NO MORE LIMITS

May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, which connects people across the globe ‘To create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period.’
May 28 is Menstrual Hygiene Day, which connects people across the globe ‘To create a world in which every woman and girl is empowered to manage her menstruation safely, hygienically, with confidence and without shame, where no woman or girl is limited by something as natural and normal as her period.’

TABOOS ON MENSTRUAL HYGIENE ARE KEEPING GIRLS OUT OF SCHOOL – ESPECIALLY IN CRISIS AND EMERGENCY SITUATIONS – OUR SPECIAL GUEST CONTRIBUTOR FROM SAVE THE CHILDREN LAYS OUT THE WORK BEING DONE IN THE EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT-SUPPORTED MULTI-YEAR EDUCATIONAL RESPONSE AND OTHER RELATED INITIATIVES IN UGANDA TO ENSURE DIGNITY, ACCESS AND EMPOWERMENT

Special Contribution by Rachael Corbishley, Save the Children

Imagine being in the middle of your science class and your period starts. There’s no clean water to wash, no proper toilet to use, and you don’t have any pads. Sadly, that’s the reality for many refugee girls in Uganda.

As we call on education leaders, countries and other key partners to take action on Menstrual Hygiene Day, it’s important to remember the specific needs and risks for refugee girls, displaced girls, and girls whose dignity and access to the safety and opportunity of an education are being pushed aside by taboos, misconceptions, and lack of proper training and materials.

Uganda is home to 1.25 million refugees. Inadequate access to clean and safe hygiene facilities, shame and embarrassment while on their period, and lack of sanitary materials are some of the main reasons that adolescent refugee girls give for why they do not attend school regularly here.  Girls across the country do not attain success at primary school at the same rate as boys. In the Primary Leavers’ Exam, a national examination that all children in school sit at the end of Primary 7, boys consistently pass at a higher rate than girls. Education disparities between boys and girls increase as they get older, as is seen in the Accelerated Education Programme (AEP).

The Accelerated Education Programme is an approach funded by Education Cannot Wait and other donors to help children that previously dropped out of school to attain a basic education. It provides age appropriate learning for children aged 10 to 18 that had their education interrupted due to poverty or conflict, and condenses seven years of the Ugandan Primary curriculum into three years. Data from the programme shows that girls are less likely to sit for the Primary Leavers’ Exam in the first place (72 per cent of all learners that sat for the exam across 13 centres in December were boys) and then are less likely to pass when they do sit (48 per cent of girls passed the exam, as opposed to 72 per cent of boys).

With funding from Education Cannot Wait, NGOs in Uganda are working to address these challenges and reverse these trends. Uganda’s Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities includes activities for “menstrual hygiene management” to enable girls to stay in school.

WHAT DOES MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICE?

Globally, half a billion women and girls lack adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management. If those girls and women were to join hands, they would stretch clear around the globe – 10 times!

We need some no-nonsense approaches to ensure universal menstrual dignity – especially for girls living in crisis settings. First, schools need to have appropriate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, but in poor rural environments sometimes this isn’t the case. At a bare minimum,  it is critical that toilets are separate and clearly sign-posted for both boys and girls and male and female teachers; that the doors have locks and are well lit; and that there is a space and clean water for washing and changing, and that there is a means for girls to dispose of sanitary materials.

Next, girls need to have access to suitable sanitary materials. The Education Cannot Wait-funded programme is bringing together a range of different approaches to menstrual hygiene and different partners across Uganda are trialling different methods. One approach is to distribute reusable sanitary materials to girls. The packs often come with soap and knickers to ensure that the user is able to hygienically wash the pads. Another approach is to train girls and their teachers on how to make their own reusable sanitary pads from locally available materials. Menstrual cups are a relatively new approach in northern Uganda, and through this programme girls will be introduced to the cup and trained on its use.

These different options are not mutually exclusive. Girls have the right to be provided with a choice between options and enough information and counselling to make a well-informed choice. Thanks to Education Cannot Wait’s support for these menstrual hygiene management activities, more than 18,000 girls in Uganda will access these rights.

PROVIDING INFORMATION IS A CRITICAL PART OF THE SOLUTION

It is really important that we do not just hand out sanitary materials, without accompanying this with training, counselling and guidance. Girls need to understand what is happening to their bodies during menstruation – and why. It is also critical that boys, as well as male teachers and members of school management have a good understanding of menstruation as well as the needs of girls. This programme will train all stakeholders in the school community on menstrual hygiene through information sessions. By bringing boys and men on board, too, this can reduce stigma, embarrassment and shame. Involving the whole community has also then resulted in school management committees taking steps to ensure that sanitary materials are included in school budgets and school improvement plans.

