Check against delivery.
Q: Given the clear benefits of girls' education, why do you think there has not been action and investment at the level needed in proven practices and strategies to improve education quality and outcomes for girls? What do we need to do to change this?
A: Lack of action and investment in girls' education often reflects the general low status of girls and women in society. It is therefore most appropriate that this meeting is taking place during CSW60. Still today, there are more girls than boys who never enrol in school. In some countries, the low number of girls who begin and complete secondary school and higher education gives particular cause for concern.
Action is required at many levels and on many fronts. We must do away with prejudices and outdated social norms that constrain women's access to education, health services and job opportunities, and prevent them from realising their full potential. Societies simply cannot prosper without the full participation of the female half of the population! In Norway, we are proud to say that the high number of women in the workforce makes a significant contribution to economic growth and our welfare state. While there is no magic trick that will ensure that women count as much as men, I believe that education has a special role to play. We know that girls who stay in secondary school delay getting married and becoming pregnant. This leads to better health, not only for the girls in question, but also for their children. Continuing in education also enables girls to make informed decisions about their future.
Besides, education provides opportunities for getting a decent job, and economic independence is crucial for empowerment.
Worldwide, there are 757 million adults, including 115 million young people, who cannot read or write a simple sentence; two thirds of them are women. This means that large groups of women are excluded from better-paid jobs. It is also a terrible waste of potential.
We know all this. Still, there is not sufficient action.
We need to take a comprehensive and multidimensional approach to education that advances gender parity and empowerment. We need to overcome the barriers that prevent girls from getting an education. Poverty is the main reason. But there are also other barriers to girls' education that vary according to the socio-economic, religious and cultural context. Some barriers are obvious while others are harder to identify.
It will take time to overcome some of these barriers, but we also know that there are simple, concrete and effective measures that can be undertaken now.
One important measure is improving the quality of learning. This means more and better qualified teachers. Some countries also need to recruit more female teachers.
Another important measure is improving safety for girls – both at school and on their way to school. We need to protect girls and young women against sexual and other forms of harassment. We need to ensure that girls have access to proper sanitation facilities and health services.
Thirdly, we need to change the conventional view in many societies that investing in girls' education is not as worthwhile as investing in boys' education. Parents need to become more aware of the fact that girls have the same right to education as boys, and that attending school will enable their daughters to create a better future for themselves.
We need to take innovative new approaches. Involving community organisations, teachers, parents and representatives from the business community can make a real difference. We need to strengthen advocacy and awareness-raising at all levels, from the local to the global. We need to grasp the opportunities created by media. And we need to engage and educate men. We need to encourage men and boys to join the He for She campaign everywhere!
When the current Norwegian Government came into power in [the autumn of ] 2013, we made global education – with particular focus on girls' education – a main priority for Norwegian development cooperation. We took two important decisions. Firstly that we would take a leading role on the international scene to mobilise resources for education and reverse the downward trend in donor support. Initiating and supporting the work of the International Commission on Financing Education Opportunity is one aspect of these efforts. Secondly we would double Norway's aid budget for education over the four-year period. We are underway on both.
Q: For countries that have made the greatest improvements in girls' education in recent years, what have been the critical factors in their success?
A: Improvements in girls' education are usually due to a combination of factors. One is an improvement in the status of girls and women in general. Another is political will and the presence of champions in society who have put this issue on the political agenda. We need strong advocates for girls' education, and I am pleased to see that more and more people are speaking out. Advocacy work and awareness-raising can be highly effective in combatting gender stereotypes that prevent girls from starting and staying in school.
A key element is of course financing. This also means that education must be given priority in national budgets.
Q: Given the financial constraints, how can limited resources be allocated to avoid disadvantaging girls, particularly in remote or conflict affected settings?
A: In some societies, targeted interventions for girls are needed, especially for girls with disabilities. Civil society can play a critical role in providing education services for vulnerable girls, and a substantial part of Norway's development budget for education is channelled through civil society organisations.
I have high expectations of the new platform for Education in Emergencies and Protracted Crises, which will be established to improve coordination and ensure that education services reach the disadvantaged girls most in need.
Q: What additional gender considerations need to be taken into account by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity?
A: Taking into account the high-level representatives who are on the Commission, I am confident that gender considerations will be given high priority. I have strong expectations that the Commission will come up with a convincing investment case for education, and that it will also highlight the cost of failing to secure the full participation of the female half of the population.