Education, health, skills and advocacy: these are the pillars of the Joint Programme for the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Women launched by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the Minister of Education of Nepal, Mr Giriraj Mani Pokharel, together with representatives from UN Women and UNFPA, on 18 April, 2016 in Kathmandu.
This marked the first launch of the Joint Programme at country level.
The initiative in Nepal includes a project that is expected to benefit more than 500,000 adolescents over the next five years, funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), whose country director Mr Hyungkyoo Kim was present at the launch.
Despite Nepal’s strides in the areas of education and literacy, with near universal enrolment in primary education, gender disparities persist and are more pronounced among poorer, more vulnerable sections of the population.
“To tackle the obstacles facing adolescent girls and young women, we need to widen the lens, to understand factors holding girls back; to work beyond education ministries with health, labour, technology, finance, hand in hand with civil society and NGOs. This is how we will get girls to school and ensure they stay the course, all the way from primary through secondary,” said Ms Bokova.
The Joint Programme works “to promote education in a holistic manner to ensure girls and young women make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, to support them in successful transitions to adulthood and the labour market, to participate fully in society”
Ms Giulia Vallese, UNFPA Representative to Nepal, stressed that the project will support the Ministry of Education in taking forward recent recommendations on how to integrate comprehensive sexuality education in the curriculum, and stressed the importance of professional support to teachers.
Mr Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Representative to Nepal put emphasis on strengthening the links between education, skills training and women’s economic empowerment through the Joint Programme.
The Minister of Education highlighted that that Nepal’s new Constitution enshrines a rights-based approach and makes free quality education a fundamental right. He outlined policy measures to fulfil this mandate and implement SDG4, and said that the Joint Programme will contribute to promoting inclusion at the grassroots level.
Ms Bokova applauded Nepal for enshrining the right of every citizen to compulsory and free basic education, and for its rights-based approach. This is in line with the spirit of Sustainable Development Goal 4 to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”
This Joint Programme favours a comprehensive response to persistent gender gaps in education through a focus on quality, skills, access to sexual and reproductive health and enabling learning environments.
Working in the formal and non-formal contexts, including through Community Learning Centres, the project funded by KOICA will place a strong focus on mainstreaming comprehensive sexuality education, fostering safe learning environments and strengthening favourable societal attitudes. It will also reach 300,00 young women between the ages of 20 and 24. The project funded by KOICA is aligned the “Better Life for Girls’ Initiative”, announced by President Park Geun-hye in 2015.