Dialogue with traditional and religious leaders on girls’ education in Africa

Call to action

18 March 2021

The Participants,

Welcoming the joint initiative of UN Women, UNICEF, the African Union/ International Center for Girls and Women’s Education (AU/CIEFFA) and Council of Traditional Leaders (COTLA) in holding the Virtual Webinar on Community Engagement of Traditional and Religious Leaders in Girls’ Education as part of the Virtual Africa Dialogue Series with Traditional/Religious Leaders across Africa;

Applauding the AU/CIEFFA’s Dialogue with African traditional and religious leaders on Girls’ and Young Women’s access and retention in educational systems held in June 2019 in Uganda;

Congratulating the COTLA for their respective engagement to push forward the agenda on Girls’ education in Africa with the support of UNICEF, UN Women and the African Union;

Considering that girls’ education is paramount to achieve the sustainable development goals of ensuring inclusive, equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning for all children, to empower girls and communities and to break the cycle of poverty;

Noting with concern that progress made in girls’ education is placed under an unprecedented threat due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate negative impact on girls’ development and agency,

Call Upon the community of traditional and religious leaders in Africa, the African Union/CIEFFA, UN Women and UNICEF to:

  1. Encourage traditional and religious leaders from different traditions, kingdoms and countries to share their experiences and document all best practices carried out by traditional and religious leaders on implementing innovative approaches and cultural transformation for girls and women's education and empowerment, and in particular during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Support education authorities to effectively enforce the right of all children to education by helping to identify children, especially girls, who have not returned to school or are out of school and facilitate the dialogue with parents to get these girls back into school or find context-specific alternative pathways in informal education to access skills; and by helping to advocate for and effectively implement legislation, where they exist, that enable pregnant girls and young mothers to go back to school.
  3. Institutionalize this dialogue on Girls and Women’s education and establish, formalise and/or strengthen the collaboration with local education authorities and parents, in view of identifying and removing gender-based stereotypes and social norms hindering the promotion of inclusive education, finding consensus on contextualized solutions and jointly promoting girls’ access to school and the completion of their education. This will contribute to reinforce COTLA’s mission and create synergies with other traditional and religious leaders and key education stakeholders.
  4. Intensify a dialogue with communities on girls’ education to tackle cultural and social barriers to girls’ access and retention to school, such as child marriage, female genital mutilation, early pregnancies and all forms of harmful traditional practices, and raise awareness during local festivities and celebrations, especially during important moments of traditional culture, in favour of girls’ education. At the same time, ensure that traditional rituals and celebrations (including initiation rites) are appropriate for girls’ development and are organised during school breaks/holiday periods to avoid impacting on girls’ (and boys’) attendance.
  5. Strengthen the regional, national and local partnerships between traditional leaders, religious leaders, governments and development partners to provide a strategic, legal and financial framework supporting the leaders’ work, reinforcing their capacity in equity in education and leveraging their central position and responsibility in their communities to implement contextually relevant concrete solutions to ensure equitable access to education for boys and girls.
  6. Collaborate with young people, especially young women, and strengthen opportunities for intergenerational dialogue to champion girls’ rights and the abolishment of cultural barriers to girls’ education amongst communities, to advocate for progressive legal reforms to combat harmful practices, and to promote positive social norms and community investment in girls’ education, including through the use of technology.
  7. Engage traditional and religious leaders as well all as other relevant actors to contribute on the implementation of the AU theme for 2021 titled: “Art, Culture and Heritage, levers for building the Africa we want”. 

Media contacts

Alicia Jones
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa
Tel: +254724322162

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