Over the last three days, I had the opportunity to attend a conference at Wilton Park in rural, south England on ‘Diplomacy to mobilise momentum for girls’ education‘.
The roundtable discussions brought together participants from government, including both the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Department for International Development (DFID); academia, including from the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD) at SOAS, University of London, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL) and Stockholm University; United Nations programs, including UNICEF, and the UN Girls’ Education Initiative, civil society, including from both international organizations like the Malala Fund, Plan International, Save the Children and Aga Khan Foundation, and local or national organizations like the Varkey Foundation in Ghana, the Citizens Foundation in Pakistan, and sQuid Kenya; and businesses, including PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Among the topics we discussed are partnerships for successful implementation, the barriers and opportunities for girls’ education, how to make quality education a reality, and how to use diplomacy to mobilize action.
I am now back in London and trying to digest the information I took in over the last few days. I wanted to write some of my thoughts.
Well first, I thought the program did a really good job of integrating first-hand accounts of working on promoting girls’ education in developing countries, with the perspectives of policy-makers and international organizations that are focusing on more systemic change.
One of the stand-out moments was hearing the personal story of my classmate Musa Bwanali, who grew up in Zimbabwe and faced dropping out of school at 16, because her family could not afford to pay the examination fees.
Throughout the conference we also heard how important it was to consider the issue of girls’ education as part of a wider system of issues that must be tackled together, including poverty, sanitation and hygiene, health and security.
One presentation, in particular, outlined the key factors to consider if we want to make sure girls attend school: proximity to home; proper washroom facilities at school; having female teachers; affordability; having counselling and support both for girls and their families; and having role models and mentors.
Finally, there were many questions about what is a quality education for girls. My discussion group defined quality as taking into consideration the overall context; having appropriate teaching, content, and support; and being accountable. I think this covers a lot of areas.
MY KEY TAKEAWAYS