Call to Action: ‘Empower Her’

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Call to Action: ‘Empower Her’

Education Cannot Wait launches the “Call to action to Empower Her’ – cosigned by Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Svenja Schulze, and ECW Director, Yasmine Sherif – a brief which sheds light on and articulates the urgency to advance gender equality for girls and boys left furthest behind in crises in order to reach both our financing and programmatic goals.

View the original joint Foreword

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on a global learning crisis resulting in 1.6 billion out-of-school children at the height of school closures. Yet, the children and adolescents affected by social exclusion and discrimination, and especially girls living in crisis situations, have been hit the hardest. Today, an estimated 20 million girls, particularly adolescent girls, may never return to school. These girls are at heightened risk of child marriage, female genital mutilation, adolescent pregnancy and gender-based violence – all of which have devastating impacts on girls’ safety, wellbeing and empowerment to reach their full potential.

Without education, girls cannot reach their full potential, and the cycle of poverty cannot be broken. Educating girls, especially those left behind in crises, is critical to the COVID-19 recovery plan, to mitigating climate change, and to ensuring equal and prosperous societies. This is precisely the mission of Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises (EiEPC), which follows the most marginalized children and youth wherever they are, to uphold their fundamental right to education.

ECW works together with strategic partners to ensure equal access to inclusive, gender-responsive, quality, relevant and safe learning opportunities. This means putting gender equality at the forefront of advocacy and resource mobilization efforts to increase financing for education in emergencies. This also means working in close collaboration with a range of partners, donors, United Nations (UN) agencies, civil society actors, as well as local women and girls’ organizations to fund, design, implement, monitor and evaluate tailored gender-targeted interventions to meet the differentiated needs of girls, boys, men and women in their diversity.

In five years of existence, ECW and its partners have demonstrated the centrality of gender equality to achieve quality learning in crisis. Since the Fund’s inception, 95% of ECW-supported programmes have shown improvement in terms of equal access for girls and boys to education in crisis-affected communities. Additionally, in 2020, ECW reached 51% girls through its COVID-19 interventions despite the heightened risks of girls dropping out. Finally, ECW launched the EiE GenKit together with United Nation Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), a resource package tailored to the needs of education practitioners on the ground.

The road to success is still long. ECW’s objective to support gender responsive investments with gender equitable access for all children and youth in all country investments will require renewed political will and financial commitment from public and private sector donors so we can continue supporting global commitments for girls’ education – such as the G7 objective of getting 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more reading by the age of ten in low and lower-middle income countries by 2026.

National governments and international donors must spend enough money in the right places to reach Sustainable Development Goal 4 by 2030. Together, we can advance gender equality and girls’ education in emergencies and protracted crises. Because if not now, when?

Yasmine Sherif,
Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

Svenja Schulze,
Minister for Economic Cooperation
and Development, Germany

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