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