IRC holds round table policy dialogue with stakeholders to promote Girls’ Education in Balochistan

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Islamabad,(Parliament Times):  The International Rescue Committee, under the “Teach and Educate Adolescent Girls with Community Help” (TEACH) project funded with UK aid from the British people, organized an event “Educating Girls in Balochistan” at PNCA, Islamabad on August 18, 2022. The event hosted a conversation with multiple stakeholders and donors on sustainable actions to combat barriers to girls’ education in Balochistan.

Ms. Shabnam Baloch – Country Director, International Rescue Committee while speaking at the event mentioned, “In order to eradicate the barrier to girls’ education in Balochistan, collaboration of all the stakeholders- policymakers, practitioners, academia, and civil society is the dire need of the hour. In this regard, a coherent gender-sensitive approach to education service delivery is needed that addresses demand- and supply-side barriers to girls’ education. The key barriers that we need to work on include, access to education, provision of female teachers, distance to schools and lack of boundary walls and WASH facilities. We also have to work around the recent challenges owing to climate change escalating the access issues and having multiplier effect on other related barriers. The recent floods in Balochistan has affected infrastructure which includes school buildings as well. Mr. Graham Gass, Group Head – Health and Education, British High Commission, Islamabad, expressed during his remarks that, “The UKAID funded Girls Education Challenge TEACH (Teach and Educate Adolescent Girls with Community Help) Programme has supported up to 29,000 out-of-school girls in Balochistan – providing accelerated learning programmes and vocational skills and helping to address the limiting social norms and barriers faced by girls in accessing quality education.  Going forward the UK will continue to champion girls’ education, calling on partner governments to provide individual and collective leadership.  It is our collective responsibility to do all we can to Educate girls, Empower women and End violence against women and girls.”

A theatrical performance by Tekrik-e-Niswan, led by Ms. Sheema Kermani, was performed on barriers that girls in Balochistan have to face on a daily basis just to reach school. The play covered barriers like non-availability of nearby schools in the community, lack of availability of WASH Facilities, boundary walls, and female teaching staff in schools. The event was a culmination of a theater performance on barriers to girls’ education and a panel discussion on the impact of sustainable actions moving forward to combat barriers to girls’ education, especially during the flood emergency crisis.

The panel discussion concluded that such discussions are critical for cross organizational learning because there is a lot of commitment and there is a lot of talk about the importance of girls’ education. The panel discussion articulated that financing access to education, providing materials for learning, and creating safe spaces to learn within communities is of utmost importance. Furthermore, our goals are to provide best practices, build resilience into education systems, and support out-of-school girls is how we will assist governments in not only rebuilding better, but rebuilding smarter, stronger, and fairer systems for Balochistan’s marginalized girls.

Anne Flaker – Director, Office of Education, USAID stated, “With an estimated 22.6 million children (aged 5 to 16) out of school, Pakistan is facing an education crisis. This education concern is disproportionately affecting girls, who make up two-thirds of out-of-school children. With so many girls not able to achieve more than an elementary education in Pakistan, USAID has made it a priority to improve girls’ education in Pakistan. We want to build on a long history of expanding access to high-quality education, especially for young girls in Balochistan, since we all understand how important it is for economic development, prosperity, and security that girls have access to school.”

Mr. Sher Zaman- Managing Director, Balochistan Education Foundation during the panel discussion shared that in order to remove barriers to girl’s education in Balochistan, female teachers from the surrounding districts should be incentivized where there is significant shortage of female teachers, hindering basic operations of existing schools. For girls and teachers who are attending school from surrounding villages, should be allowed flexibility in school timing. Abid Gill, in his remarks shared that the alarming state of the shortage of female teachers in the province can be attributed to several reasons, which include supply-side and policy-induced barriers. We need to create workable partnership system with relevant government departments, donor and civil society to promote, expand and effectively manage the relevant programmes in Balochistan.

Quratulain Bakhteari, CEO, Institute for Development studies and Practices (IDSP) while speaking at the event mentioned the need to focus on adolescent girls’ nutrition as well as their psychological wellbeing. She further stated, “Girls are going through various physiological changes at the age of 12 to 15 and it is then when we add in pressure of multiple subjects. Moreover, even if families consent to sending girls to school without female teachers, young girls require a mentor and a female figure to sensitize them on the physiological changes that they are going through.”

Ian Attfield – Regional Senior Education Adviser, Girls Education Challenge in his closing remarks shared that, Girls’ education has a positive multiplier effect, it reduces child marriage, adolescent pregnancy, maternal mortality, and gender-based violence.  The UK is supporting a global coalition that tackles the learning crisis by delivering foundational learning for all children.  In one month’s, time, world leaders will gather at the UN Transforming Education Summit.  We hope that leaders from Pakistan will attend the Summit and make bold commitments to prioritize foundational learning for all girls and boys.

The event was attended by representatives of USAID, World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, Health Education and Development Society (HEADS), Qatar Charity, Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE), Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP), Balochistan Education Foundation, academia, students, members of civil society and other notables. The stakeholders pledged to work together to eradicate the barriers to girls’ education by providing gender-inclusive facilities, quality education and developing school infrastructure focused on WASH facilities and boundary walls. The call to action was complemented by dialogue by academics, decision makers, FCDO, USAID, JICA and audience members from international community and civil society. The emphasis was voiced on the crucial and dynamic role of Sustainable Development 4 in achieving the other 17 goals, which serves as the cornerstone of the global commitment to” Leave No One Behind.”


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