June 29, 2020

Girls' education in time of crisis features in worldwide online festival

The speakers in WOW Global 24's education section were (clockwise, from top left) Sarah Brown, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Jamira Burley and Yasmine Sherif

Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown spoke during WOW Global 24 to inspiring leaders about the challenges and opportunities for girls and young women.

The challenges and opportunities for girls' education in a time of global crisis were spotlighted in the first female-focused worldwide online festival.

WOW (Women of the World) Global 24 was livestreamed for 24 hours at the weekend and featured a section on education produced in partnership with Theirworld.

Theirworld Chair Sarah Brown, who was joined by three inspiring leaders, said: "Education is the one investment you can make in girls that can transform their futures, and impact on their communities and economies."

With the theme of the WOW event being Women and Girls in a Time of Crisis, Sarah led a discussion on the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on girls' education and youth skills.

"This moment is extremely important because it will set the stage for a generation of young girls in education," said Jamira Burley, Head of Youth Engagement and Skills at Theirworld and the Global Business Coalition for Education.

"Young people, poor people, people who have been pushed to the margins for so long are no longer going to be silent about their pain.

"With Covid-19, with civil uprising, war, famine, with Black Lives Matter, it is demonstrating that the vast majority of people in the world are pushed to the margins and don't have access to education and pathways to economic and racial justice."

The pandemic may mean millions of girls will not return to school

Photo credit: World Bank

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Chair of the Vaccine Alliance GAVI and former Nigerian finance minister, said: "The economic impact of Covid will also impact girls. Millions of households have been thrown into poverty. Girls bear the brunt of this because they are held back to help the family cope."

But she was optimistic about the opportunities provided by remote learning, adding: "For our girls, we should be thinking of solidarity, interconnectedness and how you get the resources. This crisis has shown that online education can happen."

Yasmine Sherif - Director of Education Cannot Wait, the global fund for education in emergencies - warned of the effects of the pandemic on girls already vulnerable because of crises such as conflict.

"Education is their very last hope for ending discrimination and the only way out of abject poverty," she said. "We expect millions of girls will not return to school because the longer you are away, the more likely you will never return."

But she added: "I see some really revolutionary ways to change inequity for education and making sure every child has access, with half of them girls. This is the moment for change."

The festival was produced by the UK-based WOW Foundation and curated by teams from across the world including the United States, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Nigeria, the UK, Brazil, Australia and India. 

If you missed it live, WOW Global 24 is still available to watch. The education section begins at about 1:20 in the video.

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