Perspectives on Globalization: Women, Families and Social Change -- A Discussion on Girls' Literacy and Sustainable DevelopmentPaula Dobriansky, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs
Nancy Powell, Ambassador to Ghana (in Accra, Ghana), Maureen Quinn, Ambassador to Qatar (in Doha, Ghana), April Palmerlee, Senior Coordinator for International Womens Issues, A. Lawrence Chickering, President, Educate Girls Globally (EGG)
Remarks to the Open Forum
March 25, 2002
Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky: Thank you, April. And welcome to all of you -- those here in our audience here in Washington, and those overseas. We'll look forward to hearing from everyone. And also I'd like to welcome our special guests. It gives me great pleasure to welcome all of you here to the kick-off event for the Open Forum series entitled, "Perspectives on Globalization: Women, Families, and Social Change." This is part of the State Department's commemoration of Women's History Month. And in fact what our commemoration will constitute will be four Open Forum sessions focusing on women. Today's event specifically will examine the connection between girls' literacy and sustainable development. Future panel discussions will address women in politics, civil society, health, and economic empowerment.
Our program today, which is being beamed all over the world, will last 90 minutes. Secretary of State Colin Powell will begin our program with brief taped remarks. Then following his comments there will be three outstanding experts from whom we will hear on this issue, who will participate in an interactive panel discussion. We'll hear from the Honorable Nancy Powell, who is our U.S. Ambassador to Ghana; the Honorable Maureen Quinn, who is our Ambassador to Qatar -- and both of them will be joining us via teleconference. In addition, we have Mr. A. Lawrence Chickering, the founder and president of Educate Girls Globally, a San Francisco-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) who is joining us here in Washington.
To begin our panel discussion, I will invite each panelist to share with us his or her experiences promoting girls' literacy and sustainable development. However, I will ask the audience to please hold their questions until the end of the short introductory statements from each of our distinguished participants. And then following the question-and-answer period, we'll ask each of our panelists to give a few short closing remarks before we conclude the program.
I will also introduce the speakers as we move through the discussion. First, we are very pleased to have here with us today a man who has made it a U.S. priority to empower women all over the globe. And, through the magic of technology, please welcome the Honorable Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State.
Secretary Powell: (by audiotape)
Take Ester Ocloo of Ghana, who passed away recently at the age of 83, who was born of a family of poor farmers. But she received a scholarship from a private company, and was able to attend both primary and secondary school. Upon graduation, she used her relatives' gift of ten shillings -- less than one American dollar -- to buy sugar, firewood, oranges, and 12 jars. With these she made and sold marmalade at a profit. By continually reinvesting, she went on to build a thriving business. Eventually she saved enough to study food technology in Britain. "Auntie Ocloo", as she liked to be called, shared her skills with rural women back home. She became one of Ghana's leading entrepreneurs and greatest proponents of expanding educational and economic opportunities for women.
You see, without that education, where would she have gone? What would she have been able to do? She might not have ever dreamed of or achieved the success that she did achieve in life.
You see, teaching girls to read and write has a tremendous impact on the well-being of entire communities, even entire countries as you have just seen from her example. Educated women tend to be healthier than those who are not. And babies born to educated women are more likely to be immunized, better nourished, and survive their first years of life. Those babies will be read to by a mother who was educated and knows how to read. Those babies will have passed to them what their mothers have learned. Without that, those babies, those young children, are not off to a good start in life.
For each year a girl is in school, her wages as an adult are estimated to rise by about 15%. Experience has shown that when women increase their earning power they tend to empower others. When women make money, they are more apt than men to save it. And they tend to spend it on things that benefit their families and societies -- food, clothing, above all an education for their children.
Nations whose women are educated are more competitive and more prosperous than nations where the education of women is forbidden or ignored. Today one-sixth of the world's population is illiterate. That's one billion people, and that's a disgrace; even more disgraceful, two thirds of them are women; two-thirds of them are women and young girls especially who are being denied that opportunity.
The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, estimates that today in developing countries 78 million girls between the ages of 6 and 11 do not attend any school at all. Clearly the international community must work more effectively to increase girl' literacy. Governments, international organizations, the private sector and inspiring people like Auntie Ocloo can all play important roles.
Dramatically increasing literacy among women must be a major global priority, and placed way at the top of national development agendas. The world's future, our future, depends on it.
The active participation of educated women is essential to the spread of thriving civil societies, responsive and representative governments, and stabilizing economic growth. In short, the education of women is key to democracy, to prosperity, and to peace.
