Teach a girl, enrich the world

By Erna Solberg and Hannah Godefa, Special to CNN

See original content on CNN

Editor’s note: Erna Solberg is prime minister of Norway and co-chair of the U.N. Secretary General’s Millennium Development Goals Advocates. Hannah Godefa is UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia. The views expressed are their own. This is the latest in a series of articles ahead of a special GPS show from Davos this Sunday.

As the humanitarian crises in South Sudan and Syria and Central African Republic continue to unfold, girls are once again caught in the cross-fire. Murdered by soldiers, killed or sexually assaulted as they flee, their lives are being ravaged by wars they did not start. Once again, they are the victims of somebody else’s dispute, subjected to sexual violence by those hoping to achieve their military and political goals.

How much more are we willing to stand?

Currently 28.5 million children in conflict-affected countries are out of school, more than half of them are girls. It is not just their security, but their education and hope for a better life that are being ruined.

But these girls don’t need to be faceless, voiceless statistics. They can be victors, like Malala, who captivated us when she bravely stood up for her right to education, changing the way we think about young girls and their rights.

The key is investing in girls’ potential, something that can be a win-win for everyone – enabling female participation in local economies can accelerate the fight against poverty, inequity and gender disparity. When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.
This is one of the key messages we, the prime minister of Norway and a 16-year-old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia, will deliver this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos as we encourage those gathered to “reshape the world” by putting young girls first. We will raise our voices to galvanize the crucial support needed to change attitudes and transform the lives of the countless Malalas, standing together to ensure that these girls are neither invisible nor forgotten.

We are two very different women from different generations, cultures and countries, but like millions of other women and men out there, we agree on this: invest in girls. The question is, is anyone really listening to such calls? After all, we’ve been talking about giving girls equal access to education, employment and healthcare for the past three decades. Will the international community – government, business and the general public – finally take much needed action?

Educated girls and women have smaller families and healthier children, are less likely to die in childbirth, are more likely to see their children survive past the age of 5, are more likely to send their children to school, and are better able to protect themselves and their children from malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Education empowers women, multiplying their economic choices and contributions, and increasing their political voice and influence across the board.

The numbers don’t lie. For every year a girl stays in school and learns, her future earnings increase hugely. An extra year of primary school education, for example, boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. A one percentage point increase in female secondary education raises the average level of GDP by 0.3 percentage points. Does anyone need more convincing?
In today’s hyper-networked world, we are witnessing unprecedented shifts in traditional power dynamics, and we will all end up impoverished if we remain complicit to girls being denied their right to a better future. Denying girls their rights – whether it be for social, cultural, or economic reasons – means that half the world’s population is prevented from fully contributing to its own economic growth and well-being and to that of local communities.

The voices calling for action are not just ours, but have been heard echoing around the world in the United Nations’ MY World survey on people’s development priorities, as well as in the action agenda laid out in the Girl Declaration. When girls and women across the developing world have been asked what they want for their future, the resounding answer is: education, jobs, healthcare and security.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been critical in galvanizing progress around gender equality and women’s empowerment, but we must build on this success. The clock is ticking: with close to 700 days to go until the MDGs deadline, the targets we set ourselves won’t be reached unless greater investment in girls’ empowerment is made. Without this, girls will continue to drop out of school for lack of safe and supportive learning environments. Women will still marry young, and will still die in childbirth each day for want of simple medical interventions.

As the old adage goes, you can teach a man to fish to feed himself for a lifetime. But if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.

Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration


With roughly 700 days left until the target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General, along with the two co-chairs and several members of his MDG Advocacy Group, will participate in a moderated luncheon discussion to accelerate progress on the MDGs focusing on girls as a critical investment.  The Secretary-General and the two co-Chairs, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Prime Minster Erna Solberg of Norway, will open the programme and Hannah Godefa, a 16-year old UNICEF National Ambassador for Ethiopia and Sumaya Saluja, a member of the Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Group, will lead an inter-generational dialogue with the Advocates. The programme will include interventions from other governments, businesses and media leaders, including Tina Brown.

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, on his recent influencer piece on LInkedIN said “Today, there are 57 million children out of school – and most of them are girls. While disturbing, this represents a huge opportunity – because we know, from indisputable experience, the benefits of investing in girls. And there is no more valuable investment than in a girl’s education.”

The growing momentum around girls as catalysts for development is undeniable. Malala Yousafzai, whose voice resonated around the world as a champion for girls’ education, has helped advance the importance of addressing this often overlooked issue in philanthropic and core business strategies.

Hannah Godefa, UNICEF Ethiopia National Goodwill Ambassador, will participate at the World Economic Forum event focusing on girls education. Hannah impressed  many when she made a speech at the highly successful International Day of the Girl Child at UNICEF Head Quarters in October last year on “Innovating for Girls’ Education” and when she moderated the event where Katy Perry was named UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador. Read biography of Hannah Godefa.

Investing in Girls’ Empowerment for MDG Acceleration session at the World Economic Forum will highlight specific approaches that enable girls and women worldwide to learn, earn, thrive, and control their own destinies. The focus will be on replicating and scaling-up successful quality programmes, promoting innovative approaches including quick adoption of broadband and ICTs for education and health, and encouraging collaboration to ensure the best outcomes for girls and their communities.

