World unites to empower women and girls through education

World unites to empower women and girls through education
4 min read
13 July, 2016
'Education Cannot Wait' for girls as an international forum puts a spotlight on what prospects education can unlock for females around the world.
The first Girls’ Education Forum aims to encourage female learning across the globe [DFID]
Governments, business leaders and aid agencies all came together under one roof to help push for more investment in girls' education around the world. 

Hosted by Global Citizen + CHIME FOR CHANGE, and the Department for International Development (DFID), the first Girls’ Education Forum (GEF) culminated with an evening of intimate music and inspiring speakers.


But the biggest announcement of the night came from Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, who committed £100 million of funding to support programmes to get more of the world’s poorest girls into school.

Speaking at the event on July 7, Greening said, “Education doesn’t just shape individuals, it shapes countries – but right now too many young girls are deprived of an education simply because of their gender.

"Today’s event is about putting a spotlight on that, and focusing on what education can do to unlock prospects for girls around the world.”

Worldwide, 63 million girls are out of school and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women. Furthermore, twice as many girls as boys will never start school. 

The benefits of education go without saying, but figures show that a girl who attends secondary school is six times less likely to marry as a child.

Worldwide, 63 million girls are out of school and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women

The event's attendees included former Australian prime minister and chair of the Global Partnership for Education, Julia Gillard, CEO of the Nike Foundation, Maria Eitel, as well as education ministers from Afghanistan and South Sudan, and the deputy foreign minister from Norway.

There were also 150 youth delegates who, through their voluntary work with the DFID-funded International Citizen Service, had seen first-hand the barriers to girls’ education.

One of the main topics of the day was the issue of education in conflict and emergency areas.

Justine Greening and Julia Gillard were joined by the Education Minister of South Sudan, Deng Deng Hoc Yai and young ambassadors for education campaigns to discuss this topic.

In situations of humanitarian crises, education is often given a low priority, as bare necessities take precedent. In 2015, 75 million children and young people were caught up in humanitarian emergencies, where they are in the greatest need of access to education. Of these, over 16 million were school-age refugees, internally displaced, or other populations affected by crises.

In 2015, 75 million children and young people were caught up in humanitarian emergencies, where they are in the greatest need of access to education

Mafooz Almellhan, who left Syria at the age of 15 for Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, gave a heartfelt speech at the event saying “People think refugees are all lost. We are not lost, we have not lost hope. We have not lost our love for learning, but we do need your help."

Education is critical during emergencies and times of crisis, as school can provide the stability, structure and routine that children need to cope with loss, fear, stress and violence. 

Being in school can also keep children safe from risks such as gender-based violence, recruitment into armed forces and groups, child labour and early marriage.

'Education Cannot Wait'

Julia Gillard emphasised that education should begin to be considered as vital as other humanitarian needs, and nations must have systematic responses in place to ensure education is catered for in emergencies.

Greening went on to say that we require a “new normal” in which it should be normal for children in crises to access education safely and consistently. Both women stressed the importance of the Education Cannot Wait campaign that was announced at the World Humanitarian Summit earlier this year.

Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund to prioritise education by bridging the humanitarian-development divide to build more sustainable education systems. The fund seeks to generate a shared political, operational and financial commitment to fulfil global educational needs.

Commitments of this nature are welcomed as steps are taken to achieve the United Nation’s ambitious goal of ensuring all girls and boys are in free and equitable primary education by 2030.

Millions of girls are in education in Afghanistan now, with an increased presence of women in all other aspects of Afghan community

The day was well attended and packed with industry experts from over 30 organisations, including Save the Children, Aga Khan Foundation, UNICEF and USAID. The day culminated with words from a variety of high level advisors, moderated by the entertaining and poignant Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda.

Representatives from CAMFED, the World Bank and Norwegian Foreign Ministry, all set out their visions for the future of global girls’ education.

Afghani Education Minister Asadullah Hanif Balkhi spoke of how millions of girls are in education in Afghanistan now, with an increased presence of women in all other aspects of the Afghan community. He cited that, despite tremendous progress, there was still a long way to go for women in the country. 

Closing statements from Justine Greening reiterated the UK’s commitment to global education, echoing the UK’s ongoing contribution of 0.7 percent of GNI to foreign aid. She completed the event by reminding the audience that “investing in girls' education isn’t just smart – it’s the right thing to do”.