May 31

1990 marked the launch of the Education for All (EFA) movement, 2000 saw the reaffirmation of its goals and the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals and just last week, delegates from 20 countries compiled the 2010 declaration on girls’ education at UNGEI’s E4 conference. The international community has clearly articulated its commitment to ensuring that every boy and girl exercises his/her right to an education. However, despite this, 72 million children today are denied an education and the Global Monitoring Report (GMR) 2010 predicts that in 2015 56 million children still won’t have access to schooling. These alarming figures illustrate that current efforts dedicated to getting children into school are inadequate. As it stands, the world is letting down millions of children. The battle lies in translating this rhetoric into reality. This verbal commitment demonstrates political will on the part of governments but this becomes meaningless without the financial support to implement this goal. This commitment must be reflected in budget allocations, not as a token gesture but with a long-term vision. Donor countries also have a part to play, however the GMR highlights that aid commitments to basic education fell by 22% in 2007. 164 EFA member states have acknowledged the value of education for the health and livelihoods of families, the development of nations and above all, as a fundamental right for individuals. Education is a right that facilitates the realisation of other rights. To avoid the violation of 72 million children’s rights, action together with the necessary financial allocation is essential.

All figures obtained from:

http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/GMR/pdf/gmr2010/gmr2010-highlights.pdf

May 25

In the final instalment of the Leaders for Education Series, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, shares her feelings and experiences in securing the rights for all girls and boys. Queen Rania is the UNGEI Honorary Global Chair and UNICEF Eminent Advocate for Children, and dedicates much of her time to the campaign to get the remaining 72 million children into school, who she says, through no fault of their own, are shut out of school and shut down from a life of opportunity.  She points to a devastating combination of fate, conflict, poverty, famine, illiteracy, and ill health which combine to silence their voices. This prompts her to speak up and speak out for them.  Her experience has revealed to her that education works; ‘With an education, people start off on an equal footing with skills and opportunities to make the most out of their own lives. They learn to read and write; they earn more to feed their families; and they improve the lives of those around them.’ Lack of education condemns children to a half life, she argues. She poignantly notes that ‘we’re also losing our best opportunity to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges: poverty, hunger, HIV, climate change, conflict… Education helps solve nearly all of them, and educating girls is the fastest and most efficient way to do it.’

Read more about what Queen Rania has to say to leaders and policy makers and some of Queen Rania’s inspirational encounters with children around the world. The interview is available in full: http://www.ungei.org/247_2494.html

May 18

The opening cermony for UNGEI’s global E4 conference in Dakar: “Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality” combined a solid commitment to global goals eg. the gender components of Education for All (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Speakers returned again and again to the significance of the meeting ten year ago when the Dakar Programme for Action on EFA was adopted and UNGEI was launched because of the high numbers of girls out of school. Senegal’s achievement in enrolling large number sof girls in school was affirmed
by Senegal’s minister of pre-school, primary and lower secondary education and national languages, Mr. Kalidou Diallo, and Senegal’s prime minister Mr. Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye. The promise of schooling for girls all over the world was the wish of the Senegalese singer – Coumba Gawlo and the Femi Oke, Nigerian journalist and Mistress of Ceremony. But the size of the challenge of bringing of giving good education to the many millions of girls who are denied what Graça Machel called ‘Knowledge as a weapon for a better life’ was emphasised by Anthony Lake – UNICEF’s new Executive Director. Ann Therese Ndong Jatta, the Director of UNESCO’s regional bureau for education in Africa, talked about the need to go beyond the lip service often given to girls education, and to think about how to build a new humanism in which women and men can co-operate to change the attitudes of discimination. Anthony Lake called us to imagine a world where UNGEI’s work was done, and girls’ education rights had been achieved. The spirit of Kofi Annan ten years ago was in the room when he had called EFA a test we must pass. For the millions of girls still out of school or experiencing inequality within, we have not yet done well enough.

