29 June 2022
DESA Event Examines Linkages Between Education and Gender Equality
Photo credit: Yannia A./Unsplash
story highlights

The global policy dialogue brought together sustainable development experts and innovators who shared perspectives on how to ensure that all boys and girls benefit from education while supporting gender equality.

The event featured panel discussions on data-backed policies for improving women and girls’ access to education and on mobilizing innovation and building new public-private partnerships for gender-equal education.

In preparation for the 2022 session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) convened a Global Policy Dialogue to examine the linkages between SDG 4 (quality education) and SDG 5 (gender equality), with SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals) underpinning the discussions. All three Goals are among the SDGs to undergo in-depth global review in July.

The online dialogue themed, ‘Promoting Gender Equality Through Education: Exploring SDGs 4 and 5,’ convened on 21 June 2022, with support from the UN Peace and Development Trust Fund. The event featured two panel discussions where sustainable development experts and innovators shared perspectives on how to ensure that all boys and girls benefit from education while supporting gender equality. Clare Forestier moderated the event.

The dialogue opened with a short video from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which highlighted that 11 million girls are at risk of not returning to school post-COVID-19.

The first panel addressed data-backed policies for improving women and girls’ access to education.

Yongyi Min, Chief, SDG Monitoring Section, Statistics Division, DESA, and lead author of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022,’ which will be formally launched during the HLPF in July, previewed some of the publication’s main findings. She said COVID-19-related school closures have caused 147 million children to miss more than half of their schooling since the beginning of pandemic. Min warned that children who leave school are “less likely to return,” with girls between the ages 12-17 in lower-income countries being most at risk.

Justine Sass, Chief, Section of Education for Inclusion and Gender Equality, UNESCO, highlighted “enormous progress” over the past 25 years, including greater gender parity in schools and higher levels of school enrollment in low-income countries, noting, however that global trends mask regional and country differences. She emphasized the importance of addressing boys’ participation in education so no one is left behind, and stressed that education should not be “gender neutral.” Sass called for a more holistic approach to how education interacts with gender to achieve gender equality. She highlighted some of the existing tools that help improve integration of data to mainstream gender in education policies and plans, including the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, the Global Partnership for Education, and the Forum for African Women Educationalists.

Eun Mee Kim, President, Ewha Womans University, highlighted data that reveal how the pandemic has exacerbated social inequalities, including increases in the digital access gap and gender poverty gap. She stressed that the pandemic has caused women educators to fall behind on their academic outputs and publications. Kim warned that unless we find a way to mitigate these gaps now, “it will be very difficult to achieve the SDGs by 2030,” noting that “solutions are in front of us if we put our minds together.”

During discussion and responding to questions from the audience, the panelists highlighted the need to, inter alia:

  • Address data collection and availability gaps as without adequate gender and education data women are “invisible”;
  • Promote inclusivity in data and policies;
  • Ensure that disaggregated data look at different dimensions of exclusion to help identify who is falling behind and why; and
  • Use “different language” to encourage girls’ interest in STEM.

The second panel focused on mobilizing innovation and building new public-private partnerships (PPPs) for gender-equal education.

Olumide Ogunlana, Product Manager, PrepClassNG, presented PrepClassNG – a Nigerian online platform that helps match tutors and learners, which he described as “Uber for tutoring.” Ogunlana outlined the role of partnerships between government and faith-based learning institutions in delivering post-secondary education in his country.

Hayford Siaw, Executive Director, Ghana Library Authority, underscored the significance of inclusive technical education. He described a partnership between the Ghana Library Authority and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications to promote equitable information, communication, and technology (ICT) education among schoolchildren through the delivery of computers to support experiential learning.

Sarah Foster, Founder and President, STEM Like a Girl, spoke about her volunteer-run non-profit in Oregon, US, whose mission is to excite and empower girls in STEM to enable them to become future leaders. She highlighted the role of her organization’s partnerships with community members and parents in promoting girls’ education in technology.

During the question-and-answer session, the panelists emphasized, among other issues:

  • Community-level engagement to ensure interventions’ success;
  • The importance of identifying a common issue that can be addressed through partnership;
  • Psychology as a tool to ensure transparency and encourage more PPPs;
  • The role civil society and grassroots organizations play in partnerships that support access to education for girls and boys alike;
  • Cultivating relationships and getting buy-in from the partners involved; and
  • Transforming adult learning and education.

The event was the first of two DESA Global Policy Dialogues on Recommitting to the SDGs. The second dialogue convened on 23 June, and addressed the interlinkages between SDGs 14 (life below water) and 15 (life on land). [Promoting Gender Equality Through Education: Exploring SDGs 4 and 5: Video] [Event Programme] [DESA Global Policy Dialogue Series] [DESA Announcement of Global Policy Dialogues on Recommitting to the SDGs] [SDG Knowledge Hub Sources]

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