Thank you very much indeed for participating in today's discussions and for sharing your insights and ideas. I know I speak for many of the policymakers around the world when I say that I look forward to receiving your recommendations. Thank you very much.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you, Secretary Powell, for your insightful words outlining the strong link between girls' literacy and sustainable development.
I would now like to turn to our panel of distinguished speakers, to have them share their views on how education, especially for women, helps achieve sustainable development. And we'll begin with Ambassador Powell, who is a career member of the senior Foreign Service. Ambassador Powell has served as ambassador to Ghana since August of 2001. And in her long very distinguished career, Ambassador Powell has also served concurrently as acting assistant secretary for African affairs, and principal deputy assistant secretary for African affairs. In fact, I had the good fortune of working with her when she had dual hats. She has also served as our ambassador to Uganda, and deputy chief of mission at the Embassy in Bangladesh.
Before joining the State Department, Ambassador Powell spent over 6 years teaching high school social studies in Dayton, Ohio. Now, Ambassador Powell, in the Secretary's opening remarks we heard about the prominent Ghanian entrepreneur Ester Ocloo, who stands as an example of how educated women can have a tremendous impact on sustainable development. And I hope that you could say a few words in your remarks about how you believe Ghana and other West African states can build upon her legacy, and increase the educational opportunities available to girls. So let's welcome Ambassador Powell.
Ambassador Powell: Thank you for the opportunity to speak with all of you today about girls' education in Ghana. All Ghanaians are very, very proud of Auntie Ocloo, and honored her last week with a state funeral. I believe her example is well known throughout Ghana, and will continue to inspire the audience that is with me today in Accra, as well as others, to redouble their efforts.
I wanted to touch today on some of Ghana's successes in girls' education, and then discuss some of the challenges that remain.
In 1994, the Ghanaian Government put in place a constitutionally-mandated education reform program, entitled Free Compulsory Universal and Basic Education. It is otherwise known as FCUBE. Its objectives in the area of girls' education focus on increasing enrollment, reducing drop-out rates, and increasing transition rates from basic to senior secondary school. As you can see from these objectives, the policy environment in Ghana is quite supportive of girls' education. This has been backed by the creation of a special team within the Ministry of Education for girls' education, headed by Minister Christine Churcher, and Arobno Ahoy, a former Humphrey Fellow. This team, with support the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other development partners, has just finished producing a detailed girls' education handbook, to guide the work of 120 regional and district education officers.
The girls' education unit has also undertaken a pilot initiative in 35 school communities, utilizing participatory role appraisal techniques to identify and address issues related to girls' education. As part of the FCUBE program, the ministry has also established science, technology and mathematics education clinics to encourage girls to study science. Just as in many parts of the world, girls fall behind in the science field. We expect that more than 10,000 Ghanaian girls are going to benefit from these clinics.
Despite these initiatives, many challenges remain in Ghana. The literacy rate for women in Ghana is 63%, compared to 80% for men. The enrollment rate of girls in Ghana has stayed virtually the same since 1991, despite the reform program. It is currently 71%, compared to over 80% for boys. Thirty percent of girls drop out between first and sixth grade, compared to only 20% for boys. Thirty percent of girls completing junior secondary school go on to senior secondary school, compared to 39% for boys. I should point out that these drop-out figures are much higher in northern Ghana, where girls confront considerably more challenges in obtaining an education.
The barriers to girls' education in Ghana are similar to those in other developing countries. Household barriers and low family resource levels preclude many girls from attending schools. Their families are simply too poor; their status within the family is too low; and there are pressures within the family and from the community for their labor.
Community beliefs and practices can also contribute, particularly when there are traditions of early marriage, and where domestic violence and sexual abuse are tolerated. Educational barriers, including high school fees, inappropriate and gender-biased curricula, and lack of role models, are also inhibitors to girls' education. These are reinforced by policy and infrastructure barriers that provide extremely limited resources for education and development of appropriate curricula.
As part of Ghana's poverty reduction support program that was finalized last month, the Ghanaian Government has committed to addressing some of these disincentives, and increasing girls' enrollment from 71% to 80% by 2004, and reducing the girls' drop-out rate from 30% to 20%.
I'd like to share with you also what the United States Government is doing to assist Ghana in finding some of the solutions to these problems. First, nearly two-thirds of all 100 Peace Corps volunteers are teachers in community schools. They provide a fresh approach to gender and other education issues. And more than half of them are supplying that all-important role model, because they are women teachers.
The Peace Corps is also funding 209 scholarships for girls to complete senior secondary school under the Education and Democracy Development Initiative. USAID is a major supporter of education in Ghana, along with several other governments. They include in their program efforts to engage communities and schools in discussions about the importance of girls' education. As a result of these activities, the dropout rate for girls in these schools is now significantly lower.
