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:
It's an honor to be representing the CSO 2 constituency on the GPE Board. I look forward to broadly engaging with colleagues across the different regions and countries on the many strategic issues discussed in the context of GPE, bringing to the table the perspectives of the 'Global South'. The development of GPE´s next strategic plan offers an important opportunity to ensure that the overall spirit and content of the SDG 4/ Education 2030 are reflected and implemented across the world, thus promoting the strengthening of public education systems with at least 12 years of free quality and inclusive education.
I am excited to continue to represent CSO 1 and to work together with civil society colleagues. The next two years will be crucial to the future of GPE and I expect that we, as CSO members of the Board and committees will be at the heart of the important discussions and decisions to come.
I look forward to supporting CSO colleagues to engage more meaningfully and strategically in GPE Board and committee work, as CSO1’s new Alternate member. In a year that GPE sets course on its next strategic planning process, it will be important for CSOs to ensure that GPE’s strategic priorities focus on reaching the most marginalized and have equity and inclusion at the heart of its work. This will only happen if CSOs and other constituencies ensure that GPE’s processes and procedures robustly monitor and evaluate progress against equity and inclusion targets.
It was a great pleasure to reflect with representatives of civil society from different regions on GPE policies and processes, and a great honor to represent CSO 2's positions at the GPE meetings. Our participation in GPE sought to reinforce that the GPE model must continue to strengthen public and free education systems in order to realize the human right to education for all. I hope we have succeeded in sowing some seeds in this direction and that, with the strength of our new representatives, we can see these ideas flourishing in great intensity in GPE policies, processes and the next Strategic Plan.
It was a unique experience and learning opportunity for me to have served on the GPE Board as CSO 2 Alternate member, especially noting the unique challenges that come with representing the Global South, comprised of 5 geographic regions each with different languages, as well as predominating issues like lack of financing for education, poor governance, unfavorable policies and sometimes non-inclusivity of CSOs in the policy dialogue at national level. The support of diverse CSOs and their local knowledge empowered me as an Alternate Board member, and their continued support and trust enabled me to put forward our positions, raise our collective concerns, and effectively represent the Global South as one united voice. We are now in a better and recognizable position in the GPE governance structure (further reinforced by the CSO pre-GPE Board constituency meetings, supported by the CSEF program, which are instrumental in strengthening CSO coordination and consultation around GPE Board meetings – Ed.). I am confident that the new CSO 2 representation within the GPE Board and committees, will further strengthen and create more spaces for Southern civil society.I look forward to supporting from behind the scenes the work of the new all-female CSO Board members to the GPE Board of Directors.
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.