When this all happens it can make a huge difference not just to girls’ attendance and attainment at school, but also their self-confidence and active participation in class.

‘If my period being unexpectedly, I don’t feel nervous or embarrassed anymore. I don’t miss school anymore because of my period. I am now able to attend every day.’ - Mary attends the Accelerated Education Programme supported by Save the Children in the Palorinya refugee settlement. Through the Education Cannot Wait-financed multi-year educational response in Uganda, 18,000 girls like Mary will be provided with the dignity and essential human right of safe menstrual health. Photo: Save the Children
‘If my period being unexpectedly, I don’t feel nervous or embarrassed anymore. I don’t miss school anymore because of my period. I am now able to attend every day.’ – Mary attends the Accelerated Education Programme supported by Save the Children in the Palorinya refugee settlement. Through the Education Cannot Wait-financed multi-year educational response in Uganda, 18,000 girls like Mary will be provided with the dignity and essential human right of safe menstrual health. Photo: Save the Children

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Corbishley is the Education Corsortium Manager for Save the Children in Uganda

MENSTRUAL HYGIENE DAY

Learn more about Global Menstrual Hygiene Day |#MHDAY2019

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EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND UN GIRLS’ EDUCATION INITIATIVE FORM PARTNERSHIP TO SUPPORT GENDER-RESPONSIVE APPROACHES FOR EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES

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‘THIS IS ABOUT PUTTING GIRLS FIRST IN EVERYTHING WE DO.’ YASMINE SHERIF, EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT DIRECTOR

In its efforts to protect girls and mainstream gender for educational responses in emergencies, Education Cannot Wait and the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) signed an agreement that will improve cooperation and partnership between the two bodies.

Continue reading “EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT AND UN GIRLS’ EDUCATION INITIATIVE FORM PARTNERSHIP TO SUPPORT GENDER-RESPONSIVE APPROACHES FOR EDUCATION IN EMERGENCIES”

GIRLS IN CRISIS – ORANGE THE WORLD

Providing education for girls and adolescent girls living in crisis and conflict is the single most powerful act we can take to empower a marginalized gender. As a global community committed to end violence against women, promote women leadership and ensure universal access to education, anything less would miss the target.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls – and the connected 16 Days of Activism Campaign – Education Cannot Wait is banding together with global leaders, UN Agencies, leading education advocates, and girls and women everywhere to highlight the need for improved education for girls in crisis as a key means to ending violence against women once and for all. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls – and the connected 16 Days of Activism Campaign – Education Cannot Wait is banding together with global leaders, UN Agencies, leading education advocates, and girls and women everywhere to highlight the need for improved education for girls in crisis as a key means to ending violence against women once and for all. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran, UNAMID.

Providing education for girls and adolescent girls living in crisis and conflict is the single most powerful act we can take to empower a marginalized gender. As a global community committed to end violence against women, promote women leadership and ensure universal access to education, anything less would miss the target.

Providing access to safe, reliable and continuous education for girls and adolescent girls living in crisis is an essential stepping stone to eliminating violence against girls and women. It takes quality education to ensure that girls and adolescent girls are empowered to acquire new skills to thrive, exercise leadership and find productive employment in the fast-evolving work environment of the 21st Century. It also mitigates the risks for abuse and discrimination, while strengthening the odds for increased security, better opportunities and new chances to chart their lives forward.

Education Cannot Wait – a new global fund hosted by UNICEF – which will provide access to 8.9 million children living in crisis by 2021, including over 4.4 million girls – is making great strides to protect girls from violence across the globe by working with governments, leading non-profits, donors and other essential stakeholders to empower access to education for the millions of girls and adolescent girls living in refugee camps and displacement centers, and on the edge of crisis, war zones and emergencies.

To empower girls and adolescent girls, the ECW Fund is strengthening equity and gender equality, increasing access to education, promoting safe and protective learning environments, improving learning and skills for teachers, and ensuring greater continuity and sustainability for gender-responsive education responses in crisis settings.

Education Cannot Wait has reached more than 800,000 children and youth with quality education – of which 364,000 are girls – in 19 crisis-affected countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh (Rohingya), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and Ukraine, since it became operational in early 2017. With continued support from donors, the Fund will exceed its target with over 1 million children by the end of 2018.

