Raka Rashid, Regional UNGEI Coordinator, UNICEF ROSA
Lava Deo Awasthi, Ph.D., Under-Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports, Nepal
Sabita Bhujel welcomed the Young Champions to Nepal to discuss priorities for promoting girls’ education in South Asia. Ava Deo Awasthi recalled that South Asia, now poverty stricken and disadvantaged, was once a source of wisdom for the rest of the world. “We have to turn the clock around”, he said. The Ministry of Education in Nepal was taking an interest in how the youth could be at the centre of Education for All as well as the Millennium Development Goals. Daniel Toole expressed the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) pride in being part of the UN Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) partnership, and said he was even more proud to be here with the Young Champions.
Raka Rashid spoke about the purpose of the workshop: to consolidate the work begun in 2007 by the South Asia Regional UNGEI and pave the way for smooth country-level implementation and continuation of the model. She listed three specific outcomes:
a review of last year’s activities and sharing of experiences
the preparation of next year’s workplan
a draft outline, based on feedback from participants, for a generic training manual to be developed by the South Asia UNGEI, for adaptation and use at country levels.
Sabita Bhujel hoped that this workshop would help Young Champions do their best to promote girls’ education. Daniel Toole concluded with the words of the famous Indian Mahatma Gandhi: Be the change you want to see. “This is your challenge”, he said, “To be and build that change: a world where all children go to school.”
Why are we here?
UNGEI is a partnership of organizations dedicated to promoting girls’ education and gender equality. It is carried forward, among others, by champions who believe in and work toward a vision of "a world where all girls and boys are empowered through quality education to realize their full potential and contribute to transforming societies where gender equality becomes a reality."1
The UNGEI champions in the South Asia region are young women and men who represent the UNGEI movement as advocates and change makers in their communities and societies and, through their activities, address the disparities which affect girls’ education in the region. The South Asia model also recognizes an emerging demographic trend, the “youth bulge” that will constitute the next generation of leaders, workers, parents and citizens, and seizes the opportunity to prepare young people for these roles.2 In May 2007, over 50 young people, UNICEF and partner organisations were trained from seven countries of South Asia. When they returned home, they began implementing their workplans. Many in turn trained cadres of young volunteers to help promote girls’ education and gender equality. Strategies varied across countries and communities, and included the use of community radio stations, the scout movement, newspaper articles, television documentaries, newsletters, school enrollment drives, campaigns for environmental protection and bringing drop- outs back to school.
The 2008 refresher training provided an occasion to take stock of where we are and how best to move forward to the next stages of implementation, adaptation and institutionalization.