Elaine Unterhalter, conference co-director

May 17

Joseph Foumbi, UNICEF Rwanda Representative.

May 17

Aissata Dia, Programme Manager and Education Coordinator, ActionAid Senegal.

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May 17

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May 17

Cheryl Faye is the E4 Conference Director. She is the Head of Secretariat, United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI).

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May 12

With 2015 just 5 years away, the BBC is running a series assessing to what extent Bangladesh is on track to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Bangladesh has made particular gains with regards to getting children into primary school and this takes the focus of the most recent report where the BBC made a trip to a school in a Dhaka slum. There are approximately 16.4 million primary school aged children in Bangladesh but of these, 3.3 million are not in school, but are working full time. One teacher describes what a struggle it is persuading some parents to send their children to school, commenting that “It is a conflict between short-term gains versus long-term benefits.” Necessities of the present override potential future benefits. In order to counteract such attitudes, the government has employed various schemes to encourage parents to send their children to school. One such scheme is the food incentives programme. This has seen great success and today, Bangladesh boasts 90% enrolment which puts the country in a good place for achieving universal primary education by 2015. This figure represents the great strides that have also been made with regards to gender equality as the number of girls enrolled has significantly risen. One girl reveals great aspirations for her education “I want to be a lawyer when I grow up because I have seen so many people go to prison unjustly and I would like to help free them.’’ Despite its progress, Bangladesh still faces significant challenges. Increasing quantity of education does not translate into quality education. Many teachers are in post with insufficient training and facilities and materials are often of poor quality which can hinder access and achievement. In order to realise 100% enrolment, provision of education must also be extended to children with disabilities or from ethnic minorities who are particularly vulnerable to exclusion from educational opportunities. Poverty, quality education and intersecting inequalities are all pertinent issues for Bangladesh. These are also key to E4 conference’s e-conference on girls’ education so if you have something to say on the issue join our debate! Comments will contribute to discussions at the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) conference in Dakar next week.

To join the e-conference go to: www.e4conference.org/e4ew5.

Read the BBC story in full: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8587387.stm

May 10

The sixth segment of the UNGEI Leaders for Education Series features Hilde F. Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Prior to her current role, Ms. Johnson was the Minister of International Development of Norway between 2001 and 2005, and Minister of Human Rights and Development from 1997 to 2000, within the two administrations of Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. Ms. Johnson talks positively about education gains that have been made since the establishment of UNGEI with 60% of countries achieving gender parity. However, she highlights that this mustn’t conceal the fact that of the 101 million children out of primary school, more than half are girls.  She champions girls’ education, affirming that when girls go to school every development goal set by the international community becomes achievable. Following the recent release of the UNICEF publication ‘The Humanitarian Action Report’, Ms. Johnson talks with special reference to the importance of education in emergencies. Read about Ms. Johnson discussing the work of UNICEF, education in Haiti following the earthquake and how education got her to where she is.

The interview is available in full: www.ungei.org

May 08

This week we have the pleasure of featuring a guest blog post from Emily Jacobi and Abby Goldberg from Digital Democracy. Digital Democracy is a New York-based nonprofit organization that works globally, using digital tools to empower civic engagement in marginalized communities. Emily Jacobi is co-founder of Digital Democracy and conducts trainings, creates curriculum focused on new media literacy and works directly with grassroots actors to design projects that leverage technology to solve pressing problems. Abby Goldberg leads Latin America, Caribbean and gender-based programming in addition to advising on organizational development and outreach.

We at Digital Democracy received a request from the Protection Officer for Sexual Exploitation and Abuse working on behalf of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who relayed the enormous and immediate need for mechanisms to streamline protection, documentation, and service provisions around gender-based-violence. Her mandate was to create this mechanism and she asked whether we could join an “interagency working session”, meeting with thirteen local women leaders from five different organisations in Port Au Prince, to provide technical expertise at the meeting.

