The Foundation’s approach is not to select specific countries in which to operate; rather, it supports trusted partners in their work, enabling them to use their local knowledge, expertise, and networks to judge where an intervention will have the greatest, or most widespread, impact. A number of large-scale studies have demonstrated the significant economic and environmental positive impacts of giving girls, who would otherwise be excluded, access to to a good education; the Trustees therefore have a particular interest in this area.
More than 4 million school-age girls in India alone regularly fail to attend the school where they belong – one of the largest such populations, out of a global total of around 130 million. Yet a recent World Bank report showed that girls’ education, especially at secondary level, can be transformative in key areas, including earnings and standards of living; child marriage and early childbearing; health, nutrition and well-being; and agency and decision-making. Educate Girls has identified that just 5% of villages in India hold 40%, or 1.6 million, of the out-of-school girl population. Over the next five years, involving an extensive ‘boots on the ground’ approach, Educate Girls will aim to enrol 1.6 million girls back into school; improve learning outcomes within the school system by implementing a remedial and life-skills curriculum that will supplement the state curriculum; and strengthen the school governance system and its infrastructure so that the improved enrolment figures, once achieved, are sustained.
Together with a group of other prominent philanthropists, the Foundation has joined a collaborative funding initiative, the ‘Audacious Project’ (https://audaciousproject.org/about) to support this programme of work.
Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED)
CAMFED is a UK charity that tackles poverty and inequality through education, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. It supports marginalised girls to attend school, to succeed academically, and then, as young women, to realise their potential to be leaders of change. In its 25 years of existence, CAMFED has helped around 3.3 million children to attend school, and has recruited nearly 140,000 educated young women into the CAMFED Association (CAMA), where they are able to leverage investment in girls’ education by supporting even more girls to stay in school, and to thrive after having left school. The Foundation’s support, over 3 years, will enable CAMA to pioneer ways to combat the effects of climate change on children’s health, welfare and education, through direct support to vulnerable children, alongside strategies to reduce vulnerability in the longer term. It is hoped that this approach will in due course prove to be replicable in other countries.
Strømme Foundation is a Norwegian development organisation that uses education to pursue its mission of creating a world free from poverty. Its approach is holistic, working with children, adolescents and their families within selected communities, thereby strengthening sustainability and maximising impact. The Foundation has supported Strømme since 2014; in 2019 this support was renewed with a grant of NOK 35 million for a further 5 years, until 2023, reflecting Strømme’s own 5-year planning cycle. The principal strands of Strømme’s work being supported by the Foundation are summarised below.
Educational work in Uganda: RISING project
With 1.2 million refugees, Uganda is Africa’s largest refugee-hosting country, with recent significant influxes from South Sudan, DRC and Burundi. Among other problems, this creates a large out-of-school population among adolescents, particularly among girls, a large proportion of whom have suffered gender-based or sexual violence. The RISING project seeks to enrol 100,000 children into formal education over the next 4 years.
Educational work in West Africa
The Foundation continues to support Strømme’s work in Burkina Faso and Niger, two of the world’s poorest and least developed nations, and on a modest scale has commenced operations in Mali. School attendance and literacy rates in these countries are low and female literacy rates are less than 20%. Without even a primary education, children lack the skills and knowledge required to improve their situation and are likely to remain impoverished for the remainder of their lives. The programmes implemented by Strømme with funding from the Foundation and other donors provide out of school children, half of whom are girls, with accelerated learning courses designed to get them to the educational level necessary to enrol in formal school. It also includes the “A Saving for Change” programme which targets the mothers of these children and gives them the opportunity to save and obtain loans that may be used for educational expenses, to generate income, for health care and to enhance food security.
SAMVAD means ‘dialogue’ (in Sanskrit) and is a nonformal, community based, participatory education system designed especially for adolescent girls at risk of dropping out of school and being trafficked. At SAMVAD centres, the girls follow a course that includes life skills, functional literacy, building self-confidence and vocational skills. The Foundation is supporting Strømme’s existing SAMVAD programme in Nepal and Bangladesh. It is also supporting the development of this programme in West Africa, where there are countries with some of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.
