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Landmark meeting urges prioritization of gender equality in and through education

20 May 2022

On Friday 20th May 2022, education ministers and their permanent secretaries from 13 African countries concluded a three-day High-Level meeting on Transformative Leadership for Gender Equality in and through Education, during which recommendations were made to mainstream gender equality in and through education.

Through the Freetown Manifesto for Gender Transformative Leadership in and through Education presented on the last day, the Ministries of education of Burkina Faso, Chad, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, committed to focusing their leadership on empowering girls through education while seeking to achieve gender equality in and through education.

In collaboration with various Governments, we hope to explore ways in which all parts of the education system can allow all girls and boys to gain access to and complete education cycles and in addition, for them to be equally empowered in and through education.

Dr. Sulaiman Braimoh, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone

The Ministers’ meeting was convened by the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to build a platform of high-level ‘gender in education’ champions.

Let us go beyond gender parity in accessing education. Let us make sure that the full rewards of education are also enjoyed equally. Let us make sure that we lay the foundation for societies with equality before the law, equal representation, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity regardless of your gender, physical ability, the size of your bank account, or the location of your home.

Dr. David Moinina Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Sierra Leone

Addressing the systematic barriers that impede gender equality in education requires country-level solutions that identify, address, and eliminate gender biases. Without a deeper focus on transformative change to how we educate, gains made so far will all be reversed. Senior leaders in ministries of education play a critical role in developing such solutions and sustaining actions and positive changes for gender equality within the education sector. UNGEI conceived this event within the Gender at the Centre Initiative (GCI) framework, which aims to champion national leadership to advance gender equality in education.

These commitments by the Education leaders support progress towards advancing gender equality in education in Africa and make headway towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5.

We are inspired by the commitment to gender equality by these 13 African Ministries and look forward to the leadership at the UN Secretary General’s Transforming Education Summit and beyond.

Antara Ganguli, Director, UNGEI Secretariat

The draft manifesto makes recommendations for mainstream gender equality in and through education, including the following:

  • Count all out-of-school girls, especially marginalized girls and children with disabilities, to ensure they can return to school.
  • Provide alternative learning opportunities for at least 70% of all girls in areas affected by crises.
  • Ensure that education planning addresses harmful gender norms and increases gender sensitivity within the Ministries of Education.
  • Creating more effective pathways to employment through education with a focus on girls and young women.

“We will consolidate the results and continue the work we have already started to support the education systems and actors so that we are reaching children to learn how to become more tolerant, just, and equal citizens of the world tomorrow. Towards this end, we commit to transforming our systems, pedagogies, institutions, and indeed our mindsets so that we can end harmful gender norms and stereotypes and help each child achieve the freedom they need to dream and grow without barriers,” reads part of the manifesto.

The three-day meeting, which included facilitated sessions and discussions, helped to unpack and provide evidence and best practices around what needs to be done and prioritized in the education sectors of the different countries.

The meeting also helped to provide a meaningful inter-ministerial collaboration ahead of the September 2022 Transforming Education Summit, which aims to mobilize ambition, solidarity, and solutions to transform education.

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Dr Luisa Ciampi Research Associate, Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge, Professor Pauline Rose Director, Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the University of Cambridge & Antara Ganguli Head of the UNGEI Secretariat