GPE youth leaders: 2 years of effective advocacy for education

The past 2 years have been filled with powerful and inspiring advocacy and youth-led initiatives from GPE youth leaders. Read how they have continuously pushed for greater investments in education, gender equality, and more inclusive education systems.

February 28, 2023 by Angel Mbuthia
5 minutes read
Students from Class 8 take part in a maths class at Marble Quarry Primary School in Kajiado Central on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. Credit: GPE/Luis Tato
Students from Class 8 take part in a maths class at Marble Quarry Primary School in Kajiado Central on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.
Credit: GPE/Luis Tato

In 2020, GPE set up its youth leader program to amplify the work of young education activists from over 40 partner and donor countries.

The program offers a platform for young advocates to raise awareness about the challenges facing education, engage with policy and decision makers, and collaborate on solutions for a better future.

As the first cohort ends its tenure and the new youth leaders wait in the wings, we look back on some of the many program highlights of the last two years.

During of the course of 2021 and 2022, GPE youth leaders have poetry slammed, blogged, and called for global education financing to be protected and increased.

From sharing a stage with world leaders at the Global Education Summit co-hosted by the President of Kenya and Prime Minister of the UK, to hosting our annual ‘Futures Festival’ to raise awareness, we’ve impacted decision makers, influenced policy and increased the funding going towards a quality education for the children who need it most.

COVID-19 pandemic and the digital divide

GPE youth leaders have been at the forefront of raising awareness about the challenges following the disruptions caused by the pandemic to education systems globally.

Mukhtar and Maryjacob from Nigeria called on leaders to increase their ambitions for financing education and development.

Zubair, Armel, and Maryjacob shared their thoughts on the impact of technology on education during COVID, the opportunities it provided, and the challenges of the digital divide.

Intergenerational dialogue and the RewirEd Summit

GPE hosted several intergenerational dialogues to amplify the voices of youth at key global moments. For example, Ashlegh, Maryam and Nivaal, GPE youth leaders from Zimbabwe and Canada/Pakistan respectively, participated in an intergenerational dialogue on International Day of Education 2022, which highlighted how Canada and Zimbabwe are helping transform education for the most vulnerable children.

GPE also supported Armel and Maryjacob to attend the RewirEd Summit, which provided a platform for young activists from across the world to unite and organize for a better future.

Advocacy to G7 leaders

GPE youth leaders spoke truth to power, calling on G7 and G20 leaders to protect, prioritize and increase education financing advocated to G7 leaders, calling for more funding and support for education in lower-income countries.

During Germany’s G7 presidency year, Karen, Van Anh, Felize and Ruszlan took a ‘flying school’ across Berlin with a giant letter making the case for education financing as a G7 and international development priority.

Playful learning and transforming education

Angel and Zoé joined 300 participants at the Lego Idea Conference in June 2021 to think about "playful learning" beyond the classroom. They shared four reasons why transformed education systems are a powerful tool to empower future generations.

Lilia and Ranja from France shared their thoughts on what it will take to truly make education a reality for children around the world at the Transforming Education pre-Summit in Paris in June 2021.

To-do list for decision makers

On the International Youth Day in 2022, 11 GPE youth leaders wrote a to-do list for decision makers on how to transform education. The list includes priorities such as ensuring free education for all children, investing in girls' education, and integrating the SDGs into curriculums.

Gender equality: A youth perspective

In their various articles and interviews, Fatu, Asimawu, Diana, Shradha and Cynthia added their voices to the call for gender equality in education. They emphasized the need for policies that allow comprehensive sexual education in public schools and include girls who experience teenage pregnancy.

In addition, they called for affirmative action and accommodations for girls with disabilities.

Selina from Kenya spoke at a virtual discussion on girls' education and visited London in 2022 to speak about GPE's financing campaign with UK Members of Parliament, where she emphasized the importance of external financing in ensuring that girls have access to education and the links between education and climate change.

GPE youth leaders at the Global Education Summit 2021.
GPE former Board Chair Julia Gillard and Youth leader Sikemi Okunrinboye on stage at the Global Education Summit, with (from left to right) Selina Nkoile (Kenya Youth Leader), Malala Yousafzai (co-founder of Malala Fund) and Josephine Kamara (Sierra Leone Youth Leader) on screen. London, July 29, 2021.
GPE/Michael Knief

She was among the first generation of girls from her Masai village to attend school, and without external financing, she would not have had the opportunity to do so.

Ayesha, Zubair and Sikemi spoke with Helen Grant, the UK’s Special Envoy on Girls’ Education, about how Ayesha's parents had fled Somalia in the hopes that their children could flourish in education. In her home country, young girls often talk about their future children instead of their own ambitions, highlighting the importance of empowering girls through education.

Power of education

Anthony emphasized the importance of having schools that are friendly to children with disabilities, while Masafumi added his voice on the power of education at an International Women's Day webinar that highlighted the need for Japan to play a role in ensuring that education levels do not leave girls behind, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Josephine stressed the importance of creating safe environments in schools in her essay and film, with the support of GPE and Safe to Learn. She also spoke at the UK hosted ‘Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit’ and called for action to prevent violence experienced by children in and around schools.

Climate change, crises and education

At the Transforming Education Summit and Human Rights Film Festival in Berlin, Maryam and Nivaal highlighted the need to protect education from the effects of climate change. They emphasized the importance of transforming education systems to be adaptable to climate change and incorporating comprehensive climate education.

Youth leaders Tomoe and Miyo in Japan also convened government, parliamentarians, experts and youth activists in an online webinar to highlight the plight of Afghan girls and what donors can do about it.

My reflections

Overall, the past two years have been filled with powerful and inspiring advocacy and youth-led initiatives. Despite the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, these young leaders have continued to push for greater investments in education, gender equality, and more inclusive education systems.

Their voices have been heard at high-level dialogues, summits and conferences, and they have been able to connect with other young activists from around the world.

As we move forward, we can only hope that the GPE youth leaders program will continue to empower young people to become advocates for education and change-makers in their communities.

I have gained a wealth of experiences and knowledge, particularly in education financing and the significance of domestic financing for education. Representing the voices of youth on various platforms, alongside decision makers, has been a humbling experience that I have wholeheartedly embraced.

As I look to the future, I am committed to continuing my work in advocacy, both in governance and leadership roles, with education at the heart of my pursuits.

It is a privilege to be able to make a positive impact on the future of education, and I am excited to see what lies ahead as I strive to make a difference for young people around the world.


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Im really impressed with work that GPE is doing across the global. Your reports are great with real solutions for education.

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