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UNGEI Open Forum on Gender Equality in Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda
As a lead partnership spearheading strategies to tackle gender equality in education, UNGEI seized the opportunity to host this event to frame its current and future work within the broader development agenda. Ms. Nora Fyles, Head of the UNGEI Secretariat, introduced the panel, which included notable guests Ms. Amina Mohammed, Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning; Ms. Sumaya Saluja, Advocate from the Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group (GEFI); Mr. Richard Morgan, Senior Adviser (Post-2015 Agenda) at UNICEF; and Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Director of Programmes at UNICEF.
Mr. Richard Morgan provided opening remarks and highlighted that although the world has made significant progress, there are still over 61 million children out of school, half of which are girls. Resonating with UNGEI’s mandate, Mr. Morgan emphasized that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to ensure both gender equality and equity in education.
In her keynote address, Ms. Mohammed’s messages reinforced this reality. “First, let’s finish the unfinished business from the MDGs,” said Ms. Mohammed. She also emphasized the role of women and girls in achieving development goals. She said, “If we don’t invest in women and girls, we will just be running on half an engine.”
Ms. Mohammed added, “The Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative puts a spotlight on what we can do [in education] until 2015.” When speaking about what to expect in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Ms. Mohammed said, “[It] will be different from the MDGs, shifting and broadening to a sustainable development agenda. This new agenda is about young people. They don’t need to be talked at, they need to be talked with.”
Ms. Sumaya Saluja, a member of the Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group, provided her perspective as a youth herself. She said, “Young people are an immense asset. We don’t cost that much to work with and mobilize so it is really a good investment.” She stressed the idea of moving the discourse from education to learning. “We must question why children who have access to school are going to school, but just aren’t learning,” said Ms. Saluja.
Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Director of Programmes at UNICEF, said, “Knowledge is power and education, if done right, can empower and break the cycle of poverty.” He referenced UNGEI and Plan International’s Call to Action which was released at the recent Learning for All Ministerial Meeting in Washington DC the week prior. “The UNGEI partnership has thrown the spotlight on girls’ education and we urgently need to accelerate girls’ education now and in the future post-2015 agenda,” said Dr. Alipui.
Closing remarks were provided by Ms. Oley Dibba-Wadda, Executive Director of the Forum for African Women Educationalists. The floor was later opened to the participants, which included members from UNGEI’s Global Advisory Committee and representatives from international agencies and non-governmental organizations, to exchange their thoughts with the panelists.
We will all continue to anticipate what the post-2015 development agenda will look like, but a clear message that came out during the forum is the critical role that partnerships, such as UNGEI, will play in representing various voices and shaping the agenda to address emerging challenges.
When asked to reflect on the value of partnerships, Ms. Mohammed said, “Partnerships can be used to lift the [development] agenda. What we’ve seen with the Post-2015 discussions is that there are an amazing number of representatives from vulnerable groups coming to the table with an agenda - they want more than a social agenda, they want us to recognize the circumstances that they are in. That’s a voice we did not have [access to] in 2000. People are far more aware today about their rights and opening these spaces up is very important. Partnerships need to help the north-south space open wider within civil society, business and governments. I think this is happening now.”