Speech/statement | Date: 13/03/2019 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein (New York, 13 March)
The Minister of International Development's remarks at the side event “Inclusive quality education and lifelong learning – Key for gender equality and empowerment of women” at the 63rd session of Commission on the Status of Women, New York 13 March 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am the father of four children: three boys and a girl.
In Norway, medicine is the hardest university course to get into. Statistics show that it is my daughter – not her brothers - who stands the best chance of becoming a doctor. More than 70 % of the students admitted to medical school in Norway last year were female. Overall, 60 % of students at the University of Oslo are now female.
This shows that given equal opportunities, girls will not only compete with boys, they will outperform them. In fact, in Norwegian primary and secondary schools, girls are consistently performing better than boys in all subjects, except sport.
However, the sad fact is that for millions of girls around the world, the opportunities my daughter can take for granted are nothing but a distant dream.
This is not only a betrayal of their human rights, it is also a waste of resources. In order to prosper, societies need the full participation of the whole population. According to the World Bank, limited educational opportunities for girls are costing countries between 15 trillion and 30 trillion US dollars in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.
Girls’ education is therefore a top priority in Norway’s development cooperation.
Only 1 % of girls from the poorest families in low-income countries complete secondary education. The risk of exclusion increases if they face multiple disadvantages.
A girl with a disability who comes from one of the poorest families living in a rural area in a developing country will have extremely limited chances of ever getting to secondary school.
For these girls, getting an education could make all the difference. Instead, they are deprived of this basic right.
Girls living in conflict-affected countries are two and a half times less likely to attend primary school than girls living in countries not affected by conflict. If we are to ensure that all girls have access to education, we must therefore focus our attention on girls affected by displacement.
However, getting girls into school is not enough in itself. If education is to be empowering, its substance and quality are crucial. Access to education will not have a transformative impact on girls’ lives if they do not learn basic skills.
Since teachers are the most important factor when it comes to learning and well-being in schools, Norway is supporting both the International Teacher Task Force and a teacher initiative to facilitate closer cooperation between partners on this issue.
Furthermore, if education is to be a vehicle for economic empowerment, it is crucial that it is relevant to the needs of the labour market.
Girls are grossly underrepresented in technical and vocational education and training. Norway is joining forces with other donors, governments and providers of vocational training to increase girls’ opportunities. All vocational training projects we support have targets for female participation.
By giving girls an education, we give them the power to shape their own lives. We must do more to ensure that all children are offered the same learning opportunities as my children. Including the ones who are hardest to reach. This is at the heart of the international community’s commitment to ‘Leave No One Behind’.