Statement delivered by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Marina Sereni, to the Side Event on “Women and Girls in Sub-Saharan Africa: Transforming Education for a Sustainable Future” —
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to introduce this event, organized by the Italian Mission to the UN in New York. Let me thank all the Organizations and Countries that co-sponsored the event for their precious commitment. Italy is strongly committed to guaranteeing universal access to quality basic education, without gender discrimination.
Education is at the center of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is not just one of its main objectives but also a pre-requisite for achieving the SDGs. Ensuring quality education systems anywhere in the world is indeed a determining factor in making societies more inclusive and equitable, in reconciling communities in conflict and thus ensuring sustainable development.
Women and girls are a powerful factor of change. Education is key to their empowerment, but we are witnessing the erosion of progress on girls’ education as a consequence of the pandemic but also of the increase in armed conflicts and humanitarian crisis. Gender-responsive recovery strategies are essential to making up for lost time.
In addition to education’s vital role as an enabler of women empowerment, we must also consider the fundamental nexus between education, sustainable development and climate action. Indeed, climate change and environmental emergencies deepen inequalities and perpetuate multiple forms of discrimination against women and girls, including in their access to quality education.
Investing in education means investing in the future. In conflict-affected areas, education promotes stability, good governance, resilience and peace. Schools are not only places where children learn to read and count, but also shelters. Getting girls into school can also lower their chances to be victims of discrimination, violence, abuses – including child, early and forced marriages.
Girls with any form of disability are among the most vulnerable: they must overcome physical and cultural barriers to access education, and they are exposed to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
Italy joined the G7 Declaration on Girls’ education, increased its contribution by 20% to the Global Partnership for Education and announced a 25 million euros pledge for the next 5 years. Half of our contribution will be dedicated to girls’ education in Africa, a top priority area for the Italian Cooperation.
In addition, the Italian Development Cooperation is financing many initiatives aimed at promoting girls education in Sub-Saharan Africa – for instance in Countries such as Niger and Senegal.
Also from the humanitarian perspective, Italy finances initiatives that include education among their main sectors of intervention, in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Let me conclude by mentioning the photographic exhibition by Mohamed Keita, realized in collaboration with the Universities Network for Children in Armed Conflict, which is linked to this event and is currently displayed within the UN Conference Building.
We believe that photography – and art overall – can represent an important vehicle for raising awareness on the need to promote respect for human rights. We hope that this exhibition will foster a reflection on the importance of promoting the role of women and girls as fundamental agents of change for sustainable development. I hope you will have the occasion to visit it.
Thank you for your presence and attention. I wish you a fruitful discussion.