Girls’ Education: Working to Meet the Challenge

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Girls’ Education: Working to Meet the Challenge

The African Development Bank (ADB) Group is working to improve the quality of girls’ education interventions in its operations and affirm the partnerships of which the Bank is a part.  A workshop in Tunis brought together staff involved in projects that would help borrowing countries deal with the challenge of improving girls’ education and meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The workshop is a critical step in the Bank’s efforts to assists its regional member countries (RMCs) meet the MDGs and in particular, Goal 3: "Eliminating Gender Disparities in Primary and Secondary Education by 2005 and Achieving Gender Equality in Education by 2015". On more operational issues, participants discussed how to integrate gender equality concerns in Bank Operations, particularly during project preparation and supervision.

Besides sensitizing participants to the Gender and Education goals, the workshop also focused on the obstacles to girls’ education and interventions that have worked.  Participants sought to have an in-depth understanding of gender, and gender-related concepts and their implications for policy and project activities.  They looked at the economic, social and cultural constraints girls face with regard to schooling and examined the level of progress made so far by African countries in attaining the Gender Parity Goal.

The workshop was opened by the Bank’s Vice President for Policy, Mr. Chanel Boucher, who emphasized the operational significance of this event when he said: "You will be able to improve the quality of analysis in appraisal reports; to propose more relevant and pertinent interventions for girls, and really assist our regional member countries meet the MDGs". He went on to point out that although two of the eight MDGs referred directly to educational outcomes, educating girls and women is a crucial determinant in achieving all the eight goals. For example:

  • Goal 1.  Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger:  Education expands women’s economic opportunities, offering them possibilities to improve their social wellbeing, with significant externalities to their families and society as a whole.
  • Goal 2.  Achieve Universal primary education:  Educated women are more likely to send their children to, and keep them in school.
  • Goal 3. Promote gender equality and empower women:  Education is central to the participation of women in political, social and economic development.
  • Goal 4. Reduce child mortality:  Child mortality is reduced by 15% for every additional year of mother’s schooling.
  • Goal 5. Improve maternal health:  Maternal education substantially lowers fertility rates.
  • Goal 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases:  Education can lower girls’ risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
  • Goal 7.  Ensure environmental sustainability:  Education improves the ability of men and women to manage water and other environmental resources.
  • Goal 8.  Develop a global partnership for development:  Typical examples of global partnerships for development are the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), the EFA-Fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI) and the Harmonization Agenda.

Notwithstanding the significant relationship that education has with the MDGs, nearly 600 million women worldwide are illiterate, compared to 320 million men.  Further, of the 136 million illiterate youths around the globe, 63 percent are girls; of the104 million children out-of-school, 58 percent are girls. In Sub-Saharan Africa, gender inequality in education is an even greater challenge, with women constituting 61 percent of the illiterate adult population while 58 percent of illiterate youths are girls.  Of the 44 million children currently out of school in Africa, 60 percent are girls.

The Tunis workshop was organized by the Policy and Review Department in partnership with the Poverty Reduction and Sustainable Development Unit of the ADB and the participation of resource persons from the Forum of African Women Educationists (FAWE), the Islamic Organization for Education and Science (ISESCO), UNESCO, and the WORLD BANK, most of whom are members of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI).