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United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI)


Paris21-23 Janvier, 2002

Outline of the Agenda

Mary Joy Pigozzi, the UNGEI chair person outlined the aims of UNGEI. She detailed how UNGEI had spearheaded a campaign to make girls' education a political and programme priority across all the UN family. The new Medium Term Strategic Plan for UNICEF includes girls' education thus indicating UNICEF's strong commitment to this issue. As a lead implementer of education programmes within the UN they shared their strategy to work in collaboration with partner organisations.

The general situation of girls' education was discussed and UNESCO and DFID statistical consultants explored the current availability and reliability of data to inform evidence-based policy decision making on gender and education issues. Progress towards a prioritisation of gender within various development modalities was debated following brief presentations on SWAps, PRSPs & Debt Relief, CCA/ UNDAF and EFA plans.

Five groups discussed possible partnership strategies that could accelerate action towards the 2005 and 2015 targets. The five key contexts examined were: countries close to gender parity, countries with low enrolment overall, countries with a large gender gap, conflict affected countries and countries with large numbers of girls out of school. In the final sessions the implications for action were drawn out and strategic approaches for UNGEI were suggested, with responsibilities for the different partners outlined according to comparative advantage.

Key Issues

1. The Urgency of the Gender & Education targets
All parties reiterated the urgency of the 2005 parity and 2015 equality target and need to deliver on commitments made. The long-term nature of meeting these targets was also emphasized.

2. The need for UNGEI to build on its achievements at international institutional level by transferring more attention to how it engages at national level, working through the macro-economic 'mainstream' processes rather than setting up separate and distinct activities.
UNGEI and its partners have sustained and extended the existing international policy commitment to girls' education. Many partners are working in their own organisations at getting gender and education prioritised in national plans and budgets. However, progress is slow and if the impact is to be maximised there is a need for greater collaborative action. UNGEI could play a central role in co-ordination and by using in-country presence to accelerate effective national level action through engagement at a National level. UNGEI needs to be sure to be seen to integrate into education sectoral approaches and EFA rather than be perceived as an isolated initiative. It was emphasised that National ownership is essential.

3. A commitment to ALL out of school children in ALL countries
There was a clear desire for better co-ordination and collaboration between all development partners in order to reduce duplication of efforts and resources and to fill the gaps in order to reach the unreached. There was recognition that this really meant agencies needed to reconsider how they select their country engagement, however this was perceived by participants to be a decision that needed to come from senior management in their organisations. DFID indicated that this need to move into 'weak performing' countries was an issue already under discussion both within the education department and at higher levels. Netherlands and DFID shared their recent sleeping partner arrangement which enables one agency to contribute to key development priorities in countries where it does not have a programme. A conscious strategic effort to realign resources with the groups in most need was called for. This has wider organisational implications for all the agencies.

4. Engagement of civil society with national strategies facilitated by bilaterals
There was a call for the development of processes that would ensure the engagement of civil society in the dialogue and development of appropriate national strategies. The critical role that bilateral agencies can and should play in strengthening the civil society's voice and ability to influence through networks was highlighted.

5. Sharing Gender expertise within the education donor groups to provide input at national level
There was a clear demand for expert input to national debates on education issues. This was believed to require increased communication and dialogue between development agencies rather than separate gender groups. A co-ordinated dialogue with national governments should reduce the multiple and sometimes conflicting demands made on national governments by the international community.

6. The promotion of a common understanding of gender and gender training strategies among development agencies at a national level
It is crucial to get to a common understanding of gender amongst development agencies particularly re: mainstreaming and twin track approaches, advocacy, gender 'policing', gender training and gender analysis tools. Gender training was particularly singled out. Gender 'training' is critical at national institutional level and within development agencies. However it needs to be done in an integrated contextual manner, and particularly at country level in a realistic and culturally appropriate manner. The consensus was that there is a commitment to gender issues at national level but it gets stuck on being translated into action because people don't know 'how to'. Traditional stand alone, externally provided training often does not address this well.

7. Identifying and sharing practice
There was a strong interest in identifying and sharing lesson learning at 2 levels; 1) among development agencies 2) within country level programmes. Also highlighted was the need to evaluate through improved mechanisms.