ORANGE THE WORLD

“On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls – and the connected 16 Days of Activism Campaign – Education Cannot Wait is banding together with global leaders, UN Agencies, leading education advocates, and girls and adolescent girls everywhere to highlight the need for real quality education for young girls in crisis as a key means to ending abuse, discrimination and disempowerment,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait.

The facts around violence against girls and women – especially girls and adolescent girls living in crisis – are simply astounding. Girls in crisis settings are 2.5 times more likely to be out of primary school and 90 per cent more likely to be out of secondary school than those living in countries where there is no crisis. Analysis from 2015 indicates that 39 million girls were out of school or had their education disrupted because of war and disaster.

By providing vulnerable girls and adolescent girls with education, empowering female teachers, strengthening protection and promoting policies that connect gender-responsive approaches to education in emergencies, Education Cannot Wait bridges the humanitarian-development divide, particularly in protracted crises, and links urgent humanitarian needs to sustainable and systemic change.

“For girls and adolescent girls enduring crisis and conflict, we have to be especially firm and principled in our approach, because they are also subject to additional discrimination simply because of their gender. The best we can do to serve them is to deliver on our promise of quality education, which also entails protection and targeted measures to ensure access, equality and continuity,” said Sherif.

BRIDGING THE GAP TO PREVENT VIOLENCE

Integrated responses are required to build safer schools – some schools in refugee camps, displacement centers and on the edge of conflict and emergencies have become targets for violent attacks, while others have seen reports of sexual violence against both boys and girls.

In Afghanistan, Chad and Ethiopia, Education Cannot Wait funding has helped spur a comprehensive combination of interventions focused on training teachers, community engagement, protection measures and the rehabilitation and construction of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities for girls.

In Afghanistan 2.2 million girls lack adequate teaching facilities and women teachers – that’s more people than live in Botswana today. With support from Education Cannot Wait and a new three-year programme that will reach over 500,000 children, including a quarter of a million girls, teachers are being recruited and trained to work in refugee and displacement camps.

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Ms. Paria delivering a biology lesson to her students. Photo: Education Cannot Wait Afghanistan.

“Teaching these girls is a wonderful opportunity for me. I am also glad to see that many girls are encouraged to resume their classes when female teachers are available,” said Ms. Paria, whose class has seen 40 girls return to school thanks to the recruitment of their new biology teacher as well as extended community activism to ensure more equitable education.

In the Lake Chad Region, where 3.5 million children are at risk and violent attacks on girls, forced marriages and abductions are commonplace, Education Cannot Wait has already reached over 100,000 girls.

For bright-eyed dreamers like the 16-year-old Aisha who lives in the Dar es Salam Camp in Chad, new educational opportunities provide a renewed sense of security.

Aisha Mahamadou, 16,. Photo: UnicefChad/2017/Azoura
Aisha Mahamadou, 16,. Photo: UnicefChad/2017/Azoura

“”Here in Dar es Salam [camp], we have food to eat, we go to school, we play with friends, we feel safe,” said Aisha.

THE GLOBAL CONTEXT

The Education Cannot Wait Gender strategy aligns with the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies, formally launched in 2013 by the United Kingdom and Sweden, key donors to the Education Cannot Wait Fund. Ongoing gender-responsive initiatives also align with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action and its Guidelines for Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings, as well as the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) Minimum Standards for Education.

By 2021, Education Cannot Wait plans to reach 8.9 million children living in crisis. Approximately 50 percent of these children will be girls and adolescent girls, with plans for two-thirds of teacher training to be directed to females. That means over 4.4 million girls – more than the total population of Gabon and Slovenia combined – will have the knowledge, power and skills training they need to stand up against violence and build a better world for generations to come.

Women and girls take the lead in Afghanistan

On October 11, we celebrate the International Day of the Girl. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year’s theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce.”
On October 11, we celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child. The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights. This year’s theme is “With Her: A Skilled GirlForce.”

Education Cannot Wait provides a new path for women teachers and community leaders, opening up re-envisioned learning opportunities for girls living on the edge of crisis

Education is enlightenment. It’s what will take girls out of the darkness to empower a future generation of dynamic women leaders, and to build the skills girls need to control their destinies.

For this year’s International Day of the Girl, the world will turn its eyes to building a “Skilled GirlForce.” In places like Afghanistan, where classes are largely divided by gender and women still have limited access to education – no matter where they live, be it a refugee camp in Rodat or the better-off suburbs of the capital – empowering women teachers is a key step to delivering equitable, gender-balanced education for girls living in crisis and ensuring no girl is left behind in our global efforts to provide inclusive and equitable access to quality education for everyone.