Event Details:
Investing in Girls for MDG Acceleration
Luncheon with the SG and MDG Advocates hosted by the UN Foundation
Thursday, 23 January 2014, 12:30 – 2:30 pm
Salon Atlantis, Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvedere, Promenade 89,
Davos, Switzerland

More on event website

Watch the MDG Advocates event live on 23 January (coming soon)

Follow Tweets about “#investingirls” or @UNICEFEthiopia

IKEA Foundation support to Reading Corners in Harari – Ethiopia

Kebeke, one of the students who have  shown tremendous improvement in their study  as a result of the school’s new methods
Kebeke, one of the students who have shown tremendous improvement in their study as a result of the school’s new methods © UNICEF Ethiopia/2011/Yemane

Through annual assessments in primary schools, the Harari bureau of education found out that reading, writing, –generally literacy and numeracy skill were challenges that contributed to the lower achievements in other subjects in lower grades. The reading challenge was identified for all the three languages which are used as Medium of Instruction (Amharic, Harari and Afaan Oromo). Many factors for low level reading skills were identified; lack of school readiness for children when they come to grade one; teachers were not adequately trained on how to teach reading; no time allocated to reading in lower primary; lack of supplementary reading materials to reinforce reading skills; lack of general support both at school and at home to reinforce reading skills; and lack of systematic design of reading curriculum to better enhance reading.

Using part of the IKEA Foundation funding, the Regional Education Bureau and UNICEF designed a programme to focus support on school readiness and grades 1 through 4 to build the foundation of the Education system for improved learning outcomes, particularly in reading, writing, learning skills and basic science.

More specifically in response to the reading challenge, a number of strategies were identified at local schools, one of the strategies Developing and producing local supplementary reading materials; producing and sharing learners’ newspapers; organizing lower primary school classes in such way that it support students learning how to read and strengthening co-curricular activities that support students reading through reading corner and book clubs.

During my monitoring visit to Harari in October, 2013, I visited the Madrasa, Mekonnen and Model Primary schools. In these three schools, there is a reading corner at the back of each lower primary classroom with various locally produced materials and newspaper prepared by students. The materials are developed and produced through a positive intra and inter-school competition system. The various students in the school as a team with their teachers write the materials and there is usually a school competition and each class/school team compete first at class then at school level with a group of her/his children and after review are selected for use in the reading corner. The children are encouraged to bring in oral stories from home (parents, grand-parents and from other extended members of the family) and these oral stories are then written down and shared among classes in the school. This positive competition within the school and among the schools has led to availability of reading materials in the three languages used as Medium of instruction in Harari.

The second aspect of the Reading Corner is classroom organization and management. The students with teacher support, organize themselves to better utilize the locally produced resources. These resources are placed in a corner in their classroom and they jointly develop an information retrieval and management system. There is in the same corner, a reading space such as a table where the children can seat and read their own age, relevant and appropriate materials.

The results are highly positive as described in this Human Interest Story which was captured during my earlier visit with my colleague Mintwab Yemane. http://www.unicef.org/ethiopia/events_14096.html

Thank you IKEA Foundation

The largest corporate donor to UNICEF, IKEA Foundation has committed more than $300 million in both cash and in-kind donations to UNICEF’s programs to improve the lives of children and their families.

UNICEF’s partnership with IKEA began more than ten years ago with UNICEF supporting the company to develop the company’s child labour code of conduct. That code, “The IKEA Way on Preventing Child Labour”, describes the specific demands IKEA places on suppliers and sub-contractors to prevent child labour. Based on national law, relevant ILO conventions, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the code clearly states that all actions must always be in the best interests of the child.

Since then IKEA Foundation has been a key supporter, contributing to UNICEF’s work through strategic investments in programmes for children, sales of UNICEF greeting cards, cause-related marketing campaigns, in-kind assistance and national-level fundraising and promotional activities by IKEA customers and employees around the world.

Students of Tutis Primary School in Darolabu Woreda, Oromia Region, Ethiopia say THANK YOU IKEA in recognition of IKEA Foundation’s support in the region

Commiting to Children is Commiting to The Future – Angélique Kidjo

While visiting UNICEF Ethiopia in November, Angélique Kidjo UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador,  asked the public to join her and UNICEF and commit to ensure that children have adequate food, shelter and clean water; every boy and girl has access to education and primary health care and  protect children from all forms of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

She said: Committing to children, is committing to the Future!

Back to School video campaigns

Students of Lions kids primary school in Entoto, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Ministry of Education of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia launched a massive nationwide awareness campaign on going back to school and called on parents, communities and local leaders to bring their children to school.

The awareness campaign, which kick-started in September, as schools open across the country, is a drive that seeks to increase awareness of parents on the importance of education and support Ethiopia to meet its Millennium Development Goals on universal access.

Some Back to School television campaigns in Amharic can be seen here

And see the press release back in September here.

Ethiopia and Angola double number of girls in school in 10 years

Children pose before the start of their class at a school in Cabinda January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
Children pose before the start of their class at a school in Cabinda January 13, 2010. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The number of girls enrolling in primary school has soared across Africa in the last decade, according to a report released on Monday, which also found a significant drop in the number of child deaths over the past five years.

With primary education now free in all but five African countries, there has been a boom in the number of children attending school, with Ethiopia and Angola showing the most dramatic improvements.

In Ethiopia, girls’ enrolment rose to 83 percent from 41 percent between 2000 and 2011, while Angola saw an increase to 78 percent from 35 percent, according to the African Report on Child Wellbeing produced by the African Child Policy Forum, a research institute based in Ethiopia. Read more