Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen is the CEO of Plan International. Plan International supports the engagement of civil society organizations from the Global North as member of the GPE Board and is a global civil society leader campaigning for education.
1. GPE’s Raise Your Hand campaign aims to raise at least $5 billion to continue transforming education systems in up to 90 lower income countries and territories. Why is a fully funded GPE important to Plan International?
Plan International and GPE share the same vision to accelerate access, learning outcomes and gender equality through equitable, inclusive and resilient education systems that are truly gender transformative.
We know that a fully funded GPE has the potential to transform education systems for more than 1 billion girls and boys in up to 90 countries and territories, many of which Plan also has a presence in. This funding would ensure girls and young women will benefit from increased access to gender-transformative education, which will play a central role in tackling harmful gender norms, provide girls with leadership skills and power movements to bring about gender justice, social justice and climate justice.
The world is at critical crossroad, and a fully funded GPE could be a crucial force in building back a more equal world.
2. COVID-19 is threatening to unravel decades of progress on girls’ education. Up to 20 million girls may never return to school. What is Plan doing to address this situation?
Ahead of the G7, GPE Summit and COP26, Plan is calling on governments and ministries of education to commit to and fund gender-transformative education with the power to contribute to a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.
Plan International is committed to ensuring girls can safely return to school and complete their education.
We are working hard to advocate to ministries of education on the need to develop plans to ensure all girls can return to school, and that school environments, teaching, curricula and learning pedagogies are gender-responsive. This includes working closely with partners and stakeholders to develop guidance on accessible distance learning methods and school reopening plans which accommodate the most marginalized.
3. What actions can be taken to ensure that we in the development sector lead the way on gender equality, and what role can education play in this?
We need to challenge the structures and leadership of our organizations to ensure that they are gender-equal, racially diverse, and reflective of the communities we work with. Feminist leaders recognize the ways in which they experience privilege themselves and are not afraid to step back to create space for those who don’t experience those same privileges.
For education systems to become more gender responsive, education budgets should meet the minimum globally agreed benchmark of 20% of national budgets.
Governments and schools must also create curriculums and invest in learning materials which show that girls, young women, LGBTQI+ people, disabled girls, and girls of color can be scientists, software programmers and leaders. Far too many learning materials promote harmful gender norms.
We must also promote the inclusion of stigma-free and comprehensive sexuality education for all young people.
Finally, governments and schools must involve girls and other marginalized children in shaping these policies and plans that impact their education and futures.
4. What are the top 3 things you want to see from the G7 and the Generation Equality Summits?
Girls’ education is a key theme running through several key events this year – from the G7 to COP. We hope to see commitments from governments and donors that embolden the movement for girls’ education and prioritize getting girls and young women back into education and training. GPE will continue to be a vital driver of change in this area.
Second, Plan International – as a partner in the Adolescent Girls Investment Plan group – is working to ensure that the needs of adolescent girls are properly met by the actions coming out of the different Action Coalitions making up the Generation Equality process.
And third, we want to see girls, young women and gender diverse young people directly represented in decision-making spaces and their voices heard at the Generation Equality and G7 summits. No one knows what girls need better than girls themselves, and it’s about time we started treating them as leaders and decision-makers in their own right, rather than passive beneficiaries.
5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?
I loved school – especially my teachers. They were kind, fun and stimulated learning in many creative ways. My school encouraged student participation in school governance. My Danish teacher taught literacy and helped build my agency and voice. I became a class representative in the school council and later a student representative on the school district board.
We were encouraged to engage with local and national politics, debate and form nuanced opinions. This were all central elements in an education that promoted active citizenship and girls’ leadership. A particularly formative week in 6th grade was UNICEF-week, which inspired my life-long passion for global solidarity and service.