On International Day of Education, we must prioritize girls in a humanitarian crisis


Yasmine Sherif pictured in Lebanon speaking to a young child at an ECW-supported facility. Credit: Education Can’t Wait (ECW)
  • Opinion by Yasmine Sherif, Stephen Omollo (New York)
  • Inter Press Service

Elsewhere in the world, millions of other girls living through humanitarian crises are also being denied the right to attend school. In their case, it is not necessarily a proclamation that hinders their learning, but hunger, conflict or the consequences of extreme weather due to the climate crisis, sometimes a combination of all of these. And in support of this, inequality between men and women means that the fact that they are girls means that their education and rights are often not prioritized.

Right now, for example, hunger is wreaking havoc on girls’ educational opportunities in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Haiti and other hotspots around the world.

Inclusive, quality education is a lifeline that has a profound effect on girls’ rights. But more needs to be done to make this a reality. Girls in crisis situations are almost 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than girls in countries without crisis. One of the reasons for this is that in emergency situations and protracted crises, education measures are severely underfunded. Total annual funding for emergency education as a percentage of global sector-specific humanitarian funding in 2021 was just 2.9%.

Together with partners, Plan International and Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, are calling for this share to be increased to at least 10% of humanitarian funding. This should include multiannual investments in the institutional capacities of local and national actors. Today, on International Day of Education, we stand in solidarity with girls in Afghanistan and in all other countries affected by the crisis by saying that “education cannot wait”. Education is not only a fundamental human right, but also a life-saving and livelihood investment for girls affected by crisis. We need to stand with girls as they defend this right. Next month, when world leaders gather in Geneva for the Education Cannot Wait High-Level Financing Conference, we are urging donor governments to immediately increase humanitarian aid to education. We must turn our promises into action through bold, courageous and substantial funding. This funding is essential if we are to build resilience in the countries most exposed to climate, where the impact of extreme weather will almost certainly threaten girls’ education in the coming years. Education budgets – which have fallen by two-thirds of low- and lower-middle-income countries after the outbreak of COVID-19 – need to be protected and increased, especially in crisis-hit countries.

Investments should focus on building stronger education systems and addressing gender inequality and exclusion, prioritizing the needs of girls at every stage of programming. Governments should also ensure that refugees and displaced children are not overlooked, and make concrete commitments to inclusive quality education for displaced children and youth at the Global Refugee Forum in December this year.

At present, 222 million children and adolescents affected by the crisis are in urgent need of education, and more than half of them are girls. It is critical that Education Cannot Wait be fully funded with a minimum of $1.5 billion in additional funding over the next four years to enable partners such as Plan International and others to deliver the critical programs needed. Too often girls’ voices are silenced during emergencies, leaving their experiences invisible and their needs ignored and overlooked. It is up to us to change this, for a more just, equal and peaceful world.

About the AuthorsYasmin Sheriff is the director of Education Cannot Wait, the UN’s global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.

Stephen Omolo is Chief Executive Officer of Plan International, a children’s rights and humanitarian organization active in more than 80 countries worldwide.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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