Earlier this month, I travelled to Canada in my capacity as Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). During that visit, I was able to meet with a broad cross-section of Parliamentarians, senior leadership at Global Affairs Canada, and our strong and vital civil society partners.
Canada has been a valued partner throughout GPE’s history and was one of the architects of GPE’s precursor, the Fast-Track Initiative. It has also been a core donor since 2002 with contributions totaling at US$147 million and $45.5 million committed. At the GPE Board and in technical committees, Canada plays an active and important role.
Girls’ education is key
Ensuring a quality education for every child, particular girls, is one of the cornerstones of GPE’s strategy and key to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Canada has long been a leader in girls’ education, and colleagues at Global Affairs Canada have been instrumental in the development of GPE’s Gender Equality Policy and Strategy that now applies to GPE’s work in 65 partner countries.
For many years, the Canadian government has also played a leadership role in maternal, newborn and child health, and in the fight to end forced and early child marriage.
As the Canadian government deliberates a new ‘feminist’ aid policy, I wanted to clearly articulate the key message that I have been hearing in the global dialogue: that girls’ education is fundamental to development outcomes in health, child protection, sexual reproductive rights, sustainable growth and women’s empowerment.
Reporting on GPE’s progress
In a meeting with the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, I was pleased to report that an additional 9.3 million girls are now in school across GPE partner countries and that GPE has invested US$1.5 billion in grants that aim to advance gender equality.
In addition, GPE is investing in training for GPE partner countries on gender-responsive education sector planning - with important contributions from our partners at UNGEI, Plan Canada and Dubai Cares.
I was also able to report on gains in primary and secondary school completion that partner countries have made, our progress in countries affected by fragility and conflict, reductions in class size, and the impressive upswing in domestic financing for the education sector in partner countries.
Listening to Canada
But I was also in Canada to listen. What I heard was that Canadians are looking for innovation and a new way of doing business in response to the Sustainable Development Goals. There is immense support for a strengthened focus on women and girls, coupled with a recognition that bilateral and multilateral assistance need to be innovative both in terms of financing and implementation.
I was pleased to be able to point to the groundbreaking work that GPE is doing with colleagues in the global health field to ensure that we are working holistically when supporting adolescent girls.
GPE is investing strongly in knowledge exchange, the development of global public goods and in strengthening social accountability in the education sector. GPE’s new financing and funding framework, that will be considered by our board later this month, will provide the necessary structure for new innovative financing.
I have felt a quantum shift in the energy around the education sector as I have travelled around the world over the past year. From the agreement of the SDGs to the launch of the Education Cannot Wait fund, the recommendations of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity and GPE’s upcoming replenishment – the consensus seems to be that this is “education’s moment”.
I was very pleased to feel that same energy in Canada and I look forward to visiting again in June when the Canadian government hosts GPE’s Board meeting.