Parity in education: a bedrock of peace and development

As a key driver of prosperity and development, education has transformed communities and societies worldwide and contributed to reducing poverty, inequalities, and social exclusion.

Early education is a particularly powerful tool that helps children reach their full potential. Through quality education, children and young people acquire the skills that can help them overcome poverty and break the cycles of deprivation and exploitation.

Investing in girls’ education has proven to be even more critical to alleviating poverty and boosting socio-economic development. Women who have had the opportunity to access quality education early are more likely to earn higher incomes and invest in a better future for themselves, their families, and their societies. Education offers women the skills that enable them to become leaders in their own right, in their countries, and on a global scale.

International Youth Day, held annually on August 12, is an opportunity to celebrate the transformative power of education and reflect on the potential of girls’ education to shape the future of people and the planet. This year’s theme, ‘Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World,’ invites us to explore opportunities and challenges that impact education in Africa, and the strides women achieve in driving sustainable development and championing girls’ education in their countries.

Over the last decades, substantial gains have been made in girls’ access to education at all levels across the African continent. In 2020, the proportion of girls completing their primary education rose to 66% from 44% in 2000, overtaking the rate for boys for the first time. However, significant challenges still exist when it comes to shrinking the gender gap in education.

 In sub-Saharan Africa, young and adolescent girls face difficulties accessing inclusive, equitable, high-quality education. Across the region, 9 million girls between 6 and 11 years are missing out on their schooling, compared to 6 million boys. The exclusion rate for adolescent girls is 36% compared to 32% for boys. Recent figures also show that more children are missing out on education than ever before in the region – and that the number of girls out of school is now increasing.

 Climate change and environmental challenges, economic downturns, conflicts, and socio-cultural constraints undermine access to quality education for the most vulnerable and deprived, especially girls. School disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated disparities in access to education.

 Yet, despite the scale of these challenges, nations across the continent are ramping up efforts to ensure access to equal and inclusive education at all levels. These efforts are driven by the belief in the great power of education in leveraging the potential of Africa’s significant human capital – a young and fast-growing population. Investments in education can help break entrenched cycles of poverty and bring about solutions to sustainable development challenges.

 African women leaders are also showcasing the transformative power of education. Their leadership journeys in various fields are prime testimonies of the impact that equitable quality education can have on future prospects for all women and on national and global sustainable development.

 In a recent report, we shed light on the African women at the forefront of combatting the climate crisis with transformative solutions that mitigate and reverse its overwhelming effects. Many of these leaders cited education as a key driver of transformative environmental change, and their work involves awareness-building through climate education. Through access to education, these women were able to acquire the skills and knowledge that have enabled them to lead advocacy efforts, raise awareness, and defend the rights of those most vulnerable.

 The EJS Center also put into action its belief in the great potential of girls’ education through the successful completion of its Liberia Support Program, which saw the allocation of funds, thanks to a generous grant from the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) to women-led organizations providing education, health, and other key services for local Liberian communities. One of these organizations, Girls in Tech Liberia (GITL), was able to use the funding to further its mission to equip young women with essential technology skills, setting them on a course to pursue careers in STEM.

 The Amujae Leaders also inspire girls and young women from across the continent, and are a living testimony to the power of education. 

With her Yak Jones Foundation, Amujae Leader Dr. Yakama Manty Jones inspires thousands of school children in Sierra Leone and helps them improve their literacy skills through access to learning materials. Amujae Leader Sona Traore Sesay is also a pioneer in the education sector in Liberia. She is leading in providing quality education, breaking down gender barriers, and preparing students to lead positive change through the LEAD Monrovia Football Academy. Amujae Leader and EJS Center Executive Director Oley Dibba-Wadda is an expert in African and international policies on education, women’s rights, gender equality, and youth development. She has led several pan-African organizations focused on education and gender equality – including a pan-African organization for promoting the education of girls across sub-Saharan Africa.

 The EJS Center believes education is a bedrock of peace and sustainable development. This year’s International Youth Day theme reflects the emphasis the EJS Center places on parity in education to propel girls and young women into impactful leadership roles that create positive change for people and the planet.

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