Education, Education Cannot Wait. Future of Education is here, Gender

Her Education Is Our Foundation

Yasmine Sherif is Director Education Cannot Wait

Mar 12 2020 - Conflicts and disasters are about destruction. Discrimination and marginalization are about disempowerment. Combine the two and we get a glimpse of the brutal reality affecting millions of girls today. Standing amidst the ruins of their towns, displaced communities and torn-apart families, they are further shackled by exclusion, exploitation and lost opportunities because of their gender.

Yasmine Sherif

An estimated 39 million girls and adolescent girls in countries affected by armed conflicts, forced displacement or natural disasters lack access to quality education. They represent a new generation prevented from acquiring the skills they need to withstand the shocks of crisis, to rebuild their lives and to contribute to the reconstruction of their society. They also represent a significant segment of humanity deprived of their inherent human right to learn, grow and achieve their potential.

Girls are the ones furthest left behind. We find them in South Sudan, where 72 per cent of primary school-aged girls (vs. 64 per cent of boys) do not attend primary school; in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where only 38 per cent of primary school students are girls; in Niger, where only 15 per cent of 15- to 24-year-old girls and young women are literate (vs. 35 per cent of young men); and, in Afghanistan where 70 per cent of the 3.5 million out of school children are girls, to mention just a few staggering, illustrative examples in the 21st century.

Yet, it has been demonstrated that better educated women have better incomes, and their children are better educated and in better health. The World Bank estimates that if every girl worldwide were to receive 12 years of quality-schooling, their lifetime earning could increase by $15 trillion to $30 trillion. Moreover, greater education equality between male and female students could decrease the likelihood of violent conflict by as much as 37 per cent. Thus, while the statistics clearly make the case for bold financial investments in girls’ education now, the lack of such investments is even costlier and its impact will haunt generations to come.

As a global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, ECW leverages funding to advance girls’ education in the humanitarian-development nexus. ECW’s recently published Gender Policy and Accountability Framework sets out our approach in translating our commitment to girls’ education in conflict- and crisis-affected countries into action. ECW has also taken affirmative action to ensure that 60 per cent of all students benefiting from ECW investments are girls and adolescent girls, while gender-sensitivity is integrated across all ECW-funded joint programmes.

Together with ECW stakeholders and partners on the ground, such as host-governments, strategic donor partners, UN agencies, civil society and private sector, we pursue gender equality and the empowerment of girls in emergencies and protracted crises through Sustainable Development Goal 4, since it is the foundation for all other SDGs.

Without a strong foundation values and aspirations tend to crumble. Can there be a more urgent mission than to invest in girls’ education to ensure a solid foundation for the Decade of Action?

 
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