At the classroom level, USAID funding has promoted teaching techniques that encourage all children, but especially girls, to be active in learning activities. It has also supported the development of a gender-sensitive principal and circuit supervisors manual. In northern Ghana, USAID has used its Title II program to provide hot lunches and take-home food rations to children who attend school regularly. This program has had a marked impact on girls' attendance.
Lastly, USAID, through a grant to Johns Hopkins University, will be supporting the establishment of several hundred Sarah clubs throughout Ghana. Sarah is a fictional girl character developed by UNICEF to provide girls with a role model. Sarah clubs give girls an opportunity to learn life skills and develop a greater sense of self-esteem by discussing pertinent life issues with peers.
Since World AIDS Day last December, all members of the U.S. mission in Ghana have pledged to talk about the issue of HIV/AIDS in every public address they make. I would not want to miss that opportunity today. As you may be aware, women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV/AIDS than men. Research has shown that girls with stronger self-esteem and a great sense of optimism about the future are less likely to expose themselves to the threat of HIV/AIDS. Thus by ensuring that girls have equal access to education, and are effectively supportive in school environments, we not only increase their education attainment, but we help them to live a long and healthy life.
Given that studies have proven over and over again that educated women are healthier, have better educated children, improved sanitation practices, reduced child mortality, fewer maternal deaths, and make the choice of smaller families, it is clearly in the best interests of all countries, including our own, to ensure that girls around the world are educated.
On behalf of all of us in Accra, we look forward to hearing about effective strategies that others have identified, to make sure that girls go to school and stay in school. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you, Ambassador Powell. Let us now turn to Ambassador Maureen Quinn, who is in Doha, Qatar. Ambassador Maureen Quinn is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, and she took up her post in Qatar last. And prior to that she served in Morocco as the deputy chief of mission. She also has served as deputy executive secretary to the Department of State, executive assistant and special assistant to the Undersecretary for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs; and also was economic counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Panama.
Ambassador Quinn, we wonder if you could please describe the hurdles that girls face in getting an education in traditional conservative societies. In particular, we would also appreciate if in your remarks you could share with us the strategies you believe are the most effective in helping these societies address these kinds of obstacles. We welcome you, and we look forward to hearing from you.
Remarks of Ambassador Quinn: Thank you. Good morning, and hello from Doha. The watchword for girls' education in Qatar is quality in education. Qatar will have one of the highest per capita GNPs in the world in the next 3 to 5 years. And the government and society are focused on investing in education. The formal education system in Qatar is relatively new. It dates back only to 1956. Before that time, and before the discovery of oil in 1939, only a few children learned to read and write in informal classes at home.
Yet from the start of the formal modern system, Qatar provided equal access to education for girls and boys. Equal opportunity in education has led to an overall literacy rate of approximately 80% for both women and men.
In a speech given last November, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of the State of Qatar, stated very modestly as follows: "Being keen on having our development march encompass all state sectors, the government is doing its utmost to raise the standard of our educational system." These modern words cover the following significant initiatives: The Supreme Council for Family Affairs is working to improve early childhood education, and to strengthen programs for children with special needs. The Qatari Ministry of Education has two model scientific high schools that are only 3 years old -- one model school for girls, and one for boys. The Qataris have hired the RAND Corporation to do an overall assessment of the kindergarten through 12th grade education system, and to make recommendations for improvements. To improve higher education, the Qatar Foundation, a private non-profit organization, established the co-educational academic bridge program. This program aims to improve students' English-language skills and critical thinking. The academic bridge program prepares Qatari students for Qatar University in advanced study overseas.
Finally, Qatar is attracting U.S. universities to open branches in Doha. The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Design already offers a bachelor of fine arts degree at its facilities in Doha. Cornell Medical School is recruiting students, and will open next September. It will be co-ed. Other universities are in consultations with the government.
To be sure, Qatar has faced some hurdles in its pursuit of quality. Qatar has had some problems with assessment performance. And as you find in many places, Qatar has had some bureaucratic problems. Inadequate interagency communication has led to some duplication, waste of resources, and inability to learn from the experiences gained by others.
Qatar is largely a good news story when it comes to education for girls. Female students routinely out-perform their male colleagues at Qatar University, both in terms of graduation and employment rates. When they finish their studies, young women find traditional job opportunities in the health and education field. More job opportunities in government, banking, public relations and the energy sector are opening up. Culture and tradition, however, limit the opportunities in the job market. Young women have to be willing to venture out into new fields.
You have to remember that the population in Qatar is small. There is only about 150,000 Qataris. And obviously it is slowly evolving with more possibilities for women.
