G7 leaders pledge support to new gender equality initiative in education

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The G7 leaders have recognized the urgency of ensuring that all girls and boys around the world are able to claim their right to a quality education and called for transformational efforts to meet that goal as the route to a more gender-equal world.

The Declaration on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment issued at the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Biarritz, France, gives new momentum to ensure education for all children, and provides powerful support for the Gender at the Center Initiative.

Developed with the French government, this year’s G7 host, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), UNESCO, UNICEF and Plan International, Gender at the Center aims to help developing countries mainstream gender equality in their education systems. It will also direct more financial and technical resources to participating countries that demonstrate a commitment to accelerating gender equality results.

In the Declaration, G7 leaders state: “We are convinced that equal access to quality education is vital to achieve the empowerment and equal opportunity of girls and women, especially in developing contexts and countries struggling with conflict. Thus, we welcome approaches to address the barriers girls face and to achieve gender equality and, in particular, the Gender at the Center Initiative.

The initiative calls for increased coordination among ministries responsible for gender equality and education, as well as stronger data, monitoring and accountability for gender equality results in and through education.

UNGEI and GPE welcome the G7’s spotlight on girls’ education and gender equality, one of the most pressing global priorities of our time. The Gender at the Center Initiative calls for a strategic shift away from discrete projects toward a broader focus on how education systems can advance gender equality–ranging from safe learning environments, teacher training and deployment, curriculum and materials development to administration and leadership. This means each country’s education planning, implementation, budgeting and accountability should be oriented towards making sure that all girls and boys are educated, healthy and safe, and able to reach their full potential.

Education ministries working alone can only do so much. Tackling such deep-seated norms as gender stereotypes, early or forced marriage and teenage pregnancy requires a holistic approach. The Gender at the Center Initiative will bring together the ministries working on gender issues (education, health and others) with key actors from other sectors and constituencies to address the social and cultural barriers that perpetuate gender inequality and keep girls out of school. Local communities and grassroots organizations, teachers’ organizations and civil society organizations will all have a crucial role in supporting the initiative and ensuring delivery of concrete results.

G7 leaders also committed to implementing progressive legislative frameworks for gender equality, with a focus on ensuring equitable and quality education and health, ending gender-based violence, promoting economic empowerment and ensuring full equality between women and men in public policies.

This commitment was in response to a call to action by the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, which was established this year by President Macron. The Advisory Council, in which Alice Albright, GPE Chief Executive Officer, participated, called on G7 leaders to recognize that legislation is a powerful instrument for driving access to education and puts forward a set of existing laws that have already enabled progress on education.

In low income countries, less than two thirds of girls complete primary education, and only one in three complete lower secondary school. The Advisory Council’s report, the Biarritz Partnership, states that the inequality of opportunity is acute, and that the G7 commitment to address this is critical.

GPE is already achieving results in gender equality by making education sector plans gender sensitive, and financing gender responsive activities: 97 percent of education plans from GPE partner countries have a strategy to respond to marginalized groups, including girls.

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