UN Women Executive Director addresses UNESCO Member States at Mobile Learning Week

Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

[As delivered]

Director General,

Your Excellencies,             

Distinguished colleagues,

Let me first thank the Director General for giving us the opportunity to collaborate in this very important partnership.  

It gives me great pleasure to be here. It is my first official visit to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in this capacity.

We are in the middle of some extremely important processes that will greatly influence the progress of the global work on education – in which UNESCO plays the lead role– and in using education to empower women and girls.

It is 20 years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted and we must re-energize and re-focus our attention on the key issues. In 2015 we will adopt new priorities, also in education, and this makes our partnership with UNESCO critical.

Education is as close as we get to a silver bullet to empower women and girls.

In a little over a year, the partnership has strengthened between our two institutions. We have worked together on a number of events and activities to draw attention to, and to stimulate action on the inextricable link between education and gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

I believe this is the kind of partnership that our Executive Board wanted when it requested UN Women in its decision 2011/3 to emphasize the importance of education in our work and as a direct way to impact the lives of women and girls.

Mobile Learning Week is the first of several partnership activities this year. UN Women is privileged to co-organise Mobile Learning Week with UNESCO in 2015 – the biggest Mobile Learning Week so far. Together we are placing the empowerment of women and girls through education and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) firmly on the agenda. This is crucial in the fight against gender discrimination and for women’s full enjoyment of their rights.  

In March, during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), we will launch a Joint Programme together with UNESCO, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and with the World Bank.

In May UN Women will join UNESCO, other UN entities and The World Bank as a co-convenor of the World Education Forum in Incheon, the Republic of Korea, where the very important post-2015 education agenda will be agreed upon to address short-comings and persistent challenges in the global drive for Education for All. 

These events take place at a crucial point of time. This year we mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which identified education and training for women as a critical area of concern for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace.

It is time to make a concerted push together with partners like UNESCO and other stakeholders towards addressing this critical area.

Although much progress has been made in the last 15 years towards gender equality in education, we still have a long way to go. Gender parity has not been achieved in a single country. Gender gaps in secondary school enrollment remain largely unchanged since the 1990s. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.

Progress in women’s political participation has been slow and for women’s economic empowerment it is estimated that it will take 80 years to fight the gender gap. The solution is: education, education, education.

Clearly much more needs to be done for women and girls to address the persistent gender gaps in education. This years’ World Education Forum provides an opportunity to do so and so does the post-2015 development framework, including a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets for the next 15 years.

UN Women is advocating strongly that the new post-2015 sustainable development agenda recognizes that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are essential for the achievement of sustainable development and for building peaceful, just and equal societies.

The elimination of gender inequalities, including in education, is therefore a prerequisite for a sustainable transformative development agenda that will leave no one behind. Gender equality is a precondition for sustainable development.

And this leads me to another area of collaboration with UNESCO.

UNFPA is also a partner in the Joint Programme for the Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Educationwhich aims to strengthen the nexus between education, health, gender equality and empowerment.

Our overall goal with the joint programme is to promote gender equality and ensure that girls and women take full charge of their own lives and actively participate in the development of their communities and countries, as both beneficiaries of and agents of change.

We will focus on adolescent girls who, no longer girls and not yet women, often fall outside other programmes and initiatives.

We want to strengthen both the relevance and quality of education for adolescent girls and young women with the use of appropriate and innovative technology.

By linking health, education and other relevant sectors and creating an enabling environment we want to create new or second chances for young women who have left school or are at risk of leaving school. We want to support the transition from education to meaningful and fulfilling employment. In addition we want to change the entrenched stereotypes that lead to discrimination against women and girls.

In partnership with UNESCO, UNFPA and The World Bank we will apply our expertise and experience to this programme with the aim of creating an empowerment model for young women that can be scaled up and implemented in different national contexts. When girls graduate they open doors for themselves and for their communities.

We have partnered with UNESCO on Mobile Learning Week and on the joint partnership because we feel the urgency and need to achieve far-reaching results in education for by women and girls, men and boys everywhere in the world.

We look forward to hearing your views and suggestions on this new initiative – and especially how we can secure some financial support for it.

Thank you.