The U.S. is supporting Qatar's pursuit of quality education through training, technical assistance and exchange programs. Given the exciting initiatives at all levels of education in Qatar, we will continue to do so. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you, Ambassador Quinn. Now, finally let me introduce Mr. A. Lawrence Chickering. Mr. Chickering has worked in development for over 30 years. He has worked on strategies for empowering disadvantaged people both in the United States and globally. He currently serves as the president of Educate Girls Globally (EGG,) a San Francisco-based NGO that works in developing countries to encourage families to keep their young daughters in school. And, in particular, they have developed a strategy for increasing girls' school attendance in poor countries by reforming government schools.
Mr. Chickering will focus his remarks on his organization's experience, working to increase girls' literacy, especially in launching their new initiative in India and Pakistan. Let's welcome Mr. Chickering.
Mr. Chickering: Thank you, Paula. I would like to focus on a very special challenge in the area of girls' education. Most governments in the world are very committed to this issue. Most donors are very committed to it. Both NGOs and donors have solved the problem of overcoming barriers to girls' education in small ways, in independent schools, in solving the issues that are commonly mentioned -- no toilets, no women teachers, inappropriate curriculum, and poverty are the main ones mentioned.
But really the great problems in these countries are with the government school systems. The problem we have not solved is how to get government educational bureaucracies to solve these problems, which NGOs can solve easily when they start schools. And if you don't get the government bureaucracies to do this, you have no hope really of having any major impact on the educational culture of these countries, or of extending educational opportunities to really large numbers of girls.
My organization is a new organization, and we have focused on how to solve this problem. I want to share with you some of the conclusions we have made and some of the things that we are doing to try to solve this.
The key to solving these problems, I think, is to stop focusing on barriers to girls' education in mentioning all of these things, and to focus instead on what is working. We should focus on what is happening in a school system like the girls' community schools in Upper Egypt, the UNICEF schools around Assud, or the Amil Project schools in the Northwest Province in Pakistan. These schools are getting 100% girls' enrollment rates in the most fundamentalist Islamic cultures, in cultures so traditional that in prior times, the mythology of the treatment of women was that they were only allowed out of their homes twice in their lives -- once to marry and once to die. And why are they getting 100% enrollment rates?
Well, we have concluded and believe that the reason is that because instead of running the schools bureaucratically without any connection to the village, these schools are all run with strong, close connections to the village. The parents sit on the governing bodies of these schools. And in fact they are often referred to as community-based schools in many NGO projects in Africa and South Asia and other places.
The challenge though is how to transfer this feature: how to get parents strongly involved in government schools. And that is the problem that we address. Parental involvement in schools changes everything about the school. For one thing, parents, not governments, decide who goes to schools. And when parents own the schools, then it's natural they would allow their children to go to it. If they feel it's alien, and they feel the structure has nothing to do with their village, they will very often let neither boys nor girls go to it. They enroll kids, they motivate kids, they oversee the relationship with teachers, and they monitor teacher absenteeism, which in traditional countries is a very serious problem. When parents are strongly involved, teacher absenteeism goes way down.
If there are problems like no toilets, parents solve them. In India, I believe fewer than 10% of public government schools have toilets. In the Amil Project in the Northwest Province with 89 girls schools, every single one had a toilet within two weeks of the schools opening. Why? Because the parents sat around, and toilets were important to them, so they provided them. Maybe they were going to their homes, and maybe they were doing something else. But they simply took the initiative, and didn't wait to try to get a bureaucracy to try and deliver that.
The same thing is true of the hiring of teachers. They hire teachers from the villages, so they can be there all the time. They are known to everybody. And the system works much better than a system where the teacher is maybe heavily credentialed but has to live outside the village, and only shows up half the time because they are spending all their time lobbying to be transferred.
In some ways, the most important thing is that parents that are very actively involved in schools become a powerful political constituency for public education. I am going to talk in particular about one project in India, in Karnataka Province, that we have started working with. In a matter of about 18 months, it has elevated the role of women and the power of a political constituency supporting public education to extraordinary degrees. It is now getting tremendous responses both from the Department of Education there and from the Ministry of Education, both in broad policy terms and in their ability to get the system to respond to their request.
The question here, the challenge really, is how to recruit parents into active participation in government schools without stirring opposition from teachers' unions or from the government bureaucracy. And there are two models -- there may be others -- but there are two models that we are working with right now. One is to recruit the bureaucracy itself to understand the importance of parental participation to the functioning of the schools, to get the bureaucracy to turn into an active recruiting agency for parents. We are starting a project in the Northwest Province in Pakistan to try to do this in cooperation with the British consul there. I can't report the results of that yet. I have better results to report to you on the other approach.
