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Partnerships for improving girls' education

Feb 15, 2007

Gender equality in education can only be met by concerted action. Stronger partnerships are needed to increase opportunities for the millions of girls and women excluded from education, but of what kind? A new publication by Oxfam takes a close look at the issue.

Partnerships for Girls’ Education

Editors: Nitya Rao and Ines Smyth

Publisher: Oxfam GB, 2005

A book published by Oxfam GB documents and analyses the challenges and problems in building partnerships for girls’ education. For example, can local initiatives be replicated without losing the community involvement that contributed to their success? Is equal enrolment of boys and girls enough to promote gender-equitable education or contribute to women’s empowerment?

Of the 128 countries monitoring gender parity in education, 54 still have more boys than girls enrolled. In Ethiopia, Niger, Pakistan and Chad, for example, enrolment ratios for girls are two thirds of those for boys. Only 18 countries in Central and West Africa, South and West Asia and Arabic states have a realistic chance of achieving gender parity by 2015.

Authors examine global and regional partnerships to promote gender-equitable education through greater co-ordination. They include:

Partnerships in Peru which have moved from focusing on access to the quality and relevance of schooling and the need for indigenous people’s control.
Bangladesh civil society activists who have fought to win official recognition of schools run by non-governmental organisations.

The Global Campaign for Education (GCE), a broad coalition of civil society including trade unionists and children’s rights activists.

The Forum for African Women Educationalists, a network of influential women decision-makers working to raise awareness and pilot methods of quality provision.

The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) in sub-Saharan Africa, establishing links between communities and building local confidence and skills to ensure a smooth transition for girls from primary education to a productive adulthood.

The UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), the largest and most prestigious partnership, launched by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at the World Education Forum in Dakar in April 2000.

A large number of initiatives can create confusion. UNGEI has been overwhelmed by lack of funds, confusion about roles and responsibilities, disagreement whether engagement should be focused at the national or at the regional level and failure to link effectively with the FTI. Within the GCE there are disagreements about how to prioritise multiple interests – those of teachers and poor communities, for example.

It is important to recognise that:

Partnerships can be characterised by imbalances of power: when governments work with small NGOs junior partners may become assimilated and lose their identity.

Poor communities – and within them minority people and girls themselves – must be active partners in coalitions intended to benefit them.

Actors in partnerships may need to surrender their individual identity, if only temporarily, and work towards a mutually negotiated plan.

Loose alliances tend to work better than tight, bureaucratic arrangements: alliances of organisations with similar ideologies and visions tend to work best.
All partners, especially those who are well resourced, need to invest time, funds, and people to make partnerships work.

Source : Oxfam
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