UNESCO at CSW65: Spotlighting girls’ and women’s education and leadership

UNESCO is spotlighting the critical role girls and women play as youth leaders, community advocates, teachers and decision-makers to ensure girls’ and young women’s continuity of learning and return to school at the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65).

The priority theme of CSW65 recognizes the importance of girls and women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence. These are key to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Together with UNGEI, Plan International and the Group of Friends for Education and Lifelong Learning, UNESCO is holding a virtual event on 24 March, on the sidelines of CSW65, ‘Girls and Women: Leading the charge to ensure #LearningNeverStops’.

The event offers an intergenerational space for dialogue, and profile the extraordinary steps taken by extraordinary girls and women of all ages and in all contexts to support girls’ continuity of learning during school closures and return to school.

These leaders will aim to speak on behalf of the millions of at-risk girls whose voices are going unheard. They will highlight the essential need to build back equal through gender-transformative education systems that end harmful gender norms, free girls and boys from narrow aspirations and enable them to work together in the classroom today for a more equal world tomorrow.

Comprehensive sexuality education (CSE), as a tool to address gender equality and social norms and promote the rights of women and girls on their path to leadership, is another focus of UNESCO’s engagement at CSW65.

Alongside the Government of Sweden and the EU Commission, UNESCO took part in a high-level event on 16 March, ‘Generating empowerment, empowering generations’, looking at how curriculum-based CSE promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights, and equips girls and boys with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to protect their rights to bodily integrity, their well-being and dignity.

On 17 March, UNESCO joined UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women for an event on the #EducationPlus initiative, ‘Power up for gender justice for adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa’, while on 23 March, UNESCO is teaming up with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sonke Gender Justice and Frontline AIDS for an event on ‘Championing CSE and countering opposition’ through perspectives from East and Southern Africa.

In April 2020, schooling was disrupted for over 1.5 billion learners in more than 190 countries following nationwide closures to contain the spread of COVID-19. A year into the crisis, over 800 million learners are still out of school. Learners are on average losing two-thirds of an academic year and more than 20 million girls are projected to be at risk of dropping out.

This unprecedented disruption to education has the potential to roll back substantial gains made on girls’ education in recent decades, with broader immediate and longer-term effects on the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to poverty reduction, health and well-being, inclusive quality education and gender equality.


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