UNESCO joined change-makers at Women Deliver, the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. Held from 3 – 6 June in Vancouver, Canada, the conference attracted more than 8,000 people working to achieve a more gender equal world, including world leaders, influencers, academics, activists and journalists.
Helping to shape the agenda at Women Deliver, UNESCO organized a session on the power of comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) to improve girls’ health and well-being while achieving gender equality, with speakers from Jamaica, Namibia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone. UNESCO also contributed to and presented at sessions on gender transformative education and school-related gender-based violence.
Together with partners, including the Global Partnership for Education, Malala Fund, Plan International and UNGEI, UNESCO hosted a vibrant “Education Hub”, where education advocates gathered to debate and discuss the importance of education to ensuring the empowerment of girls and women. UNESCO presented a new campaign to reduce early and unintended pregnancy in Eastern and Southern Africa, created a mock classroom where daily lessons outlined best practice in CSE teaching and learning, and the Global Education Monitoring Report launched a new policy paper on CSE, Facing the Facts.
Speaking at the launch of the policy paper, former New Zealand Prime Minister and Chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report Board, Helen Clark, said, “It’s extraordinary really, that in an area so basic to our lives and our function, so many are denied basic, practical information; how to keep safe, how to determine when a first pregnancy would be.”
CSE is a critical tool for empowering young people, added the First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, “It’s the realization that CSE is about economic empowerment. It’s the minute that young people understand the consequences of having children and having control over their own bodies and the information to make decisions that protect them from risk.”
UNESCO Senior Programme Specialist for Education and Health, Joanna Herat, said, “Delegates at the Women Deliver Conference, of all ages, made it clear; comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) is a pathway to achieving gender equality. Youth activists called out the lack of CSE as a huge gap in their education and as a critical issue to help prevent early and unintended pregnancy, gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. We also saw increased understanding of CSE as a way to improve self-esteem, change attitudes and social norms, and build self-efficacy.”
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced a historic investment in gender equality at Women Deliver 2019, a $1.4 billion commitment per year to sexual and reproductive health and maternal and newborn health.
Speaking to delegates at Women Deliver, Abigail Kaindu, a youth advocate from Ghana, reiterated the call for gender equality, “What’s the point of free education for girls if they cannot go to school every day because they don’t have sanitary pads or access to toilet facilities? What is the point of opening schools for girls if they are to suffer sexual harassment at schools?”