Calling for action to meet the unfulfilled promise of education for girls

Date: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, puts a spotlight on adolescent girls’ education at  UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton
Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, puts a spotlight on adolescent girls’ education at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton

Celebrities, youth activists and world leaders gathered yesterday at the UN Headquarters to put a spotlight on adolescent girls’ education, in an event co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland, together with UN Women, the One Campaign and the Global Partnership for Education.

Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, and Chair of the Elders, Mary Robinson, were amongst the participants at the event that launched the initiative, "The Drive for Five: A Call to Action to Educate Adolescent Girls" in the presence of the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Education of adolescent girls has catalytic impact for delivering on global commitments and advancing gender equality. Educating girls opens doors to decent jobs opportunities and access to financial resources, and provides them with vital information about their rights and confidence to make their voices heard. Yet, more than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the event co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland, together with UN Women, the One Campaign and the Global Partnership for Education. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at the event co-hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland, together with UN Women, the One Campaign and the Global Partnership for Education. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said: “The only way to reach gender equality is to start with gender parity in our educational systems. As a former teacher I am aware that this is a requirement to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The lack of investments and political will to prioritize girls’ education were mentioned by the participants as some of the greatest challenges to fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

“The economic value of girls’ education for societies as a whole is huge, yet it is not recognized as such. We need to understand how important it really is for countries’ economies to educate girls,” said Mary Robinson.


The audience at the event also heard from five youth activists, including Sonita Alizadeh, rapper and activist for Girls not Brides campaign, who shared her own experience of being forced to marry while still a child. Alizadeh now uses her songs to raise awareness about child marriage. “I want everyone to know that a girl’s education is worth a lot more than her dowry,” she said.

Marie-Claire Kabermanzi shares her story at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton
Marie-Claire Kabermanzi shares her story at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo not only forced Marie-Claire Kaberamanzi to flee and kept her away from school until the age of 11; it also took her mother’s life. She has resettled in the United States , and is now studying to become a nurse. She joined the Malala Fund to share her story and empower others. “I want to learn the skills to help my community,” she shared.

“One of these girls who is getting an education today, could be the one coming up with the solution to climate change tomorrow. We need to ask for help and demand education for all girls,” said Bono, who also called on men to play their part in advancing gender equality.

UN Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, highlighted that education is a cross-cutting theme amongst all six areas of the Action Coalitions to be launched at the Generation Equality Forum, because it enables everyone to make a difference. 

Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, poses for a photo with youth leaders and activists. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton
Singer and co-founder of the ONE campaign, Bono, poses for a photo with youth leaders and activists. Photo: Mission of Ireland/Kim Haughton

“Education and gender equality are deeply intertwined. The promises we made 25 years ago have not been kept and we want to provoke collective action to correct that. The Generation Equality Forum coming up in May and July, could be our once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver,” added Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland, who also announced a contribution of 250 million euros for global education from Ireland.