UNICEF Canada and the 2018 G7 Summit: how we can educate and empower girls
The world is facing a lost generation with the largest number of refugees and internally displaced people since World War II. Millions of children and adolescents are spending their entire young lives on the move, driven from their home because of situations of conflict, natural disasters and humanitarian emergencies. We must take action now.
The Prime Minister of Canada has recently announced that investing in girls’ education in crisis situations is a vital part of achieving gender equality, and will be one of his key priorities at the G7 this summer. This is our chance to champion the education of girls in crises and gender equality on the global stage.
Help bring life-changing opportunities to girls in crises around the world. Sign the petition and demand that the education of girls in crises be a priority.
A G7 Declaration to Educate and Empower Girls in Crises backed with concrete financial investments could change the course for millions of girls currently out of school because of crises.
How can the G7 Summit be an opportunity to educate and empower girls in situations of crises
The G7 is an informal group of seven of the world’s largest economies, consisting of Canada, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Italy. Over the past 40 years, the G7 has advanced key issues such climate change and gender equality.
In 2018, Canada holds the G7 presidency and the G7 Summit will be hosted in Charlevoix, Quebec, in June. This will be the 44th Summit. It is a great opportunity for Canada to bring global attention to one of the most neglected and yet powerful issues facing the next generation. We are calling on Canada to lead.
In times of crises, education can provide children with the skills and knowledge they need to survive the ordeal, support their families and rebuild their future.
In 2015 alone, nearly 50 million children were uprooted from their homes. This has led to an unprecedented number of out-of-school children and youth.
Without education, children can be pushed to the margins of society. The discontent that grows out of lost potential can put communities and economies at risk. At present, 75 million children and youth live in countries facing war and violence and need educational support. When a conflict or a natural disaster occurs, education is often the first service to be interrupted and the last to be resumed.
Crises have a disproportionate impact on girls:
Girls are almost two and a half times more likely than boys to be out of school if they live in conflict-affected countries, and young women are nearly 90 per cent more likely to be out of secondary school than their male counterparts even in more stable countries. Out-of-school, girls are exposed to heightened risks of trafficking, early and forced marriage, early pregnancy and gender-based violence.
Educating and empowering girls in times of crises – a first step in the right direction
Education can break the cycle of violence and conflict, redefine gender norms and promote tolerance and reconciliation. It is a key factor in helping children and youth contribute to peace-building, more gender equal societies and building prosperity for all.
Because empowering women starts early, let’s give girls the chance to access inclusive, quality and gender transformative education!
Canada is being called upon to lead. We cannot miss this opportunity to bring life-changing opportunities to children in crises around the world.
You too can help bring life-changing opportunities to girls in crises around the world. Sign the petition and demand that the education of girls in crises be a priority.
For every child, education
In order to foster inclusive economic development, specific actions aimed at children and youth are needed. Access to quality education opportunities for the most marginalized learners, like girls, and expanded access to decent work and livelihoods opportunities for youth, can help break intergenerational cycles of poverty for families, communities and societies.
To that end, Canada should pursue a transformative and equitable approach to reaching the most vulnerable and marginalized learners, including adolescent girls, indigenous youth, children in work, and refugee and migrant youth;
In Afghanistan, many girls want to learn but access to quality education facilities, the ability to stay in school, poor nutrition, and common beliefs on the roles of girls in society could all restrict their right to learn. UNICEF is helping create community-based education spaces in remote villages. These classes are helping some 81,000 girls to learn, and where possible, to transition to formal school. Read the story of Belqees in a remote village in Daykundi, a province of Afghanistan.
2. Preparing for jobs of the future
For every child, the opportunity to thrive
Too many women and girls worldwide are held back by limited access to education opportunities, training and professional qualifications. Empowering women and girls with the skills needed to succeed in the labour market can contribute to breaking down gender barriers, and foster a new generation of girls who will be able to access greater social, political and economic power, contributing to their families, communities, and countries.
To that end, Canada should lead the world in supporting girls, especially the most vulnerable or marginalized, to pursue pathways in sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and other knowledge-based sectors, so that they can best contribute to and benefit from emerging job opportunities.
In South Africa, girls are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to technical professions. They are sometimes not encouraged to study or do well in traditionally male-dominated subjects such as math, science, and technology. This compromises their future career opportunities and relegates them to lower-paying jobs. The South African Department of Education, with UNICEF and private sector support, started the TechnoGirl mentorship program in 2005. The initiative helps girls make informed career choices, with an emphasis on science, technology, and engineering. Since 2005, more than 10,000 girls have gone through the TechoGirl program.
3. Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment
For every child, an equitable chance in life
Because power structures in societies across the world often privilege boys and men, advancing gender equality requires addressing the disadvantages and barriers faced by girls and women: poverty, social norms and attitudes, public policies, physical and sexual violence, child labour, child marriage, lack of appropriate washroom facilities for girls when menstruating, among others. At the same time, gender inequality pervades personal, family and social relationships and institutions, and affects not only women and girls, but also men and boys. This requires the engagement of both sexes to make progress towards justice and equality.
Educating and empowering girls is one of the most effective strategies to combat issues such as child marriage, decrease maternal mortality, and improve child survival. Education is also an entry point to working with girls and boys in challenging harmful gender norms.
To that end, Canada should increase investments in education to see that all children, especially girls, benefit from quality education, including in times of crises, by acknowledging and committing to address the barriers faced by girls in accessing education. Girls should be empowered to shape and participate in the decisions that affect their lives. In these efforts, Canada should champion gender transformative initiatives that seek to engage men and boys as agents of change and co-beneficiaries.
In Zambia, as in many low and middle income countries, menstruating girls face numerous challenges such as cultural stigma and taboos, lack of understanding about menstruation, lack of social support, poor access to affordable and safe supplies and lack of female-friendly sanitation and hygiene facilities. Evidence suggests that menstrual hygiene management (MHM) can affect adolescent girls’ attendance in schools. In 2016, UNICEF worked to address the barriers to girls’ continuing their education in adolescence by supporting menstrual hygiene management in 14 countries, including Zambia. In 2016 alone, training programs were implemented in14 schools on basic WASH and MHM.
Read more on WASH in Schools for Girls
4. Working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy
For every child, the right to live in a safe and clean environment
Children are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, and girls are even further affected because of additional social, economic and political barriers. Funding for climate adaptation and investment in disaster risk reduction, through education programs on prevention, preparedness and recovery is essential to ensure that children and communities are better able to cope with the effects of climate change and become more resilient.
To that end, Canada should support the development and integration of climate change and sustainable development issues into curricula and resources through Canada’s international assistance education programs;
In Cuba, students are trained on the concepts of prevention, preparedness and recovery in disaster situations, so that when disaster strikes, they can act accordingly. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, UNICEF has been working for three years with communities in the central and eastern provinces that are particularly vulnerable to these catastrophes. Since the program began, more than 14,000 children and adolescents from 128 schools have participated to strengthen their capacity to deal with disasters.
For every child, peace
Education equips children with the skills they need to succeed in school and life. Thanks to quality education, children can develop an ability to connect with each other, to share and scale their own solutions. In times of conflict, education equips children with the skills and competence to meet their needs, protect themselves and build hope for the future. Children become agents of social change who can influence and lead on solving problems without resorting to violence in their communities.
To that end, Canada should support gender-responsive peacebuilding education approaches that are youth-led and participatory. This includes development, promotion and implementation of conflict-sensitive curricula and teaching methods that promote inclusion and social cohesion.