Strømme’s DREAM (Development and Rehabilitation of the Economy of the Poor through Alternative Means) project continues to work with 3,000 of the poorest families in the Ayeyarwaddy district, including the tribal Karen community. A new programme, SEEDS (Socio Economic Empowerment with Dignity and Sustainability), in the same region of Myanmar, will use a broadly similar approach, working with around 1,000 families, many of which are likely to be landless and / or headed by a female family member, in order to bring them out of extreme poverty into a sustainable socio-economic future.
The Mosvold-Martinus Trust
The Mosvold-Martinus Trust seeks to improve the lives of less privileged young people in Sri Lanka. It promotes self-reliance by providing support to allow such young people to become the agents of their own development and progress. The Foundation has funded the MM Trust’s “AKO Scholarship Program in Sri Lanka”, which provides scholarships to allow disadvantaged students to pursue higher education at university or through vocational or skills training. The most recent update on the MM Trust’s AKO Scholarship Program in Sri Lanka can be found here
Partnership for Change
Partnership for Change is a Norwegian nonprofit organisation that works for the economic independence of women in Myanmar and Ethiopia. Although, in theory, Ethiopia’s educational policy gives boys and girls equal access to education, in practice – and particularly in rural communities – boys are given priority. To address this inequality and the unmet educational needs of such girls, the Foundation is funding an intensive programme of financial support and academic and life skills training in rural Ethiopia to prevent girls from deprived backgrounds from dropping out of high school.
Lively Minds, a UK charity, works in remote rural villages in Africa and trains ‘Volunteer Mothers’ to run free and informal play schemes for all pre-school children in their villages. The Volunteer Mothers are also given monthly parenting workshops to help them provide better care at home. A recent evaluation of their work by the Centre for the Evaluation of Development Policy at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) reported that “overall, the findings suggest that the Lively Minds program is an effective and potentially scalable way to improve children’s cognitive and socio-emotional development, health, and school readiness”. The Foundation is supporting Lively Minds’ work in both Ghana and Uganda.
Loden Education Trust
The Loden Foundation is a Bhutanese nonprofit foundation whose goal is to foster “an enlightened and happy society [in Bhutan] through promotion of education, social entrepreneurship and Bhutan’s culture and tradition”. Through a connected UK charity, the Loden Education Trust, the Foundation made a 3-year grant towards the Loden Foundation’s work advancing educational opportunities in Bhutan. This includes improving access to education for very young children in remote areas of Bhutan; providing bursary support to enable children from village communities to attend, and remain in, school; and a scholarship programme to allow students from disadvantaged families to pursue higher education, whether in Bhutan or abroad.
Little Sun Foundation
The Little Sun Foundation, a German non-profit organisation, occupies a special space in the art of its founder, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, whose recent exhibition ‘In Real Life’ at Tate Modern was supported by the AKO Foundation.
As an artist Olafur uses a broad range of media to amplify his artistic voice, creating works that are tools for engaging both the perceptions and emotions of the audience. Uniting on-ground energy impact work with a global element of artistic communication, Little Sun was born out of the studio as a project that takes thinking to doing in a special way.
Little Sun’s solar lamps are real off-grid energy tools with a clear impact. Additionally, they are an emotional symbol of global interconnectedness, of sustainable energy, and of empowerment. Delivering light and energy to vulnerable or remote communities, these clean and renewable lamps, designed by Eliasson himself, allow students to undertake homework during hours of darkness, and thus to increase their study time and academic attainment. The solar lamps also provide significant health and economic benefits, as they replace harmful kerosene lamps and expensive torches.
The Foundation has made grants to enable Little Sun to provide solar lamps to students in Tanzania and Ethiopia. The success of these schemes resulted in the Foundation, in early 2020, agreeing to fund Little Sun, in partnership with the Education Ministries in each of these countries, in a more extensive distribution of lamps in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.