Before over 1,000 cheering students, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and the First Lady of China and UNESCO Special Envoy awarded the Girls’ and Women’s Education Prize to laureates from Thailand and Peru, during a ceremony at the University of Xiamen on 5 September.
“Today the Government of the People’s Republic of China hosts this Ceremony during the BRICS Summit. I see this as a symbol of a clear political choice to nurture gender equality as a development multiplier for all,” said the Director-General, thanking China for its generous support to the Prize, now in its second edition.
“The face of the new global agenda must be that of a young girl in school, learning, not forced to marry or work. For this, we need champions to break new ground and this is the story of our laureates today.
China’s Minister of Education Mr Chen Baosheng, expressed his country’s strong support for the advancement of gender equality and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“It is hoped that, through this Prize, successful experience will be shared and more people will be encouraged to join efforts to promote gender equality worldwide.”
He outlined a range of measures in place to provide assistance to disadvantaged girls in rural areas, as well as to eliminate disparities in the workplace, including through technical and vocational education and training, and lifelong learning opportunities. “Girls and women’s education is important for all societies and we will continue to work with UNESCO and Governments to deliver the 2030 agenda on education.”
The Director-General and Professor Peng, UNESCO Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education, awarded the certificates to the two laureates, from Thailand and Peru.
The Development and Education Programme for Daughters and Communities Center in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region in Thailand is recognized for its project, entitled “Education and Life Skills Training Programme to Help Stateless Children and Women Migrating from Shan State to Thailand”. The project provides education and life skills training to protect migrant girls and women from the risks of human trafficking and sexual or labour exploitation, and has benefited more than 7,000 learners directly and 100,000 women indirectly.
The Mini Academy of Science and Technology – MaCTec Peru is commended for “Mobile MaCTec Bus Labs/Mini Academy of Science and Technology” project to empower girls from rural areas through quality science education and reduce the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The project has been developed in partnership with state authorities, private donors and the academic community.
In the context of the BRICS Summit, a special mention was also jointly given to South Africa’s WomenEng programme for empowering girls to pursue STEM subjects through unique pedagogies and mentoring.
The award ceremony ended with performances by the arts troupe and choir of Xiamen University choreographed for the occasion, accompanied by the institution’s Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Beautiful Dream,” the dances celebrated the nations present at the BRICS Summit, as well as the engagement of students in voluntary services.
In this regard, the Director-General toured with Professor Peng Liyuan and the First Ladies of Guinea, Mexico, Thailand and South Africa an exhibition on HIV/AIDS Prevention on Campus – My Youth, My Decision.” This Red Ribbon Campaign has been held on universities across China, bringing public figures to raise awareness about HIV prevention. Activities include health education, voluntary HIV counseling and testing, as well as the championing of HIV prevention through student led-actions, including art works.
The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education was established by the Executive Board of UNESCO at its 197th session in October 2015. It consists of two annual awards of USD 50,000 to honour outstanding contributions made by individuals, institutions, non-governmental organizations or other entities engaged in advancing girls’ and women’s education.