On the eve of the 30th African Union Summit meeting, the Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) 31st Pre-Summit Consultative Meeting, held from 20-21 January 2018 in Addis Ababa, shone the spotlight on corruption in all its forms, and called on women to claim their rights and hold governments accountable for ending this scourge.
Mirroring this year’s AU Summit theme, the conference highlighted how corruption negatively impacts vulnerable women, girls and youth across a broad range of sectors, including health, land rights, natural resource extraction, political and peace processes, as well as education. The summit put forward recommendations for action by AU leaders to say ‘no more’.
Educating girls can help fight corruption
For GPE, making sure resources are found, allocated and used efficiently for equity and learning, are high priorities - every dollar that leaks out of the system is a dollar less that might have been available for education, money diverted that might have made the difference for one more girl to get the chance to go to school and transform her life, her family, her community, her country.
The meeting brought together civil society organizations, women’s and youth groups, international organizations and NGOs from all over the continent to build solidarity and amplify their collective voice to deliver a strong message to leaders at the AU Summit: call “time’s up” on corruption!
The conference heard that women’s empowerment is pivotal to disrupting the normalization of poor governance. Educating the girls of Africa to claim their rights is fundamental to building a generation of empowered women who will lead the charge for change.
Educated women can hold governments accountable
A key thread throughout the discussions was accountability. A priority is to build capacity of women’s and youth groups to hold governments accountable for finding resources to deliver services. Resources also must be allocated in a way that promotes more equal benefits for all, jointly monitoring how they have been used, and scrutinizing what results have been achieved.
Echoing this message, GPE’s presentation flipped the debate slightly to focus on making education finance work for women, children and youth. I presented GPE’s approach to build strong education systems through a partnership approach, with inclusive, participatory planning, budgeting and monitoring processes to ensure mutual accountability for results.
With nearly 50 million girls out of school in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s time for a change in thinking. Common arguments that there are not enough resources for education don’t hold up.
Education, especially of girls, is a strategic investment, rather than a cost – for example, evidence shows US$1 invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, generates earnings and health benefits worth US$10 in low-income countries.
Conversely, lack of education undermines progress in economic and social development, environmental sustainability, and enduring peace and stability. For example:
- The cost of 250 million children not learning the basics adds up to a loss of US$129 billion per year
- Some countries lose more than US$1 billion a year by failing to educate girls to same level as boys.
- Educating girls averted more than 30 million deaths of children under five years old; 100 million deaths in adults.
- Stalled education progress could lead to a 20% increase in disaster-related fatalities per decade.
- In countries with twice the levels of educational inequality, the probability of conflict more than doubles.
An increase in secondary school enrollment from 30% to 81% is estimated to reduce the probability of civil war by almost two-thirds. (for sources, see our education data page)
Countries can’t afford not to invest in education
So, we can challenge the argument that governments can’t afford to invest in education, and make the opposite case that in fact, the reverse is true - we can’t afford not to. It’s a question of prioritization. Investment in education, especially girls’ education, is an investment in a prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future.
Panelists highlighted that women who cannot read, are not part of decision-making, and do not know their rights, or lack the confidence and skills to stand up to intimidation, are particularly vulnerable to corruption.
The message is clear – empowering women to tackle corruption in all its forms critically depends on education – getting girls into school and making sure the system supports their learning and ability to participate fully in social, economic and political life. GPE is taking up the challenge through its gender equality policy and strategy, and support to developing country partners for gender-responsive education sector plans.
We join civil society in the call on governments to ensure that the resources for education are not only found, but also allocated and spent in a way that delivers the full vision of equitable, inclusive and free quality education and lifelong learning for all girls and boys.
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