Director-General Rallies for Girls’ Education with Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard in New York

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© UNESCO

In a show of force for girls’ education, UNESCO Director-General joined former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard and over 30 partners to announce projects amounting to $600 million, in an event organized as part of the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting, with the Centre for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, on 23 September 2014.

Dubbed CHARGE — the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls Education — the initiative is a global collective of public, private, and grassroots organizations working to take on the next set of challenges in global girls' education. CHARGE focuses on improving girls’ education through projects across five areas: access, safety, learning, transitions and leadership.

The “Commitments to Action” made by over 30 multilateral and bilateral organizations, NGOs, foundations and private sector companies are expected to reach 14 million girls. 

Only projects with 75% guaranteed funding were accepted as commitments.  Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard, now Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, made the announcement on behalf of the group.

“We know when girls have access to quality education in both primary and secondary schools, cycles of poverty are broken, economies grow, glass ceilings crack and potential is unleashed," said Secretary Clinton. “The scale of this commitment matches the gravity of the challenge. Ensuring every girl receives a quality secondary education will take all of us, governments, civil society, the private sector, multilateral organizations, the entire international community working together.”

UNESCO’s project, launched in the Federal Capital Territory and Rivers State of Nigeria at the end of 2013 will reach out to 60,000 girls and women over the next 36 months who are illiterate, have dropped out of school or are at risk of doing so. 

The project will train over 850 trainers to produce and deliver literacy, numeracy, life skills and vocational skills, combining face-to-face contact and distance education delivery through Radio, Television and Mobile Phone applications. 

The initiative has mobilized US$1 million from Procter & Gamble, but additional resources are required to expand its outreach and bring about positive measurable changes in the lives of young girls and women in the two selected states of Nigeria. It will be implemented jointly by UNESCO with the Ministry of Education, its agency responsible for Mass Literacy, together with NGOs, CSOs and radio and television personnel. 

All of this draws on the success of a similar project in Senegal, funded by Procter & Gamble, that has already benefited some 8,000 girls in face-to-face literacy classes and some 40,000 viewers through television-based literacy programmes since its launch in 2012.

This project is part of the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education “Better Life, Better Future” in May 2011, in the presence of the then Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Clinton and the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.  The aim of the Global Partnership is to catalyze partnership between governments, private sector and multilaterals to address these fragile transitions – to keep adolescent girls in school, and also succeed in and complete school. UNESCO has successfully mobilized a total of some US$ 20 million to date in cash as well as in-kind contribution and expertise. 

Despite tremendous progress made in getting girls enrolled in primary school, girls around the world still face persistent challenges to pursuing their education – the quality and safety of which are not always guaranteed.  

According to UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report, a serious gender imbalance in global education has left over 100 million young women in low and lower middle income countries unable to read a single sentence. On current trends, it is projected that only 70% of countries will have achieved parity in primary education by 2014 and 56% in lower secondary education by 2015.