UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova today called on governments, the private sector and civil society to scale up and accelerate efforts to provide quality education for all girls. Ms Bokova warned that “a generation of young women will be left behind” unless there is a concerted global push now, and at all levels of society, to change the status quo.
The Director-General was speaking at the second annual Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai. The Forum is organized by UNESCO and the UAE Ministry of Education, GEMS Education, the Varkey GEMS Foundation and Dubai Cares, in support of the United Nations Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative. This year’s edition was attended by more than 1,000 representatives of government, leading non-governmental organizations, business leaders and academia.
The Director-General pointed out that “In 2011, there were 31 million girls still out of school, of whom 55 percent are expected never to enroll”, and that “women still represent two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.”
“This is a waste of talent and human ingenuity that no society can afford,” Irina Bokova said. No society can develop sustainably using just 50 per cent of its human capital.
“Girls education is a development multiplier and one of the most powerful transformational forces we have to build peace and social inclusion,” she added. “Educated girls have healthier families, earn more income and contribute to national growth. Everyone benefits.”
At a plenary session devoted to New Partnerships for Girls’ and Women’s Education*, the Director-General encouraged business leaders present to join UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ Education. This initiative was launched in 2011 by Ms Bokova, United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and and former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and targets the weakest links in education – the transition to secondary education and literacy.
Since its launch, the Partnership has brought together several governments, private sector leaders and non-governmental organizations to provide girls and women in underprivileged urban and rural areas in Africa and Asia with education and learning opportunities. Some 20,000 learners and hundreds of teachers and ministry officials have benefitted from projects implemented in seven countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tanzania) -- from awareness raising and capacity-building activities, academic support, access to learning opportunities, guidance and counselling, access to, training on and use of ICTs.
“We have seen that we can produce results,” said the Director-General. ”But to make a real difference, we must scale up our efforts exponentially. Our actions must measure up to our ambitions. This requires greater engagement from all sectors.”
In keeping with this goal, in 2014 and 2015 UNESCO will seek to increase the number and diversity of its partners in girls’ education; expand the geographic coverage of its activities; increase the amount of resources invested; and promote innovative approaches and encourage South-South and North-South-South cooperation.
*Panelists included in this event included H.E. Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, Minister of State for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education, Islamic Republic of Pakistan; Reem Al-Hashimy, Chairperson of Dubai Cares; Li Xiaoming, Executive President HNA Group; John Davies, Vice President, Intel; Joanna Rubenstein, Assistant Director for International programmes, Earth Institute; Columbia University; Sohaib Arshad, Mobilink.
Photos of the Global Education and Skills Forum are available rights free here