Safeena Husain, Founder of Educate Girls, on getting out-of-school girls back into school


Safeena Husain, Founder of Educate Girls


Let’s get “out-of-school girls” back into school! Safeena Husain, Founder of Educate Girls, talks about their work in 20,000 villages in India and launching the first development impact bond (DIB).


Safeena Husain founded Educate Girls in 2007 and today they operate in more than 20,000 villages across three states in India.


They’re mobilising communities in the most marginalised and remote areas to get out-of-school girls back into school and ensure they stay in school and are actually learning.


They’ve grown at a fast pace and today have a team of 2,200 full time employees and 15,000 volunteers.


Under Safeena’s leadership, and in conjunction with the UBS Optimus Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), they launched the first development impact bond (DIB). This was a highly innovative approach to align performance with funding.


Educate Girls was the service provider; CIFF was the outcome payer (who were purchasing two results: (1) getting out-of-school girls back into school and staying in school, and (2) ensuring learning outcomes); and the UBS Optimus Foundation was the social investor. 


We hear the ins and outs of what turned out to be a highly successful initiative.  Educate Girls took the risk of performance, UBS took the financial risk and CIFF got to purchase the impact. 


We also hear how Educate Girls was the first Asian organisation to become an Audacious Project — an initiative run by TED that brings philanthropists together to collaborate and back really innovative, big bets that improve the world.


The COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting girls and women, and Safeena's view is that if action isn’t taken it could well set girls’ education back by a decade, if not more, so let's work together to get out-of-school girls back into school!


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About Safeena Husain


Safeena is the Founder and Executive Director of Educate Girls (EG), an Indian non-profit working towards empowering communities for girls’ education in some of the hardest-to-reach villages. Under Safeena’s guidance, EG has enrolled 950,000+ girls to date, impacting over 11.5 million+ beneficiaries.


Most recently, when the global pandemic hit India in 2020, EG under Safeena’s leadership distributed ration to 106,778 poverty-struck households in rural India. To combat the impact of Covid19 on children’s education, especially girls, EG started Camp Vidya – a community-based learning initiative. Piloted by Safeena, 11,165 camps were completed, improving learning outcomes for children.


A London School of Economics graduate, Safeena worked extensively with underserved communities in South America, Africa and Asia, before returning to India. Her efforts to bridge the gender gap in education in India has been instrumental in EG achieving a major global milestone – the world’s first Development Impact Bond in education. On its completion, the bond surpassed both its target outcomes by achieving 160% of its learning target and 116% of its enrolment target. These results are testimony to the commitment of EG to deliver quality at scale (the organisation currently has 2,226 full time employees and 15,000+ community volunteers) and value to every single child in the program. She has also been instrumental in EG becoming the first Audacious project in Asia, a first-of-its-kind coalition that surfaces and funds critical projects with the potential to create global change.


In 2020, EG’s solution to empower 1.5M girls to go to school was selected at MIT Solve’s Learning for Girls & Women Challenge and EG also became one of world’s 100 most inspiring innovations in K12 education. Safeena has been conferred with many accolades for her work at grassroots which includes the 2017 NITI Aayog’s Women Transforming India Award, the 2016 NDTV-L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Award.