Education for gender equality: GPE partners with Rotary International

For International Women's Day 2020, Rotary International and the Global Partnership for Education organized an event to share successful initiatives led by women to improve literacy. Read the highlights here.

March 17, 2020 by Quentin Wodon, UNESCO IICBA
4 minutes read
Alice Albright speaks during the  "Equality in education" event organized by Rotary International and the Global Partnership for Education.
Alice Albright speaks during the "Equality in education" event organized by Rotary International and the Global Partnership for Education.
Credit: Rotary International

Gender inequality remains massive. A study published recently by the World Bank suggests that the cost of gender inequality in earnings could be as high as US$172 trillion in terms of lost lifetime earnings for women.

What should be done to achieve gender equality? While investments in education are not the sole answer, they could go a long way to improve economic opportunities for women.

Girls’ education matters, clearly. GPE-sponsored global, regional, and country levels World Bank reports on the benefits of investing in girls’ education have made that case over the last two years.

Globally, the cost of girls not completing their secondary education is estimated at up to US$30 trillion.

Keiko Miwa of the World Bank, speaks during the GPE/Rotary International event on March 6
Keiko Miwa of the World Bank, speaks during the GPE/Rotary International event on March 6
Rotary International
Rotary event panel - Credit: Rotary International
The panel at the event included Carolyn Johnson, Brenda Erickson and Geeta Manek
Rotary International

In sub-Saharan Africa, low educational attainment for girls leads not only to earnings losses, but also to child marriage and early childbearing, lack of decision-making ability in the household, higher risks of intimate partner violence, and higher risks for children to be stunted or die before age five. These effects are pervasive, as illustrated in recent reports for Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Chad-Mali-Niger-Guinea.

Equality must start at school

Yet, education for all matters, too. Higher levels of educational attainment for boys as well as for girls tend to be associated with lower levels of violence in adult life. But in addition, how boys are taught in school is essential to change social norms that are detrimental to women.

As gender-based violence remains widespread in schools, it may be reproduced in adult life. Violence in school is sometimes perceived by boys as an expression of their masculinity. Instead, schools should be safe. They should promote a culture of mutual respect between all learners.

Governments play a leading role in efforts to improve educational opportunities for boys and girls alike, but civil society can help too, including by testing innovative approaches that can later be scaled up by governments, and by holding schools accountable to parents and students at the local level.

Women-led initiatives to improve education

This was a key message of the event organized on March 6 ahead of International Women’s Day by GPE and Rotary International at the World Bank on the theme “Equality for Education.” Apart from Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education, speakers included Keiko Miwa of the World Bank, and Geeta Manek, Carolyn Johnson and Brenda Erickson from Rotary. The purpose of the event was to share successful initiatives led by women to improve literacy.

  • Alice Albright announced that gender inequality would be at the core of the new GPE strategy being prepared. Together with Geeta Manek, she also announced a new partnership with Rotary International to improve education and school accountability with a focus on Kenya.
  • Carolyn Johnson talked about an innovative project in Guatemala to improve literacy among indigenous populations through teacher training, a low-cost textbook rental program, literacy materials, and computer labs. Together with intensive teacher training, the textbook program has helped decrease the middle school dropout rate by almost half, and more than 80% of graduates use their computer skills to further their education or get higher-paying jobs.
  • Brenda Erickson talked about Souns – a Montessori-minded, early literacy program through which educators and parents acquire tools to help children build their literacy skills by introducing a concrete letter in association with its most common sound in the child’s language. The child first learns individual letter sounds, then how to build words by listening to spoken sounds, and finally how to read words by sounding out the letters. Souns is easy to implement, does not require extensive training, and utilizes durable materials. Sustainability has been the key to progress as experienced teachers train new teachers.

The event demonstrated how all of us, whether though our professional or volunteer work, can make a difference towards achieving SDG 4, namely to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Watch a recording of the event

Watch interviews with Brenda, Carolyn and Geeta

If you are interested in learning more or would like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me through the Rotary Club of Washington Global that we just create with a core group of professionals based in Washington DC, as well as members from other locations in the US and abroad. Our aim is to share knowledge on best practices with nonprofits and other organizations on how to implement great service projects, including for girls’ education.

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I am very happy to read about this. We are strungling to have in the national agenda the girls education as one of the high priorities in the last 20 years and more wirhouth a real success. The firmal discourses and writen plans have bern mentioning this, but nothing is happening in the real life of the millions of girls in my country. Gender based violence is spread in all espheres of life and the pathriarchal way of thinking and behaving is still very dominant. And the more worrying is to have young generations continuing to have the same way of thinking and behaving. And unfortunately many women are part of this, what make things even more difficult. It is not enough to have funds from GPE and declare that the country is reaching the gender parity. This is mainly a cover for international partners to see. The reality in the country is still far behind. We still need much more gender training even at higher level of decision making down to the different levels! We need our leaders, both nale and female, to learn about gender issues and start changing
The current status quo. And GPE can play the role of infuencing real changes if their leaders put this in their agendas.

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