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We remain firmly committed to improving access, quality of education, with focus on girls -Vice President

Vice President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh has on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, delivered the keynote address at the Transformative Leadership for Gender Equality through Education Conference at the Bintumani Conference Center in Freetown in which he reaffirmed government commitment to improving access and quality of education, with particular focus on the girl child.

The three-day meeting will reflect and commit to what it takes for African education systems to become an influential force of change toward gender-equal societies. The event will end with the Ministers of Education sharing their commitments to promote gender equality in and through education and will outline the next steps toward the Transforming Education Summit in September 2022.
The Vice President, in his keynote address, explained about achievements made by the Government of Sierra Leone on gender parity in schools through transformative policies.

He stated that the Government has increased the budget on education to 22 per cent, adding that the Government has taken policy action by creating the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) with a focus on basic education and emphasis on girls’ education. He noted that the rationale for the Radical Inclusion Policy is to support pregnant schoolgirls to continue with their education.

According to him, the government’s deepest conviction is that education is the centrepiece of investing in people, adding that the government’s commitment to addressing barriers that impede gender equality in education is rooted in the conviction that no society or country can grow if half of its population is plagued by barriers.

Vice President Jalloh updated the conference on the creation of a stand-alone Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs for the purpose of working hard to overturn barriers against gender and women’s empowerment in Sierra Leone. He explained the government’s vigorous response against rape and gender-based violence, the amendment of the sexual offences Act, the declaration of rape as a State emergency, and the establishment of a sexual offence court.

The Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Dr David Monina Sengeh stated that Sierra Leone could not make better investments without empowering and encouraging women and girls. He highlighted Sierra Leone’s achievement in gender parity in schools, including increased girls’ enrolment in schools and increased the number of girls taking and passing public exams.

He said this is why the Government of Sierra Leone has made it tuition-free for girls wanting to pursue those courses related to STEM and Education. He calls on all to be ambitious and go beyond gender parity in accessing education.

“Let us make sure that the full rewards of education are also enjoyed equally. Let us make sure that we lay the foundation for societies with equality before the law, equal representation, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunity regardless of your gender, physical ability, the size of your bank account or the location of your home,” he said.

He said as the Co-Chair of the UNESCO High-Level Steering Committee of SDG4, and the Co-Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Transforming Education Summit Advisory Committee, they are all eagerly waiting for the output document from this session, noting that it is a tremendous opportunity for the African region to take the lead in Transforming Education.
He thanked the collaborators United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF-SL) for making sure this happened and I hope his colleague Ministers will be in Paris at the Pre-Summit end of June and then in New York in September 19th as we commit to Transforming Education.

“When girls have equal access and progression in our education systems, they will better participate in our political systems. When we ensure that they are not just included and protected, but empowered and encouraged, they will empower and encourage all of us. We really cannot make a better investment,” he said.

The Deputy Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs Mr Buaki Bindi Hindowa told the participants about the review of the National Referral Protocol on Gender-Based Violence (GBV) to include school-related GBV by his Ministry in partnership with the Ministry of Basic Education. He elaborated on the launch of the Gender Empowerment Policy in November 2020 with the purpose of sustainably reducing inequalities between women and men, with the focus on a greater impact on investments. He spoke about the establishment of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund for female entrepreneurs with seed money of one billion Leones, reiterating plans to disburse the money in the Fund in order to improve women’s economic position in Sierra Leone.

The Director of UNGEI Madam Antara Ganguli said that the high-level meeting was historic because it brings together ministers and permanent secretaries in education ministries in sixteen countries including Sierra Leone for the first time to discuss leadership that is gender transformative and leadership that leads to a transformation in the situation of gender equality in Sierra Leone.
She stated that 67.5 per cent of 15–24-year-old young people around the world who are not in training, education or employment are young women. She explains further that, one in three young women are not in training, education and employment compared to one out of seven young men. She concluded that gender-transformative education is about the empowerment of women. The conference is slated from 18-20 May 2022.

According to UNICEF Representative Dr Suleiman Braimoh, the 2020 Radical Inclusion Policy strongly promotes gender equity and inclusion of the most vulnerable children including marginalized and pregnant girls.
“Through this policy, our girls are getting the opportunity to continue with education and the pursuit of their life dreams, despite the pregnancy. We acknowledge the Government of Sierra Leone for the successful implementation of the Free Quality Education Programmes, which is contributing to improving school enrolment,” she said.

She said UNICEF, with support from Global Partnership for Education, has been a key partner in supporting this ambitious, flagship government programme, which according to her is making a significant contribution towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals 4, ensuring inclusive quality education for all children.

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