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Girls’ Education Highlighted at the Global Partnership for Education second Replenishment Conference
Last month, over 800 world leaders, including ministers, education experts, and representatives from multilateral organizations, civil society, business and youth from 91 countries convened in Brussels, Belgium to pledge their commitment to education.
The Global Partnership for Education second Replenishment and Pledging Conference, which was held on 26 June, reported more than $28.5 billion in additional funding pledged for education for millions of children in more than 60 developing countries during 2015-2018.
The UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) was pleased to also make a policy pledge to provide technical and partnership support through 2017 to advance the common objectives to promote gender-responsive education sector plans and promote schools as safe spaces for learning, among other activities. UNGEI also provided technical inputs to the Girls’ Call to Action also released during the Summit.
Girls’ education was highlighted throughout the conference, with an entire session dedicated to the issues around it. UNGEI joined partners, GPE and Plan International, to host the Girls’ Education: Moving Beyond Access session. Moderated by Youth Advocacy Group member, Sumaya Saluja, the session aimed to girls’ education and gender equality in education challenges in a changing context and ways in which we can effectively respond.
Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the GPE and former Prime Minister of Australia, opened the session by setting the scene in the context of what GPE is trying to achieve in the area of girls’ education. She reminded us all, “There are more girls in school today, but there are still millions who are still not in school. There is a lot more that needs to be done.”
The panel discussion featured key players in the field of girls’ education and gender equality, including: Senator Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Australia; Minister Chitra Lekha Yadav, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal; Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF; Lynn Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, United Kingdom; Mabel Van Oranje, Chair, Girls not Brides; and Nigel Chapman, Executive Director, Plan International.
The panel set out to define the current challenges in moving beyond issues of access and parity, what Ms Gupta referred to as ‘second generation’ issues. Fostering positive environments and new ambition for girls may lead to girls also having ambitions for themselves. “We need to do something about the transition from primary to secondary education. That’s where we lose so many girls,” said Geeta Rao Gupta. Ms Gupta also talked about the financial barriers to girls’ education and solutions such as conditional cash transfers.
There was also a heavy emphasis on the need to eliminate violence against girls and early marriage which undermine girls' rights to education. Mabel van Oranje from Girls not Brides added, “We need to train teachers to understand the negative consequences of child marriage and the benefits of education.” In Nepal there is a parliamentary committee focused on school-related gender-based violence.
Panelists were asked to share successful initiatives to address girls’ education challenges. Nepal linked success in school to land rights, ensuring that daughters as well as sons can inherit it. Australia’s government recognized girls’ education as good business leading to prosperity for all.
A critical point that resonated among panelists was the need to ensure that education sector plans reflect girls’ education and gender issues. UNGEI is working with its partners at the country level to achieve this, as also reiterated in UNGEI’s policy pledge. Malala’s father closed the panel by saying “it is not about winning and losing - everyone benefits when we invest in education for girls.”
The entire discussion was illustrated in real-time and the final product capturing all of the key points can be viewed here. Notable quotes were also live-tweeted during the session using #FundEducation and #InvestinGirls. In that same vein, the @UNGEI Twitter account and Facebook page heavily supported the conference’s social media campaign before and during the conference.
For more on this side event and outcomes of the GPE second Replenishment Conference, please visit www.globalpartnership.org/replenishment