Malawi will on Friday launch Education Plus Initiative at the High-level Intergenerational Dialogue on Generation Equality and Women’s Leadership.
The launch of the initiative is one of the activities to take place at the first ever High-Level International Dialogue on Generation Equality and Women’s Leadership in Africa.
Former President Dr. Joyce Banda will lead in her capacity as current Chairperson of Women’s Empowerment and Development (WED) Africa – Asia and Member of the Committee of Elders (comprising of former and seating Female Heads of State) at AU African Women Leaders Network (AWLN).
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says Education Initiative targets adolescent girls and young women in Malawi who continue to experience multiple marginalizations, face unequal gender power dynamics and remain at a greater risk of acquiring HIV.
The statement says adolescent girls and young women are 2.5 times more likely than their male peers to acquire HIV, and more than 51% of new HIV infections in the country are among this group.
“Despite progress over the years, only 27 percent of girls enrol in secondary school, only 13 percent will attend, and less than 5 percent will complete secondary education. The country still has a high rate of teenage pregnancy – 29 percent of adolescent girls aged 15–19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child and the proportion keeps increasing.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these vulnerabilities and calls for a renewed comprehensive response and action to guarantee girls’ and young women’s health and education rights today. Adolescent girls in Malawi are especially at risk of never returning to school, and digital divides bar many from remote learning,” reads part of the statement.
UNDP further states that the pandemic has heightened the risk and vulnerability to gender-based violence, child marriage, maternal mortality, unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexual and reproductive health consequences. One in five girls has been sexually abused before they reach 18 years.
It adds that adolescent girls and young women also shoulder the burdens of unpaid care and domestic work, further reducing their chances of ever returning to school. There are limited opportunities for skilling for the many who are out of school.
“The loss of livelihoods over the last two years threatens to entrench and trap millions in cycles of poverty and extreme vulnerabilities. Malawi is not alone; many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are disproportionately affected by the AIDS epidemic. Every week, approximately 4 200 adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa acquire HIV.
“In 2020, five in six adolescents aged between 15-19 newly acquiring HIV in the region were girls. And an estimated 23 300 adolescent girls and young women died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2020, making it the second leading cause of death of adolescent girls and young women after maternal mortality,” says UNDP.
UNDP says education provides protective advantage for girls in reducing their risk of HIV infection and that completion of secondary education by adolescent girls has reduced HIV infection by up to one-half in some countries.
“In response, five UN agencies – UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women – launched the Education Plus initiative at the Generation Equality Forum in 2021. This week at the high-level intergenerational dialogue on generation equality and women’s leadership, the Malawi Government will join the United Nations to launch the Education Plus Initiative in Malawi in line with the continental efforts.
“The new five-year game-changing initiative calls for political action and leadership to step up policies and investments that work best for adolescent girls and young women agency and for countries’ growth and prosperity.
“Through the initiative, government leaders, development partners, civil society, community and young women leaders are coming together in a renewed push for free access to quality secondary education for all girls and boys by 2025 while providing a Plus package to protect health rights and deliver on gender equality and the empowerment of girls and young women in Africa,” reads the statement.
“In addition to universal secondary education, the initiative calls for universal access to comprehensive sexuality education; fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights; freedom from gender-based and sexual violence; school-to-work transitions, and economic security and empowerment,” it concludes.
Education Plus, launched at the Generation Equality Forum by five UN agencies — UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women — is an ambitious five-year high-level drive to accelerate action and investments for the empowerment of adolescent girls and young women and the achievement of gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa—with secondary education as the strategic entry point for providing the multi-sectoral plus package.
The initiative calls for free and quality secondary education for all girls and boys in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025; universal access to comprehensive sexuality education; fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights; freedom from gender-based and sexual violence; school-to-work transitions, and economic security and empowerment.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :