UNGEI ‘Leaders for Education’ Interview Series

In the lead-up to the global conference, UNGEI is rolling out the Leaders for Education interview series. The series will feature 10 global leaders from various sectors, including government, business and civil society, who have contributed to girls’ education and gender equality or whose personal stories are inspirational and highlight the power of quality education for all.

Zainab Salbi, co-founder and CEO of Women for Women International
Ela Bhatt, the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
Navanethem Pillay, The United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ana Ivanovic, Tennis Player, Photo Model and Global Sports Star
John T. Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco
Hilde F. Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Beyond Access Equals Newsletter

Equals is a newsletter on Gender, Education and Development, featuring articles written by researchers, practitioners and policy makers, conference reports, book reviews and letters, published by the Beyond Access team.

Equals Newsletter: Gender, Education and Development

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:

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:

May 20

The E4 Conference has now finished. The webcast recording from the Closing Plenary and Closing Ceremony is available from:

We will continue to update the E4 Website with news and follow ups from the conference. The declaration will be published soon, and we will also provide more reports from the conference. Our social media channels, such as our Flickr page and our YouTube channel, will be updated as well, so please keep yourself updated at:

The E4 Conference Team

May 20

UNGEI Global Advisory Committee Members Susan Durston, UNICEF Global Chief of Education, and Alfie Hamid, Cisco Networking Academy Manager for sub-Saharan Africa, reflect on the plenary on Expanding Opportunities: Harnessing the Power of Partnerships (19 May 2010, 14:00) and highlight the importance of collaboration across sectors.

May 20

Dakar on Thursday

Dakar, e4e Comments Off

The final day of the E4 Conference will conclude with the closing plenary at 15:30h Dakar time (view time across timezones), which will be webcast live at:

The agenda for the closing plenary includes presentations from the working groups on each of the three streams, Poverty, Violence and Quality. A general final discussion will follow, and the E4 Conference will conclude with the UNGEI Dakar Declaration on Girls’ Education.

The webcast will be recorded.

Also, take the opportunity to visit our YouTube channel, which includes many short video interviews of conference delegates, who are summarising some of the sessions and discussions:

The E4 Conference Team

May 20

Special guest blog from International journalist Femi Oke!

Mariama Ba Girl’s High School on Goree Island, near Dakar

Mariama Ba Girl’s High School on Goree Island, near Dakar

It’s a few hours before the official opening of UNGEI’s 10th anniversary conference in Dakar, Senegal. As mistress of ceremonies I feel I should be holed up finishing off my preparation. Instead I’m joining a field trip visiting the Mariama Ba Girl’s High School on nearby Goree Island. My head is telling me “eeek you don’t have time for this” while my heart is saying “what’s the point of talking about girls’ education if you don’t go and meet girls at school”. Fortunately my heart is obviously a whole lot smarter than my head!

As conference members chat animatedly next to me on the boat ride to the island, I’m surreptiously scribbling away, getting some last minute inspiration for later in the day. When I finally look up, what I see is striking. Goree Island is sandy, lapped by ocean and surrounded by lush vegetation. Headmistress Catherine Sarr walks our group through the grounds talking about the school. There are 213 students who live on site and, having no boys around, she says helps the girls concentrate on their studies. Students get into the school by passing an entrance exam. The caliber of the teaching and students is so high that in the last two years there’s been a 100% pass rate. I spend a lot of time working in Africa meeting children who have little or no access to school. It was refreshing to see how good high school education can be.

At this point the visit is going very well and then we head off to the staff room. The headmistress introduces us to the Physics and Chemistry teacher, the History and Geography teacher and the English teacher. They’re all men. One of our group members asks “how many male teachers are there?” It turns out there are 20 male teachers and 7 female members of staff. This fact unleashes a flurry of questions about the disparity in the numbers and the irony of having so many male teachers at a girls’ school.

Mr. Diba, who teaches history and geography, started to laugh at all our questions, his eyes twinkled as he teased “are you a bunch of feminists?!” That was the perfect cue for UNGEI’s Ms. Adelaide Soseh-Gaye, representing the African Network Campaign on Education for All, to do a little teaching of her own. Adelaide gave the history teacher a passionate lesson about gender parity. I’m sure if we’d been students the headmistress would have told us all to be quiet and get back to work! Adelaide was magnificent and Mr. Diba was bemused. After all it’s typical in West Africa for there to be far more male teachers than female ones. Fewer girls get through school, so there are fewer female teachers. Mr. Diba was concerned that if gender parity existed he would eventually lose his job. I chatted to him after the group had moved on. He wasn’t convinced by Adelaide’s argument, but I could tell from his smile he did enjoy her lecture.

While I was busy getting names and details of the teachers, my group had moved on. Trying to track them down I came across 14-year-old students Absa, Hadja and Kaffa on their way to class. They were curious about me and why I was visiting, and I was keen to get some quality time with them. Meeting these bright, engaging teenagers reminded me why I wanted to come to Senegal with UNGEI. When I see students relishing being in school, I know they’ll have a future full of potential.

Absa, Hadja and Kaffa directed me back to the main group just in time for the visit finale…singing. I must admit I have heard a lot of schoolgirls singing in my time, especially as I went to a girls’ school myself. It was cute, but the most memorable moment came during the question and answer session that followed. When asked who wanted to go to University everybody thrust their hands in the air. They told us they were going to be military doctors, university professors, ambassadors, engineers, psychiatrists and yes, even a teacher.

A few hours later, I wrapped up the opening ceremony for UNGEI’s 10th anniversary conference. I told the audience about the students who so confidently knew they were going on to higher education. I will never forget seeing over 100 girls waving their hands in the air. I wish you had seen it too. It was a beautiful sight.

Femi Oke is a special correspondent for the US national public radio show “The Takeaway”.
You can follow the e4 conference vibe on our youtube channel, on twitter and on flickr.

May 20

Safaa El-Kogali, Regional Director West Asia/North Africa, Population Council, and Malak Zaalouk, Regional Education Advisor, UNICEF Middle East/North Africa, revisit key issues from Safaa’s presentation at the plenary on violence, 18 May 2010 at 14:00.
Their discsussion highlights, among other things, violence against girls in conflict affected areas and the protecive role of education.

You can watch the full session recording, and hear more voices from Dakar on our youtube channel.

May 20

Elizabeth King, Sector Director for Education in the Human Development Network at the World Bank, talks about her keynote address given at the E4 Conference in Dakar on Tuesday, 18 May 2010, 8.30am.
You can watch the full session recording, and hear more voices from Dakar on our youtube channel.

Tagged with:
May 19

Today we are continuing to report live from Dakar. The first plenary is now underway, and you can follow it live from the link below or watch the recording later:

This morning’s plenary is on Quality Education for Equality, with Mr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Mr Albert Motivans, Head, Education Indicators and Data Analysis, UNESCO Institute of Statistics, and Ms Codou Diaw, UNGEI GAC member and Executive Director, Forum for African Woman Educationalists.

This afternoon, we will have a plenary on Expanding Opportunities, with UNGEI GAC members Ms Nitya Rao and Mr Alfie Hamid, Ms Awa N’Deye Ouedraogo, Ms Hege Mertyberg and Ms Susan Durston.

We also have videos from yesterday on our YouTube channel at:
And photos on our flickr page:

The E4 Conference Team

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

Contact Us | © UNGEI
preload preload preload