8. Strategic and concerted action to address the most difficult contexts
Of critical concern was how to address difficult contexts and issues such as HIV/AIDS and education in conflict affected countries. The latter being an issue currently addressed by a number of the UN entities.

9. Cross-sectoral engagement
Given the cross-cutting nature of the gender issue the importance of being engaged with other sectors and bodies not in the education sphere was emphasised. It was seen as crucial to fit in the broader gender agenda, to link with health sector, and to collaborate with women's organisations.

10. Developing a structure for effective and sustained engagement with UNGEI by all relevant partners
There was a clearly identified need to develop a structure for more effective engagement with UNGEI by the different partners, particularly those external to the UN (bilaterals, civil society, NGOs). The idea of widening the UNGEI task force to include consultation from bilateral and civil society partners was put forward. There was a strong desire from the bilaterals to have UNICEF as driving the agenda outside of the UN, too, and to be the facilitator among the partners. However the commitment and resource implications need to be addressed.

Forward-looking strategies and outline of UNGEI partners' responsibilities

The following suggestions were put forward by the participants

  • Gender mainstreaming:
    · consensus - what do we mean
    · training material
    · professional development especially country office level
    · review past training, especially our institutions broad review including mats , policy
    · prioritize - national plans
    · process to apply and monitor application of gender mainstreaming strategies

  • Information sharing
    · centralize and manage information - partners for sharing at country level
    · identify what works - especially at community level
    · ways to access information (media etc.)
    · use local modalities
    · evaluation results
    · build on what exists

  • Expertise:
    · Share names of experts (BRIDGE)
    · Share names of institutions
    · Use higher education resources
    · Use NGOs/CBOs etc as strategy for expertise
    · This network

  • National Policy Dialogue and Plans
    · Influence national policies and programmes (displaced)
    · Coordinate efforts on the ground for programmes
    · Good practice for advocacy (materials?)
    · Advocate/ train at all levels (including on policy)
    · Mobilize and advocate at same level
    · Connect dialogue to plans to implementation
    · National plans and budgets (including costing CCA)
    · Resources - in plans and mobilize - efficiency
    · Promote evaluation

  • Partnering
    · Joint advocacy e.g. PRSP, UNDAF, SWAPS
    · Other EFA flagships
    · Media
    · Civil society
    · Governments
    · Multi-sectoral cooperation
    · Private sector especially private providers
    · Religious organizations and religious providers

  • NGOs/ Civil Society groups
    · Linking the bottom to the top. Custodians of Norms
    · Use NGO expertise
    · International and local NGO links - sustain innovations
    · International and local NGOs to pilot innovations
    · Encourage governments to use NGO expertise
    · Link to Global Campaign

  • High gender gap
    · PRSP is target of opportunity

  • Our institutions
    · Educators link to gender experts
    · Push gender policy to field level
    · Sectoral linkages (HIV/AIDS Health etc)
    · Hiring policies and training of field staff
    · UNDP - human dev. index - OOS girls
    · Sustain efforts
    · Understand/act
    · Monitor and enforce national laws -National Plan
    · Negotiate common language

    Comparative Advantages for our Responsibilities

    DfID - National training to other partners
    - Share information
    - Link throughout DfID
    Netherlands - Above plus - monitoring on indicators from this discussions
    GTZ - Experience
    USAID - Reintegrate GE agenda in house
    - In country synergies among activities
    - Share information on local empowerment (NGO capacity)
    - Don't give up after 2005 - keep trying!
    GTZ - Try to do some things together on the ground
    SIDA - Share on UNGEI in SIDA
    UNHCR - Ex com - Monitoring - point to UNHCR
    - Support to regions (OOSG)
    - Institutional change
    - Advocacy
    All - Hold governments accountable
    DfID - Come examine our performance! email Rachel Hinton
    WB - Focus and coverage of GE in PRSP including training
    materials after developed
    - Good practice
    - Bank supported projects information
    UNESCO - EFA National Action Plans including gender
    - All levels
    - ICT/ gender perspective / family education
    - Link information on girls' education to the field and back
    - Links to Ministry of Education
    - General conference
    - International conference on education etc.
    - Links to parliament
    - Links to means of communication
    - Statistics