In Beijing, new Prize shines spotlight on heroes of girls’ and women’s education
Director-General Irina Bokova and the First Lady of China and UNESCO Special Envoy Professor Peng Liyuan jointly awarded the first UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education to laureates from Indonesia and Zimbabwe at a youthful ceremony staged in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on 6 June 2016.
The ceremony was held in the presence of the Minister of Education Mr Yuan Guiren, the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Li Baodong, and moderated by the Vice-Minister of Education and Chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO Mr Hao Ping.
"Girls and young women still face steep barriers to entering education, from poverty, from prejudice, from violence. Lasting peace and sustainable development are simply unthinkable while such inequality persists," said the Director-General. "the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education shines the spotlight on heroes of education. It highlights the power of partnership and what can be done to empower girls and women across the world."
The Prize, established in 2015 and funded by the People’s Republic of China, rewards outstanding efforts that contribute to the advancement of education for girls and women. It aims to contribute to SDG4 on education and SDG5 on gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment.
Professor Peng Liyuan, UNESCO Special Envoy for Girls’ and Women’s Education, affirmed that "equal access to education is the basis for the development of humanity, but there is still a long way to go."
She outlined China’s commitment to reaching the most vulnerable groups and to ensuring equal access for girls and women through laws, policies and funding. She emphasized the importance that China places on international cooperation to advance gender equality, referring to President Xi Jinping’s commitments made at the Global Leaders’ Meeting in New York in September 2015, marking the 20th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing.
"In 2015 the world adopted the 2030 agenda. We must now work hard to provide fair and universal access to high quality education for all girls and women. This Prize will help to provide role models," stated Professor Peng.
The two laureates are the Directorate of Early Childhood Education of the Ministry of Education and Culture from the Republic of Indonesia and the Female Students Network Trust from Zimbabwe, recognized for their innovative projects. Each will receive USD 50,000 to support their work.
Ms Ella Yulaelawati, Director of the Indonesian project on Improving Access and Quality of Girls' Education through Community-Based Early Childhood Education and Early-Year Gender Mainstreaming, said that "through this Prize the unheard voices have finally been recognized." She explained that the programme follows a « collective strategy » to ensure that girls receive decent early childhood education in rural areas, by building capacity and involving women’s organizations, parents and advocates at different levels of government.
The Female Students Network Trust is recognized for its initiative entitled Empowerment of Tertiary Education Female Students through Leadership Development and Mentorship Programmes. “Through winning this award, our Network has been challenged to widen its scope and continue to do more towards the emancipation of the girl child and women in education through advocating for safe learning spaces, free from discrimination ad gender based violence,” said Project Director Evernice Munando. “The Network envisions a well-balanced student community and a Zimbabwe where women and girls are prioritized.”
Highlighting the role of teachers in the provision of good quality education, Mr Hao Ping introduced a female teacher who had received numerous awards. Coming from an impoverished farming community in Shaanxi province and speaking on behalf of millions of female teachers, she told the audience that "she decided to become a teacher because education can change the destiny of girls from poor families. Educating a girl changes a family and affects several generations."
The ceremony featured dance and singing performances by girls from three primary schools in Beijing as well as by African recipients of the Great Wall Fellowships sponsored by China.
The award was held in conjuction with an International Seminar on Girls’ and Women’s Education to present good practices through regional and national perspectives, linked to such themes as literacy, skills training and health education.
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