Why Haiti’s Women?
Digital Democracy has been working in Haiti since before the earthquake, and we worked to support the tech community’s response in helping to save lives in the early weeks following the disaster. In March, at the Commission on the Status of Women, Dd attended a panel at which women leaders from Haiti spoke about their reality – pre and post earthquake – and we realized that like in conflict and post-conflict settings where there are opportunities for creating vast structural change in favour of equality, natural disasters provide a similar opportunity. Women in Haiti have always been excluded from decision-making and formal governance processes throughout Haiti’s history. Vast legal and cultural discrimination has led to decades of violence targeting women. Nonetheless, while community organizations have developed to fill the vacuum of formal responses, women’s access to proper medical, psychosocial, and legal attention is barely existent. The earthquake worsened the lot of these women, but it is also an opportunity for rallying behind them to ensure their access to aid, and ultimately, a greater share of decision-making power. These are just a few of the facts we learned:

  • Approximately one third of Haiti’s population was directly affected by the earthquake.
  • Women’s status in Haiti before the earthquake was already dismal. Now, it is significantly worse. Gender Based violence was a major concern for national security pre-earthquake and women are at significantly increased risk and have reported growing incidence of sexual violence.
  • Less than 4% representation of women in parliament – by far the lowest in the Hemisphere.
  • Women have no land rights.
  • Haitian women have not been part of Post Disaster Needs Assessment or any formal response after quake or recovery decision-making – no voice, access or visibility.
  • Rape was only codified as a crime in 2005 – it remains a “crime of honor” meaning that punishment is contingent on the virginity of the woman and mitigated sentencing is available for marrying their victim.
  • Four of the most important women leaders behind the women’s movement died in quake. It is hard to assess the impact of the quake on the network long term but for now, there has been a loss leadership and many members are homeless and displaced.
  • The Women’s Ministry has scant resources. Formal responses to the problem are limited and the UN and NGO community still has not found an effective solution to streamline protection and reporting mechanisms for addressing this growing humanitarian crisis.

While this history is the reason we went to work with Haitian women, we departed for Haiti with two primary goals. First, we wanted to solidify relationships with actors on the ground and learn more about the use of technology—including mobile phones and mapping software—to streamline and more effectively address sexual violence and child protection in the aftermath of the earthquake. Second, we wanted to do what we could in just a short week to give tools to women leaders that would enable them to have greater voice, visibility, access, and impact in the rebuilding effort. To this end, we lead a two-day photo and media training and left cameras and other equipment behind so that they can continue to hone their skills, document their work, and be empowered by technology.

What we learned

  • There is an urgent and critical window of opportunity right now in the aftermath of the unprecedented disaster in Haiti to support the women who are disproportionately affected and lacking access to official channels of aid and reconstruction decision-making. Now is the time to create important precedent for women and disaster risk/response/empowerment in Haiti that can have broad implications for countries around the world susceptible to natural disasters.
  • Over the course of close to a dozen meetings with many of the major players at the UN, NGOs, and among community groups working on gender based violence and with Haitian women – we received consistent validation and support for our work and the important value it can add to efforts on the ground to support women and to address growing violence targeting them.
  • Mobile access is higher in Haiti than most other places in the world – even in camps – and almost equal access for men and women.
  • One of the greatest satisfactions of the trip was learning that some of the women’s organizations we worked with had been paying for photographers to document their work, in part to seek funding and visibility. Now they can do this themselves.
  • The women’s organizations have little recognition outside of their communities. Organizations have no websites and are hard to find.
  • There is a role to be played by agile, small NGOs and other “disruptive” forces – like Digital Democracy – to build bridges between various UN agencies and their respective “mandates”, community based groups, and international NGOs.
  • The UN and all international actors must do a better job of finding ways to work with the local community in partnership. Haitian community groups are strong and effective, but lack resources and more importantly, access to the meetings where their voices and perspective must be heard.

This blog post was written by Abby Goldberg.

You can read more on the work of Digital Democracy at http://digital-democracy.org/

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