The other approach is to forget about the government and forget about the teachers unions and go actively into the villages and recruit the parents, and challenge them to take ownership of the schools. This is the approach that is behind done by the Maya Project based in Bangelore; and it is being implemented now in six districts there, and will change the culture, I believe, of 20,000 government schools over the next 3 years.
What they do is they go into the village. They challenge the village to take ownership of the school, to become involved in it. And they do it very gradually, so no one becomes frightened. The teachers union doesn't, because as the parents become more and more involved they can see that the parents are really trying to improve the schools, and they are doing things for the schools. The government is not threatened, because these are just little village people here, there and in other places. In fact, in Karnataka, the Government of Karnataka has started passing laws formally empowering and giving powers to parents' associations that the parents have already started to exercise.
So these three great bodies of parents, the government, and teachers in Karnataka are all working actively together. And they are doing that at a scale and at a cost that is a tiny, tiny fraction of what it costs to send a child to school. My estimate is that the program there is costing seven American cents per child per year. And after 3 years they will change the culture of government schools. They will not have done it by focusing on schools and on education. That comes next. They are building the human infrastructure of concern and commitment and involvement, where everyone works together, and then can really build sustainable education reform.
In Karnataka the government has passed a $10 million project, I believe in substantial part in response to a sense of increased parental involvement in education, and a sense of increased political constituency that has $100 million providing a hot lunch for every child in Karnataka. This is not borrowed money, it is simply money they appropriated.
Our role, EGG's role, Educate Girls Globally, is going to be to explore opportunities to expand this program; to start pilot projects in other states in India; and to start sharing the experiences of the program, which is conducted entirely in the local dialect in Kanada (ph), and to transfer it to Pakistan. There is great interest in Pakistan in what they are doing, and I think both at the government level and the NGO level. And our interest really is to try and promote this approach that they are doing in a number of other places.
I believe really that educated women are one of the most powerful and important strategic assets that the United States has in the war on terrorism. They are strategic assets in the prosecution of our foreign policy. And we need really to find ways to promote and cultivate this asset. But we need to do it through strategies that will operate at a scale that has a chance to really change the cultures of these countries. And I think that the first step in that really has to be to motivate and mobilize parents to take ownership and share responsibility for government schools. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you, Mr. Chickering. Now let us open the floor to questions. We will be taking questions from all locations. Let me just first say that for those of you here in Washington who would like to ask a question, we have two microphones at the back. These microphones up front here, are not operative. So if you would like to ask a question, you need to go to the microphones that are both located at the back.
We welcome questions from abroad, and we would like to go to Ghana first.
Question and Answer Segment
The second issue is how can we give voice to the girls who are in school? Then you can now talk of their participation and democracy. The first one is economic and the second one is politics and democracy and participation. Both of them need to work together for sustainable development to take place.
UNICEF supports the education of all children. UNICEF supports the vision of girls' education developed by GEU, which has support from USAID and UNICEF. The UN, within the common program approach, is supporting the Government of Ghana to make this vision practical. The issue is on resources. How can we assist the government in putting resources in the key areas that will enable the transformation and make changes in the lives of these children? Thank you very much.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you. I am wondering if it might make sense on this to see if we have other questions. And we appreciate the comment that you put on the floor -- if we have other questions or comments coming from Ghana at this time. I thought maybe we'd take them as a whole, and then maybe ask each of our distinguished speakers to say a word. Do we have any other questions or comments from Ghana?
Question: Thank you very much. Action Aid is an international organization that envisions a world without poverty, where every person has a right to a life of dignity. And we work with the poor and help them to overcome some of the ambitions and obstacles which are -- or lead to inequality in the system and prevent these poor people from getting to what is right for them. We work mostly in the northern part of Ghana -- we have tried out some experiments very much like the president of Education Girls International has been doing over the past few years. For about five years we have been using a system that is known by Actions Aid International, appropriate cost-effective schools in the education system. And in Ghana the aspect of it we use is called the Shepherd's School, where we use the flexibility of school time and flexibility in instruction time as well as in the instructors we use. We use a local facilitator and use the mother tongue to reach as many children as possible, by consultation with the family and/or with the parents and the community. Just as we heard earlier, we involve the communities and parents very closely in this school system, the Shepherd's School system. The communities decide when the children must be in school. Basically the agreement is 3 hours a day. We do use the government school. We use the mother tongue in the early years. And because of the constraints in these communities, we don't have teachers -- we employ a local facilitator.
Now, this system I have just described has been very much acknowledged by the Government of Ghana; that is, the Ghana Education Service. And they are now looking at it closely, how it can be adapted to reach as many children as possible.
