March 1, 2019


Bangio Ali, Education Officer with AVSI Kenya, shared her testimonial in the collective brainstorm “Educating Girls”, Organized by leading think-thank Friends of Europe


How many girls around the world can’t read this article? More than you’d think. Figures are striking and devastating. 130 million girls didn’t go to school today. If it were a country, it would be the tenth largest one. Among the 758 million illiterate, 2/3 are women. Girls are still 1.5 times more likely than boys to be excluded from primary education, and by 2016, less than half of all countries had achieved gender parity in education at secondary level. To tackle and overcome the complex global barriers to getting more girls in schools, and to provide them with the required skills to enter the workforce, the leading think-tank Friends of Europe organized the collective brainstorm “Educating Girls”. The interactive event happened on February 27, in Brussels, and among its panelist was Bangio Ali, Education Officer with AVSI Kenya.

“Education is the only thing that can make you a better person, and through education, you can also help other girls in your community,” said Bangio during her presentation.

Photos by Friends of Europe

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1991 from a Somali family hailing from Garissa County, Bangio is currently pursuing a degree in Business Management while working with AVSI as an Education Officer based in the Dadaab refugee camp, where we implement the project  “Integrated Education Response in Dadaab and Host Communities” (2018-2019) with funding from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). She attributes her education to her mother who has always been supportive and encouraged her to go to school so that she could help herself as well as the rest of the community. 

“Probably by now if I hadn’t studied I would have been married off, and I would be an illiterate mother,” said Bangio. “I have always had the passion for being a humanitarian worker, I have always had a strong will and motivation to help girls and women particularly from my Somali community because I feel they are marginalized and vulnerable. For this reason, at the age of 22, I started advocating for girls’ right to education.

Photos by Friends of Europe

Bangio Ali participated in the collective brainstorm alongside Susanne Conze, Deputy Head of Unit for Strategy and Investments at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport; Larisa Hovannisian, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Teach for Armenia; Geetanjali Narayan, UNICEF Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Matt Reed, Chief Executive Officer of the Aga Khan Foundation UK. Part of the Development Policy Forum (DPF) led by Friends of Europe and which brings together many important development actors like the United Nations and the World Bank, the event was moderated by Shada Islam, Director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe.

Photos by Friends of Europe

“I am here not as an expert but to share my testimony,” clarified Bangio. “Most of the Somali girls who can attend school do not finish their studies because of the challenges that they face at home and at school. Most Somali girls, for example, encounter social-cultural practices like female genital mutilation and child marriage. But this is not the only challenge. Somali girl education is also affected by degradation, sexual harassment /exploitation, child mothers, teen pregnancy, child labor, physical violence/ abuse, and emotional abuse.”