5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Meryame Kitir

GPE asks Meryame Kitir 5 questions on the power of education. GPE's financing campaign seeks to raise at least $5 billion over five years to transform education for up to 1 billion children in 90 countries and territories.

June 23, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
5 reasons for $5 billion: Interview with Meryame Kitir

Meryame Kitir is the Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium.

1. Since 2005, Belgium has supported GPE’s policy priority areas, including girls’ education. What is Belgium’s strategy to overcome the challenges that girls face when accessing education in low income and lower middle-income countries?

The Belgian bilateral development cooperation focuses on TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) and in-service and pre-service teacher training. In our programming and implementation, we are always very attentive to offer equal access to boys and girls.

Belgium and its implementing partners, be it the bilateral agency Enabel or NGOs, helps create awareness amongst beneficiaries about the challenges and difficulties such as gender-based violence, sanitation & hygiene and cultural and socio-economic barriers.

Specific measures, including scholarships, adapted infrastructure and menstrual hygiene support, are all part of the broader strategic goal of gender equity in education.

We have supported GPE since its creation and applaud its prioritization of girls’ education in recent years. Through our financing instruments, we also support many NGOs and UN agencies active in the defense of girls’ fundamental rights in the education and health sectors and other intervention areas.

2. As Minister of Cooperation and Development, you strongly advocate for paying particular attention to equal opportunities for girls. How does education contribute to reduce inequality?

The fact that girls have access to quality education will help them to open the doors to a better future. The longer they are in school, the less likely they are victims of forced and underaged marriage and becoming pregnant. The more skills they acquire, the more likely they will be able to increase their standards of living and get a job.

Education has an impact that goes far beyond a diploma. Education is the best investment to develop a person and the whole society by strengthening the human capital; and girls’ education, in particular, lays the foundations for any further development of a society.

3. In a context of increasingly competing national priorities, what critical action can Belgium take to secure national investments in education?

For each aspect of its cooperation, Belgium prefers multi-annual agreements. This increases the predictability of financial support and enables the development of longer-term programs with certainty of funding.

At the same time, in our policy dialogue with ministries of finance and education, the national funding for education is always a key subject. The fact that Belgium, as a relatively small donor, is part of donor coordination groups, whereby GPE often plays a role as a catalyst, only increases our voice.

Nevertheless, we should also be realistic. It is not only the share of the national budget spent on education that matters, but also the height of the national budget. Supporting our partner countries in fair and just domestic resource mobilization should not be neglected.

Finally, a fair division and proper use of funds is necessary while showing solidarity with the most fragile groups. This pandemic has shown that social protection mechanisms are the best guarantee to absorb the socio-economic shocks of a crisis, and that children in countries with solid social protection instruments, are less affected in their schooling.

4. GPE has launched its Raise Your Hand financing campaign with the ambition to raise at least $5 billion over five years to continue transforming education systems in up to 90 lower income countries and territories. Why is a fully funded GPE important to Belgium?

I fervently hope that GPE will achieve the ambitious goal it has set itself with; it would be a success for everyone and prove that, despite a difficult context, we remain capable of mobilizing for a just cause.

Education must be sufficiently funded to play its emancipatory role. All actors -including donors, partner countries, the private sector, and foundations- must act within our means to overcome the most serious crisis in education and avoid erasing the progress made in recent years.

It is also the best way to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular access to inclusive and equitable quality education for all. I also advocate for increased international funding for education throughout all instruments and partners.

5. What do you remember most about school? Were there moments or teachers that had a particularly big impact on you?

School has played an important role in my life. I lost my parents at an early age. Everyone knows how important parents are to the way children live their lives.

At my school, I learned how to take charge of my life. My teachers challenged me and taught me to keep an open critical mind.

Read other interviews from this series.

Meryame Kitir raises her hand to support GPE financing campaign
Meryame Kitir raises her hand to support GPE financing campaign

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