My question is this: Looking at the number of girls who are disadvantaged in one way or the other, and are not having access to information? How do we employ this flexibility in education systems to reach the many girls who are fishmongers in the fish stall, who are selling in the markets, or who are dressmakers. Ninety percent of girls of about 13 to 20 years who are out there have dropped out of school or have just finished basic education and cannot continue schooling. They are lacking very much information. They are very much filled with wrong information. They are misinformed about the very hygiene of their bodies. And we have just heard that these girls, if they are empowered through education and literacy they can manage homes better; they can be economists. So my real problem is how do we employ flexibility in education? We have just heard we can negotiate with the communities. Can we negotiate with the masters of these apprentices, and get their time so we can group babysitters, and teach them some information for themselves and for development in general? Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: All right, thank you. Let's go with these two comments, first our colleague from UNICEF and then our colleague from, as I heard it, Action Aid.
I am going to turn to first here in Washington to Mr. Chickering -- if you would take a stab at the points that were put on the table. The first as I heard it was concerning the concern about resources -- not only devoted to education; but the first point was resources at large and what bearing it has on the overall environment affecting girls. And then also the point about boys and girls, you know, in terms of educational programs, and then in terms of the Shepherds School instruction. As I heard it, there were several points mentioned here about the importance of consultation with family, with one's community; but at the same time, also, how to introduce some flexibility in the educational system in this process. Would you like to try to address this first? And then we are going to ask Ambassadors Powell and Quinn if they would comment. But why don't you go first. I think you may need to turn on your mike.
Mr. Chickering: The broad issue of resources is one of the very important elements in persuading countries and governments about the importance of education to their future. I have a close friend who has had a long career at the World Bank, Barbara Hurse, who when she was working in Pakistan used to say that the real issue for them was what kind of future they wanted to give their children, and whether they really wanted to hand to their children a world in which they would be making rugs for the children of Indians who would be making computers. I think there are really very large strategic issues here. The World Bank has done studies on the money spent by the Government of India and found that if they stopped subsidizing money-losing public-owned enterprises they could increase by five-fold the money they give to primary education. I think that this is really a function of really informed advocacy about issues of tremendous importance for the future of those countries.
There's an old saying-- to a person with a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail. I am afraid when I discovered parental involvement in schools, my instinct is always to return to it. But I think that the best way to institutionalize parental and community involvement with children, and the importance of schools, is to bring communities and families actively into schools.
One of the concerns people have in relation to this is that if it's a very traditional culture, the school will reflect the traditional culture and won't really accomplish anything in terms of opening opportunities and so on. But the experience in places like upper Egypt is really the opposite. Even in the most traditional cultures, the opportunity to be actively involved in education not only opens the attitudes of men in very traditional cultures to allowing their girls to go to school; but also to allow their girls to go to Cairo to college. It opens their experience. It changes their culture. And so I follow with apologies for returning to my theme. I think that is the most powerful, systemic way to involve families and communities in this process.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: All right, thank you. Could we maybe go to Qatar and see if Ambassador Quinn, would you like to comment on this?
Ambassador Quinn: Yes, briefly. I would like to join Mr. Chickering -- (inaudible) -- I mentioned the Supreme Council – (inaudible) come and work with children and other family matters. So I agree get parents involved.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: All right, thank you. We had a little bit of technical trouble, but we heard your concluding line, "get parents involved." Let's go to Accra. Ambassador Powell, you are there with the guests. Would you like to comment?
Ambassdor Powell: Let me take a stab at the second part of the question and comment from Accra. I think one of the things that I'm always amazed at as I go into some of these schools is the curriculum that is being taught. It is very much different from what the young people looking out the windows of the school or sitting under a tree, seeing what their life is going to be. So I think we need to work also on making sure that the curriculum and the skills that are being taught are ones that are going to be applicable to the children, and have some bearing on their future.
I think also, in terms of particularly the young women who have left school or who have never got to school, I have seen a couple of programs that have been very, very effective, and they are usually tied to the microcredit program. The Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, CINCA here in Africa -- those have programs where they are teaching basic numbers, basic literacy. But it's very much tied to what the women need in order to run the businesses for which they have applied for a loan. They have become very, very fast learners in that circumstance. They then, as the Secretary suggested, turn the profits from those businesses around to make sure that their children are going to school. It's usually the girls and the boys that they are supporting. So I think that program is a very, very important one. There must be ways to introduce that into these communities, and to expand microcredit -- the Government of Ghana has just started one, but I don't believe it has this component in it. Most of the NGOs try to include education. And I think this is one way to work very carefully with people who didn't have educational opportunities. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thanks. Let me make this suggestion. I wanted to see if we had any other questions out of Accra. And maybe while we are pursuing that I'm wondering if we could find out if there are any questions from Doha, because I know it's been a little bit difficult to get through technically. And maybe we could let April know if there are questions from there.
