Education is a fundamental aspect of women's empowerment and advancement across various fields. Providing education for girls is a legitimate right and one of the most important and imperative ways to enable them to live a decent life. It is also considered as one of the basic rights enshrined in all international conventions.
According to the latest data from Unesco Institute for Statistics, 130 million girls still do not have the chance to get an education. Furthermore, the data revealed that 15 million girls of primary-school age will never get the chance to learn, read or write in primary school, knowing that over half of these girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.
I must begin by highlighting the importance of the role and status of women in society. The prosperity of any country in the world is directly related to the efficacy of the role that women play in it. An educated girl will have the option to either start her professional life, be an entrepreneur or even a housewife if she chooses. In all cases, since she is educated, she will always be keen on educating her children in order to give them the opportunity to have a better future, as was the case for her. Since most children are cared for by their mothers, an educated mother will do her best to encourage her children to pursue education; resulting in a world led by educated children, a praise that goes back to mothers in the first place.
Today’s young girls are the women of the future, and an educated girl today is an educated mother in the future. With this equation in mind, we can appreciate the importance the role of educated women plays in the advancement of communities, and the development of their countries and humanity as a whole.
We have undoubtedly seen the repercussions that the Covid-19 pandemic has left on the education sector in every household around the world, especially in terms of girls’ education, particularly since girls who were educationally marginalised in some countries have become even more marginalised and less prioritised during the pandemic. On the other hand, we are seeing further exacerbation across a number of critical issues, such as gender discrimination, school dropout and low enrollment rates, not to mention the effects of the prolonged school closure on mental health and child protection.
Today, we must realise that our inability to prioritise this global educational crisis, as we do with the health crisis, will make an entire generation - not just a marginalised group of people in a few countries - face the dire consequences of not receiving proper education, which is a very disturbing and frightening scenario.
Despite the complete closure of schools globally due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some countries were capable of containing and addressing the educational crisis with minimal damage, by adopting the distance learning approach. However, some other countries, especially those already suffering from economic and social difficulties, were unable to tackle this crisis. This is due to the lack of the necessary technology and internet access for distance learning, as well as the lack of financial resources needed for investing in technology and communication infrastructure, or the lack of experience and efficiency required to develop frameworks, strategies and policies that contribute towards reducing the impact of the crisis.
Hence, if education financing is not given the attention and priority it deserves globally - and if it is not treated with the utmost seriousness and urgency - the world will be destined for a generation of children and youth lacking hope in the horizon.
With this in mind, Dubai Cares took part in Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) ”Case for Investment in the Middle East's Education Sector” conference in Saudi Arabia in April, with the aim of mobilising financial support from governments, international aid funds and civil society organisations to achieve what is required in terms of giving both boys and girls equal opportunities for quality education. Realising the importance of resolving the global education crisis, Dubai Cares has allocated $2.5 million over the next five years to support GPE with the aim of facing challenges related to students' access to proper education, especially girls, in order to enable them to complete their education, advance their educational paths, and eventually empower them. A considerable portion of these funds will go towards GPE’s “Girls Education Accelerator” that aims to address key barriers preventing girls from receiving education.
Dubai Cares is proud of its long-term co-operation with GPE, which started back in 2014, becoming the first non-governmental organisation ever funding GPE, when we pledged a financial contribution of $1m to support their efforts. Moreover, in 2018, we pledged another $1m to support GPE’s gender equality portfolio. In light of the success of this investment and in the same year, the UAE funded GPE with an amount of $100m over the course of three years, making it the first Arab and regional nation to make a financial commitment to the global platform.
Sustained funding to GPE is of great importance, especially given its role in ensuring that children in developing countries have sustainable access to learning opportunities and quality education. Accordingly, support should not be limited only to GPE’s Funding Conference which will be held in the UK this July, rather, we must continue to call for education funding at all major global events, including the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Singapore in August, the UN General Assembly meeting in September, and also the global RewirEd Summit to be held as part of the Expo 2020 from December 12-14. The RewirEd Summit is led by Dubai Cares, in partnership with Expo 2020 Dubai and in close co-ordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, and delivered in partnership with global stakeholders, which aims to be a catalyst in redefining education to ensure a future that is prosperous, sustainable, innovative and accessible to all.
So, we must all commit to helping countries close gender gaps in order to achieve economic growth and develop human capital. But, aid alone will not be sufficient to bring about the desired change. Change will take place when leaders of governments and societies from around the world contribute towards making holistic investments for the development of humanity. On our part, we will continue to strive to invest our resources and expertise in making that goal a reality.
Dr Tariq Al Gurg is CEO at Dubai Cares and Global Partnership for Education’s Regional Champion