Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students saw their learning disrupted, with the world not only experiencing a major health crisis, but also a major education crisis that is disproportionately affecting the world’s most vulnerable young people, and in particular girls.
The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, which highlights good practices by organizations and individuals empowering girls and women in and through education, has never been more important.
UNESCO spoke with Alex Munive, newly appointed Jury Member for the Prize about his impressions of this year’s nominations.
You are part of a new group of Jury Members for the Prize. How do you feel the Prize brings value to the work around girls’ and women’s education?
The education sector is shifting and evolving towards a more explicit, active commitment to addressing gender-related barriers within and beyond the education system. This shift is being accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic with more NGOs, local governments as well as national governments recognizing the role education has in promoting gender-transformative change. Many are responding to this shift with innovations that aim to address the persistent challenges faced by girls and women in education. By highlighting these key practices through the Prize, we can contribute to inspiring more action for girls and women.
We speak about the importance of gender-transformative change both in and beyond education. Can you define what this means for you?
Gender-transformative education aims not only to respond to gender disparities within the education system but also to harness the full potential of education to transform attitudes, practices and discriminatory gender norms. Education can support critical changes for gender equality, such as promoting women’s leadership, preventing gender-based violence, and catalyzing boys' and men's engagement to embrace gender equality.
What particularly impressed you when reviewing this year’s nominations?
I have been very impressed by the capacity shown by many organizations and individuals nominated to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure they could maintain the delivery of their programmes. We know that fewer girls and women have access to and use the internet, and the digital gender gap is growing, particularly in developing countries. Many found new ways of delivering educational content and finding solutions to conduct fully online or blended approaches to learning, often in low-resource settings where access to the internet is extremely limited.
What would be one tip you would give to interested organizations and individuals for next year’s Prize edition?
Focus on demonstrating impact and describing actual changes experienced by women and girls through their participation in your work or project. If you have undertaken monitoring and evaluation, make sure you include the reports and spell out clearly the type of results you have been able to achieve through your project. Be as explicit as possible and provide both quantitative and qualitative information. For example, include testimonies from participants about how the project has helped them to learn and grow, and data about the percentage increase of girls’ passing their exams or the number of women who found employment following their participation in the project.
The two laureates of the 2021 edition of the Prize were recognized during an online award ceremony with the participation of Professor Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People’s Republic of China and UNESCO Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education, and Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.
Established in 2015 by the Executive Board of UNESCO and funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education aims to advance girls’ and women’s education, and contributes directly to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5 concerning, respectively, education and gender equality.