But let's go back to Accra. Are there any other questions or comments there? No? Okay, and just to also touch base in Qatar. Comments or questions?
Question: Let me start by thanking the State Department for this very important meeting about women's issues and girls' education in particular. I was listening carefully to the questions that came from Ghana, and I'd like to say a few things about some strategies. I do agree that maybe the focus should be more on successful strategies: What has been successful? How can we replicate the successes, tailor-making the contexts each time? And I'd like to say about three things based on my experience.
First, I truly believe there isn't a silver bullet in terms of answering all of the questions regarding girls' education. There are many strategies that need to work together. Based on my experience, I would divide them into three categories: strategies that concern the government -- policy issues, and political will. For example, funds for primary education must be reallocated from within the budgets of the government; funds must be increased for primary education -- the allocations that target and address the issues of girls' education. All of these -- I call them institutional or policy strategies. We need to welcome those.
Another set of strategies would be strategies about the communities -- how to involve the communities, how to involve the parents; how to involve the community leaders in addition to the parents (such as the religious leaders in the community,) because their say is an extremely important say. They are leaders of opinions. They influence opinions. We need to work with them. We need to work with both the male and female community leaders, as well as the parents.
Our experience in Pakistan, for example, proved to us that by bringing in the community leaders, parents and others, we were able to open girls' schools in the most remote areas of Baluchistan. In Baluchistan, they told us that we couldn't have parent associations that have men and women. We said, fine, we will have parent associations for men and parent associations for women. And we did that. And the women got involved, and had a great role -- a very positive, powerful role in supporting community schools and sending the girls to school.
A third set of strategies would be within the school itself. And that's where we look at curriculum and make sure that the curriculum is girl-friendly. That's where we look at women teachers -- not just the number of women teachers in the schools, but the training that they are getting. That's where we look at equity in the classroom -- the interactions between the teachers and the students, the students and the students, boys and girls, and so on and so forth.
So I think there are three sets of strategies, all terribly important and all interwoven. And we need to work on all of them. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you for those very thoughtful remarks. We really appreciate you having gone up to the mike.
Let's go over here to Joyce Davis. And then we do have another question from Accra I wanted to try to get in before we have our closing remarks.
Question: Thank you. I actually have two quick questions, one specifically for Ambassador Quinn. You made comments about the high literacy rate, and yet it seems as if women were choosing traditional professions. It seemed to suggest that there had been no cultural impact from this high literacy rate. And I wanted to talk a little bit more about that, and if you were beginning to see any signs that women were going into different professions or expanding their opportunities.
And, also, it was a provocative statement I thought that Mr. Chickering made about educated women being a strategic asset in the war on terrorism. And I'd just love to hear more of his thinking on that point.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Let's go to Doha first, and I hope technically we will be able to bring Ambassador Quinn in to answer the first question.
Ambassador Quinn: I think that what I realize every day that what I am seeing here is a very evolutionary change. This is a traditional Islamic culture that is modernizing. It is doing so at its own pace.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Is she still on? Unfortunately, we lost her. If we don't catch her in her closing remarks to make a comment, we'll be sure to get an answer for you. Mr. Chickering?
Mr. Chickering: I think that educated women are a powerful force promoting democratic institutions and values in areas where there is a high literacy rate. I think about Iran for instance, which has a very active but largely unreported highly developed women's political movement, which is the main political constituency for Mohammed Khatami and the moderate forces in Iran. It's hard to imagine that movement and the power and influence that it has in that country without the country's very strong commitment to universal literacy and high levels of education for women.
In Bangladesh, women have been a very important force in moderating political extremism and reducing the impulses to violence from the extreme Islamic sectors in that society. And I think that one could argue that education has played an important role there.