Without female teachers, Afghani girls could easily fall through the cracks. Education Cannot Wait, along with a powerful coalition of international actors, the Government of Afghanistan, and local leaders and teachers, are making positive first steps in rebuilding a pathway to education and skills training for the girls left behind by a protracted crisis that cost millions of lives and pushed women and girls to the margins.

Afghanistan’s education system has been devastated by more than three decades of sustained conflict, according to UNICEF. For many of the country’s children, completing primary school remains a distant dream – especially in rural areas and for girls – despite recent progress in raising enrolment.

In all, UNICEF estimates that 3.7 million children are out of school in Afghanistan – 60% of them are girls. That’s 2.2 million girls left behind because of war and lack of adequate teaching facilities and women teachers.

On a positive note, education enrolment as a whole in Afghanistan is rising. In 1999, not a single girl was enrolled at the secondary level, and only 9,000 girls were enrolled in primary school. By 2003, 2.4 million girls were enrolled in school, and by 2013, gross enrolment for girls rose to approximately 35 percent.

In Afghanistan, education is largely delivered along gender lines, with very few mixed-gender schools. And a lack of girls-only schools and female teachers, provides a significant barrier to education for the 2.2 million girls that are still left behind.

As of right now, only 16 percent of Afghanistan’s schools are girls-only, and many of them lack proper sanitation facilities, which further hinders attendance, according to UNICEF. Deeply rooted cultural norms, socio-cultural factors, traditional beliefs and poverty all contribute to undermine education for girls. Significantly, girls continue to get married at an early age (17 percent are married before the age of 15 and approximately 46 percent of girls are married before the age of 18).

To address this issue, and increase access to education for girls in Afghanistan, Education Cannot Wait is supporting initiatives to empower women as community leaders and bring female teachers to remote areas.

By providing education to girls, these brave teachers are key to making a difference in the development trajectory of their country. This will prepare girls to enter the workforce, take part in civic life and regain control of their futures.

FEMALE TEACHERS ARE KEY

Only a third of Afghanistan’s teachers are women, providing a significant hurdle for education and undermining efforts to build lasting skills that will empower this future generation – this GirlForce as it is aptly named in this year’s International Day of the Girl Child – to enter the workforce and chart new pathways for women and girls everywhere.

At the Hisar Shahi displacement center in Rodat, for example, there was a significant lack of female teachers, particularly for biology.

“In conservative Afghan culture it is considered inappropriate for a male teacher to teach girls subjects such as biology that involve images of body parts and terminology that only a woman should speak about to girls,” explained a Malik (community leader) in a meeting with the Welfare Association For the Development of Afghanistan (WADAN), an implementing partner delivering education for children living in crisis in Afghanistan with the support of ECW. Along with WADAN, Education Cannot Wait has also partnered with the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children to mobilize education for children living in crisis in Afghanistan.

To solve this problem, community stakeholders went to Maliks, community elders and religious leaders to come up with an answer. They agreed that the lack of qualified teachers, especially for biology, was creating a significant bottleneck and keeping girls out of school.

The community set about looking for a new female biology teacher, a hard-enough task in a country where just four out of ten children attend secondary school and less than half the population between 15 and 24 is literate.

Then came Ms. Paria, who had studied sciences, chemistry and biology at Nangarhar University. Ms. Paria set about teaching biology for the girls living in the Hisar Shahi displacement center, and has become a ray of hope for girls living there.

Ms. Paria teaching biology in her classroom.
Ms. Paria teaching biology in her classroom.

“Teaching these girls is a wonderful opportunity for me. I am also glad to see that many girls are encouraged to resume their classes when female teachers are available,” said Ms. Paria.

In all, some 40 girls have returned to class with their new biology teacher.

It’s a small success, but an essential starting point to ensure access to education for girls across the country. To scale-up and replicate these successful pilot initiatives, ECW recently announced a new three-year programme in Afghanistan that will reach over 500,000 children. The US$150 million programme, starting with the US$12 million allocation from ECW, will create an inclusive teaching and learning environment, improve continuity of education, and create safer and more protective learning environments, with a target of 50 per cent of programme support going towards girls’ access to quality education.

COMMUNITY MOBILIZATION

Women are also stepping in as community leaders and organizers, through ECW investment, leading the delivery of equitable and quality education.

Saima is a resident of Merano Tapo village in the Behsood District of Nangarhar Province and a teacher by profession. Saima is a devoted advocate for Afghan women’s rights and has a history of speaking out for women.

