Educating girls: ‘Agenda 2030’ should be ‘Gender 2030’

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Educating girls: ‘Agenda 2030’ should be ‘Gender 2030’

Summary

What more can the EU do to stop girls’ education languishing as a footnote and instead be the headline to the conversation about the world’s sustainable development goals?

Gender equality and access to quality education are key parts of the UN’s Agenda 2030, but should it really be called ‘Gender 2030?’, asked Friends of Europe at its Educating Girls debate in Brussels on 27 February.

Every day 130m girls are not in school and, by any measure, they and the wider world are worse off for it. So why are we failing to remove the barriers in their way and how can we “change this rather nasty paradigm?” said moderator and director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of Europe, Shada Islam.

“None of the 17 UN goals can be achieved without the active participation of women,” she said.

Speakers from the UN, European Commission and specialist NGOs were asked to consider whether the EU should: use girls’ education as a key condition for countries receiving development aid; make it a specific part of accession talks, and deny aid and trade benefits to those spending more on defence than education.

At ground level, as well as dealing with structural barriers to education – such as lack of access to toilets – speakers emphasised the importance of having a direct dialogue with communities, including concrete examples of positive work in Afghanistan and Armenia.

Participants also heard from Bangio Ali, an Education Officer at the AVSI Foundation, in Kenya, who focuses on girls and mothers’ rights and out-of-school children. Despite the odds against it, she had the educational opportunities her mother was denied, and went on to work directly with girls and families in her own Somali community in Kenya, including in refugee camps.

“I am where I am because of education,” she said.

Educating Girls: ‘Agenda 2030’ should be ‘Gender 2030’

Educating girls: ‘Agenda 2030’ should be ‘Gender 2030’

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Educating girls: ‘Agenda 2030’ should be ‘Gender 2030’

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This event is part of our Development Policy Forum (DPF), which brings together a number of important development actors, including the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the United Nations and the World Bank. Reflecting the growing role of the private sector in development, the DPF has now welcomed Coca-Cola and Eni to the forum. The DPF contributes to the global and European conversation on inclusive development. Through its activities and publications, the DPF reflects the rapidly-changing global debate on growth and development and seeks to encourage a multi-stakeholdered, fresh, up-to-date thinking on the multiple challenges facing the development community.

IMAGE CREDIT: CC/Flickr – Charlotte Kels / World Bank

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Agenda 2030 highlights the importance of gender equality and insists that every child should have the right to a safe, formal, quality education and access to lifelong learning. Access to education should not be determined by a child’s gender. Yet, girls are still 1.5 times more likely than boys to be completely excluded from primary education, and by 2016, less than half of all countries had achieved gender parity in education at secondary level. Globally, 130 million girls are out of school and 15 million girls of primary school age will never even enter a classroom. This impacts directly on the wellbeing of girls who cannot develop much-needed skills to take charge of their lives, homes and careers. Women’s education also increases their workforce participation, directly affecting their cities’ and countries economic growth and productivity.

  • What role should the EU play to help countries fulfil their promise to close the gender gap by 2030?
  • What action needs to be taken to overcome complex global barriers so more girls go to school and are provided with a meaningful education and the required skills to enter into the work force?
  • Why aren’t governments, businesses and civil society working closer together to bridge the digital divide and provide equal access to ICT skills and digital literacy for girls and women?

Speakers

Bangio Ali Adan

Education Officer at AVSI Foundation Kenya

Susanne Conze

Deputy Head of Unit for Strategy and Investments at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

Larisa Hovannisian

Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Teach For Armenia

Geetanjali Narayan

UNICEF Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Moderated by

Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Speakers

Speakers

Photo of Bangio Ali Adan
Bangio Ali Adan

Education Officer at AVSI Foundation Kenya

Show more information on Bangio Ali Adan

Moved by a strong will to empower marginalised and vulnerable women in her community, Bangio Ali has been advocating for girls and mothers’ rights within AVSI Foundation since 2015. As Education Officer, Ali strives towards the implementation of AVSI’s projects with a focus on out-of-school children. There are still 2 million children in Kenya that are not going to school, with about half of these being in refugee camps. AVSI aims to improve the access to quality education through teacher-training and by reinforcing partnerships with all stakeholders, such as schools, NGOs, ministries, companies and foundations.

Photo of Susanne Conze
Susanne Conze

Deputy Head of Unit for Strategy and Investments at the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

Show more information on Susanne Conze

At the European Commission Directorate-General for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Susanne Conze is responsible for the Strategy and Investments unit. The unit coordinates the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training, driving policy cooperation, mutual learning and the exchange of good practices between EU Member States in the interest of establishing a European Education Area. Prior to this role, Conze worked in the different areas of education, especially school education, and social inclusion policies in the management of European education programmes.

Photo of Larisa Hovannisian
Larisa Hovannisian

Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Teach For Armenia

Show more information on Larisa Hovannisian

Larisa Hovannisian’s ambition to provide all Armenian children with access to a quality education derives from her experience as a Teach For America teacher. Returning to Armenia with a vision to spread inspiration and change children’s lives, Hovannisian founded Teach For Armenia. As one of the most successful educational organisations in the country, Teach For Armenia currently supports over 3,000 students. For her significant contribution to the advancement of Armenian society, Hovannisian received national recognition from the government.

Photo of Geetanjali Narayan
Geetanjali Narayan

UNICEF Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Show more information on Geetanjali Narayan

Geetanjali Narayan is based in Sarajevo, where she leads a dynamic team of 30 professionals in their mission to deliver results for children in health, early childhood development, education, social protection, inclusion, and child rights monitoring. She is responsible for all partnerships with Bosnia and Herzegovina government authorities at all levels, including civil society organisations, bilateral institutions, multilateral institutions, as well as children and adolescents themselves. Prior to her current position, Narayan held numerous positions in strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, social policy and programme management in Jordan, South Africa, Vietnam, Mali and New York HQ.

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Matt Reed

Chief Executive Officer of the Aga Khan Foundation UK

Show more information on Matt Reed

The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)’s long-standing commitment to girls’ education stems from when the Aga Khan School was established in 1905, when it was outlined as one of the first priorities of the School. As its CEO, Matt Reed is currently driving the AKF’s ambitious mandate to break the cycle of poverty by building reliable institutions and cultivating an active civil society in many Asian and African countries. In his previous post as CEO of AKF India, Reed focused on the needs of marginalised communities by launching multi-state programmes in education, financial inclusion and livelihoods.

Photo of Shada Islam
Shada Islam

Managing Director at New Horizons Project

Show more information on Shada Islam

Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations and has been selected as a fellow by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is one of the authors of Friends of Europe’s much-read “Frankly Speaking” commentary and is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.

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