Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Dr Arjoon Suddhoo has said more must be done to address the fact that women account for two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population.
Speaking in London at the 2019 Commonwealth Fair, a vibrant exhibition and marketplace with stalls showcasing the products and cultures of the 53 Commonwealth nations, he encouraged representatives of high commissions, development agencies and civil society to boost action to overcome barriers to girls’ education. He emphasised this as being crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Obstacles to girls’ education such as gender stereotypes, violence, poor infrastructure and child marriage add to the marginalisation of young women.
Deputy Secretary-General Suddhoo said: “We see bold steps being taken by member countries to have more girls attend and finish school, fewer girls getting married or becoming mothers, and more girls attaining skills to excel in the workplace.”
Yet, he pointed out, according to the Global Partnership for Education, girls worldwide are still 1.5 times more unlikely than boys to attend primary school.
He added: “We have developed a Commonwealth Curriculum to support member countries in addressing all 17 SDGs through education and learning.
“The curriculum highlights that education can help facilitate the necessary societal change to close gender disparities and contribute to social and economic development
“It offers steps such as improving the quality of education, delivering gender-responsive learning environments and facilitating peer-to-peer, intergenerational and public dialogue and debate.”
Dr Suddhoo also told those gathered for the occasion about the Commonwealth Education Policy Framework which supports member countries in aligning their policies and planning processes to deliver SDG targets, which include eliminating gender disparities in education to ensure equal access.
The framework, he said, promotes gender-sensitive policies to close the gender gap in education, helping to ensure that girls have the right to personal sanitary products, that there are laws to protect them from violence, and that there are programmes enabling young mothers to re-join school. The framework has been rolled out in three countries in the Pacific region and ten in Southern African.
Concluding his remarks, Dr Suddhoo said: “The Commonwealth remains committed to accelerating action on girls’ education to realise a world where all girls and boys are empowered through quality education to reach their full potential and contribute to transforming societies where gender equality becomes a reality.”