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What more can the EU do to stop girls’ education languishing as a footnote and instead be the
headline to the conversation about the world’s sustainable development goals?
Gender equality and access to quality education are key parts of the UN’s Agenda 2030, but should
it be called ‘Gender 2030?’, asked Friends of Europe at its Educating Girls debate in Brussels on
Every day 130m girls are not in school and, by any measure, they and the wider world are worse off
for it. So why are we failing to remove the barriers in their way and how can we “change this
rather nasty paradigm?” asked moderator and director for Europe and Geopolitics at Friends of
Europe, Shada Islam.
“None of the 17 UN goals can be achieved without the active participation of women,” she said.
Speakers from the UN, the European Commission and specialist NGOs were asked to consider whether
the EU should: use girls’ education as a key condition for countries receiving development aid;
make it a specific part of accession talks, and deny aid and trade benefits to those spending more
on defence than education.
Efforts being made to provide girls with more role models and mentors, especially in the
‘non-traditional’ career areas of STEM and IT, is vital work, said Geetanjali Narayan, UNICEF
Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina: “I think that’s very, very important and can be
supported by policy decisions,” she said.
Also, at ground level, as well as dealing with structural barriers to education – such as lack of
access to toilets – speakers emphasised the importance of having a direct dialogue with
Participants also heard from Bangio Ali, Education Officer at the AVSI Foundation, in Kenya, who
focuses on girls and mothers’ rights and out-of-school children. Against all odds, she managed to
receive a college education and went on to work with girls and families in her own Somali
community, including in refugee camps.
“I am where I am because of education,” she said.
- Event summary
- Event page
- Factsheet on Girls' Education
- Factsheet on Women, Peace and Security
- Women entrepreneurs spearheading implementation of Agenda 2030
IMAGE CREDIT: CC/Flickr – Charlotte Kels / World Bank