During a workshop with religious scholars, community elders, civil society activists and other teachers, Saima spoke out to mobilize more education opportunities for girls living in Merano Tapo.

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Saima facilitates a community meeting.

“I work for girls to motivate their parents to send their girls to schools,” Saima said.

Following the workshop, Saima organized a number of women into small groups assigned to various sections of the village, and asked them to start a campaign to connect with families and promote education for girls living in the village. In the most remote corners of Afghanistan, 87 percent of girls are excluded from education.

With Saima in the lead, and substantial political and social backing behind her from the community she had organized, more than 50 families agreed to send their girls to class.

Thanks to Saima’s community activism, 10-year-old Asma is now attending a school supported through Education Cannot Wait.

“Suddenly and unexpectedly seven women arrived at my house. I was surprised and to be honest I was a bit scared; I did not know why they came. I knew only one of them, but they introduced themselves and asked my wife and me to relax and listen to their team leader,” said Asma’s father, Abdul Wali. “She talked about the importance of education for women. By the end of her presentation both of us decided to allow our daughter to go to school. We are happy and believe we have made a good decision.”

Education heroes like Saima and Ms. Paria – bold women who are breaking boundaries to bring education to Afghanistan’s girls – are a great force and example in mobilizing women teachers across the globe. Along with support from governments, donors, civil society and international funds such as Education Cannot Wait, these education heroes will be the driving force in building a “Skilled GirlForce” and empowering women and girls everywhere.

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ECW Annual Results Report: Over 650,000 Children Reached in the Fund’s First Year of Operations

New York, 6 July 2018 – The just-released ECW annual results report  shows ECW’s investments have reached more than 650,000 children and youth affected by conflict and natural disasters during the Fund’s first year of operations from April 2017 to March 2018. In total ECW invested US$82 million in 14 crisis-affected countries.

ECW map of investments and results (as of 31 March 2018)
ECW map of investments and results (as of 31 March 2018)

ECW’s investments are geared to reach the “furthest behind”, i.e. the millions of children and youth who have traditionally fallen between the cracks of the aid system: refugees and displaced children and youth, those living in an ongoing crisis, host communities, girls and adolescent gilrs, the disabled, etc.

The Fund supports programmes spanning a wide spectrum of context-specific activities to meet education needs of crisis-affected children and youth aged 3-18 years old with a focus on improving access to education, equity and gender equality, continuity, protection and quality of learning.  These include learning materials and psychosocial support, school and classroom equipment and infrastructure, teachers’ training and support, and non-formal education programmes.

Girls account for 48 per cent of all children reached by the Fund’s investments which is a crucial achievement to reduce the gender gap in crisis settings, as crises disproportionately affect girls’ education; in Afghanistan alone, where girls represent only 39 per cent of primary level school enrolment, ECW investments reached 60 per cent of girls. Another important achievement is the inclusion of early childhood development components – a sector neglected in crisis settings – in two thirds of country programmes supported by ECW, ensuring children in crisis settings benefit from a good start.

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The report also highlights ECW’s unique role in catalyzing joint efforts between humanitarian and development aid actors to ensure more effective and sustainable responses and strengthen response capacity and accountability. In particular, ECW is delivering on its promise to ensure rapid education responses from the onset of crises: for example, when the massive influx of Rohingya refugees was recorded in Bangladesh in August-September 2017, ECW was among the first organizations to respond, proving funding to partners on the ground within 6 weeks of the start of the crisis. With 19 per cent of ECW’s funds channeled as directly as possible to local and national responders at country level, ECW is a key player in advancing the localization of aid agenda, already nearing the Grand Bargain target of 25 per cent by 2020 set by a group of the world’s biggest donors and aid providers.

This is only a glimpse of the progress ECW achieved in delivering education to some of the most vulnerable children and youth on the globe in its first year of operations.  To know more, read the full report here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show Humanity for Her: Education Cannot Wait for Girls in Conflicts and Disasters

By Yasmine Sherif, Director
Education Cannot Wait (ECW)

Conflicts and disasters are about destruction. Discrimination is about disempowerment. Combine the two and we get a glimpse of the raw reality affecting millions of girls. Standing amidst the ruins of their towns, communities and families, they are also shackled by marginalization, exclusion and lost opportunities because of their gender.

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

You 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 15-24 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 a few illustrative examples of the staggering statistics in the 21st century.

