Meet the women who fight for the right to education on GPE’s Board
The 4 seats on the GPE Board representing international and national civil society organizations (CSOs) are held by women. Read how they and their predecessors want to make a difference in empowering girls and women around the world
April 24, 2019 by Maria Lourdes Almazan Khan, Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education|
Students in class at the Monze Primary School, Zambia.
CREDIT: GPE/Alexandra Humme
Maria Khan
Maria Khan

I am well aware that being entrusted with the responsibility to represent the Southern civil society education movement in the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Board comes with significant opportunities to advance the right to education for all.

An all women CSO representation on the GPE Board

With my CSO colleagues, we are all convinced we have a major role to play in this key space to support public education systems and realize the right to education for all, with equity and inclusiveness in mind, and, building on the great work of earlier women CSO representatives, we are committed to working together to strengthen civil society’s voice. Here is what my CSO colleagues have to say:

To me, being part of the four women-strong civil society contingent in the GPE Board buoys confidence that attention to the rights of women and girls to and through education will be further reinforced within the GPE processes.

Advancing a progressive global agenda that empowers women

Yet, much remains to be done. Despite advances in girls’ participation in schools, gender equality in education remains elusive. Girls and women continue to be confronted with multiple barriers in their homes, communities, schools and the education systems. Rising misogyny, gender-based violence, and gendered norms persist, preventing girls from accessing and staying in school. Gender stereotyping is still common in curricula, textbooks and in ways teaching and learning is organized from pre-service and in service training to classroom practice.

The continued prevalence of child marriage and early pregnancies adversely affect participation of girls and adolescent girls in education, as do the policies that prevent pregnant girls from returning to school to complete their education. Poverty, the rising costs of education, the pervasiveness of school fees inflict a financial burden on families to the detriment of girls’ participation in education.  53% of the 61 million children out of primary school are girls. Two thirds of the world’s 758 million adults without literacy skills are women, and girls and women increasingly constitute the face of displacement in many situations of conflict and crisis.


GPE’s convening power has huge potential to advance a progressive global agenda that empowers women and girls through education via

  • greater support for female teachers
  • wider attention to gender equality in curricula, materials, learning environments and education systems
  • more serious attention to equity and inclusion
  • reversing the neglect of literacy and life-skills training programs through the development of more integrated education systems that offer multiple pathways towards education access especially of marginalized girls and women, and those living in crisis and conflict situations.

Systems-strengthening in education, being a core part of GPE’s support to governments, has to be participatory, relevant, and responsive to the needs of marginalized groups and communities, especially girls and women. GPE has the power to mobilize the resources needed to strengthen public education systems that are truly transformative for all women and girls.

Women have always been at the forefront of change

In the many places and spaces where authoritarianism has been ascendant, the face of resistance has been a woman’s. Where rights have been denied or curtailed, women have joined the broad ranks of human rights defenders and peace negotiators.

Women teachers, students, activists have been no exception – they have championed education rights in parliaments, in community halls, in schools, in the streets and in other spaces where decisions and policies are shaped. They built and leveraged their collective power to jointly find solutions, speak in a united voice – finding power and a shared vision through movement building and solidarity.

This is perhaps what being part of a four women-strong civil society contingent in the GPE Board represents to me: a partnership and promise of joint action by women, advancing  girls’ and women’s rights in and beyond education in this important space. I look forward to building and reinforcing a durable alliance with other colleagues in the days ahead.

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