Basic education and gender equality

‘Beyond School Books’– a podcast series on education in emergencies: Segment #6

© UNICEF/2008/Kamimura
Liberian Minister of Gender H.E. Vabah Gayflor (left) and World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda take part in a UNICEF Radio discussion on gender equality in education.

By Gabrielle Galanek

Podcast  #6: Gender Equality. Click here to listen to a discussion about educating children in some of the world’s most challenging contexts, featuring these guests:

H.E. Vabah Gayflor, Minister of Gender of Liberia; Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary of the World YWCA; and H.E. Kirsti Lintonen, Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations. All three guests participated in the most recent meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

NEW YORK, USA, 29 April 2008 – At the 52nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women last month, global leaders met to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing women and girls today. The theme this year was financing for gender equality and empowerment of women. 

At the two-week session, education was identified as an important issue and a key to the advancement of women in countries emerging from conflict.

Ms. Gayflor, a participant in the discussions at the UN, has worked to include women in a variety of sectors during the transitional process in post-war Liberia. She reported encountering a number of obstacles in that effort.

“I think our psychosocial programs, following our conflict, have not worked. It’s not taking root,” she said during a UNICEF Radio discussion on education in emergencies. “So you find people disarming with guns, but their minds are not disarmed.”

© UNICEF/2008/Kamimura
World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda (left) and the Permanent Representative of Finland to the UN, H.E. Kirsti Lintonen, record podcast at UNICEF headquarters in New York.

Schools as information centres

Ms. Lintonen stressed that education for young women must be a priority at the policy level in developing countries – especially those emerging from conflict, where girls may be particularly vulnerable.

The most important thing, Ms. Lintonen said, is for governments to provide equal access to education that is compulsory – “so that the girls are not just working for their families in the farms, but they are really going to school.”

Schools can also serve as centres for the delivery of critical information about health and protection challenges that disproportionately affect girls and young women. One such critical area is HIV prevention.

Ms. Gumbonzvanda spoke from personal experience about the toll HIV has taken on her own family. “When I lost two other siblings,” she said, “my mother had to sit down with the daughters-in-law and say, ‘How do we actually continue to educate the children?’”

Education is a tangible solution to help stem the spread of the disease and address the plight of children orphaned by AIDS, Ms. Gumbonzvanda pointed out.



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