As a result of the combined destruction and discrimination wrought upon them, girls in emergency settings are less likely to attend and complete school: girls living in conflict and crisis affected contexts are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than those living in a country where there is no crisis. Further, conflict widens education inequalities, decreasing adolescent girls’ ability to achieve social mobility and influence gains in livelihoods that are essential for sustainable development.

When people have lost everything, what do they have left? Their children. Boys tend to be the priority for education. Girls fall behind because it is harder for them to access education due to multiple barriers, such as insecurity, abject poverty, social norms, gender-based violence and other forms of discrimination. Even when the parents and the society want girls to attend school, girls in conflict situations are particularly at risk of being victims of violence. There are three times more attacks on girls’ schools than boys’ schools. Over half of the 30 countries with the highest rates of child marriage are fragile or conflict- affected. A girl in South Sudan today is more likely to die in childbirth than to finish high school.

On the other hand, it has been demonstrated that better educated women have better income and their children are better educated and in better health. 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 investing in girls’ education, it goes without saying that girls too are part of humanity and entitled to their human rights.

Advancing girls education in conflict situations presents multiple challenges. It requires access to data and analysis of the gender-disparities between girls and boys, targeted gender-action, continuity, as well as speed in delivery and access to seemingly inaccessible areas in a country that often lacks either the ability or the will to deliver quality education to girls. But these challenges can be overcome. To break through those barriers, humanitarian and development partners need to work together on the ground and across the humanitarian-development nexus, while adequate financial resources have to be made available to ensure continuity and quality.

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – a first of its kind global fund dedicated to education in emergencies launched in 2016 –  places women and girls at the forefront of its support to conflict and disaster affected countries. A global partnership entity closely connected to implementing partners in crisis-affected countries, ECW aims to reach the “furthest behind”; i.e. an estimated 75 million children and youth whose education is disrupted due to conflicts and natural disasters. ECW’s funding modalities are geared to address the most urgent education needs when a new humanitarian crisis erupts or escalates and to ensure continuous support throughout the recovery phase.

Investments are already yielding results for girls affected by some of the worst conflicts and crises around the globe.  For example, in Afghanistan, two thirds of the total number of children reached so far by the fund’s programs are girls, while in one project, ECW’s implementing partners even succeeded in recruiting 75 per cent of women teachers.

April 2018 - Girls in a primary school supported by ECW in an internally displaced persons camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. © ECW/ G. Lang
April 2018 – Girls in a primary school supported by ECW in an internally displaced persons camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. © ECW/ G. Lang

In cooperation with United Nations Member states, including donors and host-governments, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and civil society, affected populations and other education stakeholders, ECW supports targeted and focussed gender action. This entails gender-specific data and analysis, gender-sensitive training, curricula, learning materials, and violence-free learning environments.

ECW funds multi-year programmes specifically designed to provide quality education to children and youth in emergencies and crisis settings, ensuring they are no longer ‘left behind’. Through education, children and youth have an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills to thrive and contribute to post-crisis reconstruction and sustainable development. Adopting a pioneering approach, ECW brings both humanitarian and development stakeholders to work together, reducing the fragmentation and silos that have traditionally hampered the efficiency and sustainability of education aid in crises. This new way of working bridges relief and development, ensures the collective response is faster, reaches further and strengthens the chances for inclusion, gender-equality and quality in education for collective learning outcomes.

Indeed, efforts are being made across the globe to advance girls’ education crisis. The upcoming Canada-hosted G7 summit will focus specifically on girls’ education to ensure that the discussions during the summit translate into substantive investments for girls in crisis situations. All members of the G7 are committed to girls’ education (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States).

To ‘reach the furthest behind first’, we believe that the G7 should prioritize gender and focus on girls and young women as one of the most vulnerable groups in the humanitarian response and in the continuum between humanitarian and development aid. By supporting the new way of working and making adequate investments, G7 can significantly strengthen the odds for quality education for girls in crisis, open up opportunities for their growth and the sustainable development of their societies.

This is the 21st Century: the era of ending gender-inequality. We cannot allow the vicious circle of destruction and disempowerment to snare girls into new fetters, trapping the humanity of a new generation of girls. Their education cannot wait until we have achieved gender-equality elsewhere. The empowerment of nearly 40 million young girls and adolescent girls in armed conflict and natural disaster is a very real indicator of progress. The G7 summit is right on target. Let us not lose momentum and miss it, when we have an opportunity to hit it. Showing humanity to the girls in conflict and disasters only asks from us to make sure that our promises and commitments are solid and sincere enough to match their reality.