I don't have research on this, but I have a strong sense that women and the promotion of the cultural commitment to the role that women play in societies and women as the connectors of society -- as the moral conscience of societies -- could play a much bigger role than they do in much bigger countries. I believe that when you are talking about an issue like education, the temptation is to talk only about objective things -- about how many people are in school, or how many people are graduating, or what their jobs are, their income levels and so on. But I believe that the world substantially runs in response to the power of social myths -- myths not in the sense that things are true or false but in the sense that they are believed. And the role of women in society is a belief of mine. It's in this sense that I think one could design programs in many countries, long before you got to universal literacy, that would promote the importance of women in society and would have a deep cultural impact on the country. I'm from California, and people from the East Coast might just dismiss this as a little bit of West Coast spaciness, but I have a very deep feeling that this is the case. This is also based on the way women act -- I observe women every day. The fighting is mostly done by men, but it's mostly because men -- if you use computer language -- lead digital lives. We men all live digital lives, and you live analogic lives. And analogic lives are connected lives. And I think connection is the heart of what is the most powerful antidote to terrorism and extremism that you get in many of these countries. And I don't think the United States, its foreign policy agencies and institutions, is not even beginning to understand, let alone try to exploit and use this enormous resource that we have in other countries.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: All right, thank you. We have one question from Accra and one question-comment here. We'll take both of those. Let's go to Accra first, then we'll take your question-comment from here in Washington, then we are going to have the three concluding comments.
Question: Thank you very much. We are working in the promotion of girls' education among other educational objectives -- in the north of the country, especially in the rural communities there. We are employing a number of the strategies that we have heard about. However, there have been some unfortunate developments in the United States Government's funding support for these types of programs in the last few years. I am curious whether any of the U.S. officials that are with us today can comment on how the implications of last week's announcements about major increases in foreign aid will affect our ability to run these programs in overseas countries. Thank you.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you, we will answer that. And now a comment.
Question: Just a short comment, and also to thank you for convening such an important meeting. I think there are opportunities that we have talked about in terms of the circumstances of developing countries. But I think also that there are new circumstances in emerging market countries. It's not only a question of available resources by the government, but also a potential for decentralization of decision-making, as centralized governments begin to be less able for a lot of reasons to in fact create policies and extend them from the center to the rural areas.
There also needs to be connectivity between the rural and the urban. The urban culture is very strong and very dominant in the decision-making by the central government. But there are urbanized entities that are in fact located in rural areas. One of the most important things that has happened in Egypt is that the women at urbanized institutions in rural settings -- i.e., the university's branch campuses where at least 50% of the professors are in fact women -- have been a tremendous role model. That relates to the parents looking at who are the elite figures -- it's women at the universities. It's women who are located at these universities in rural areas.
So I think that in this new configuration of development, which is the emerging market, the important process of decentralizing decision-making, already-existing indigenous institutions -- i.e., educational institutions -- should be looked at for expanding their role within localized development in these countries.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: All right, thank you for that. Let's go to the concluding remarks. And in my concluding remarks I will answer that question from Ghana. But I will be speaking last. But let's go first to Mr. Chickering.
Mr. Chickering: I just want really to repeat what I said before, that I think it would be hard to exaggerate the urgency of the U.S. Government's promoting the development and education of women and raising the role of women in many societies. I think there is almost no greater strategic imperative that we have at the present time. And yet I think that the idea of doing this in a serious way doesn't ever get mentioned -- not in the foreign policy journals, not in Foreign Affairs. The Council on Foreign Relations is completely indifferent to this -- except in ritual tributes that they make to it. And the foreign policy idiom in fact doesn't really have a role or admit this sort of idea.
I don't know that even the institutional structure of the State Department, or of USAID, or of the other U.S. foreign policy agencies -- my own suspicion is that they are not well set up to consider this, because they were set up to consider the whole of foreign policy and international relations as something involving government leaders and government-to-government activities. And the idea of actively recruiting citizens as partners in the foreign policy business is outside the idiom.
I would say that the crucial element here is that the emphasis has to be on empowerment rather than on assistance. I think that both ideologically and temperamentally many of the people in the aid business are much more interested in assistance than empowerment, and I think that's a tremendous obstruction to doing the things that really need to be done in many of these countries.
I think I've gone well over my two minutes, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this conversation.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: We are delighted you are here, and thank you. Let's go to Doha and see if we can get Ambassador Quinn with us again. And if in her closing remarks if I could suggest if she does have a comment still on the question posed by Ms. Davis, we would really appreciate your commenting on that, because we lost you.
Ambassador Quinn: Okay, let me try to answer the question briefly. Opportunities are coming now for women slowly. But we really are only seeing change and evolution here since about 1995, 1996. That's some of what I wanted to say in my closing remarks.
You know, resources matter in improving girls' education, and they have certainly made a difference here in Qatar. But resources are not everything. Qatar had oil wealth for years. And it was really under the leadership of the current emir, since about 1995, 1996, that they have focused on education. It's the personal involvement and the commitment of the leadership in Qatar that is making a difference. Both the emir and his second wife, Sheika Mossa, are involved and committed. Their involvement conveys a sense of empowerment to people, including to young women and girls.
So modernization in the education system and the increase in opportunities for girls is coming at an evolutionary pace. That pace of change is needed here for this conservative society to manage and accept change. Girls have had equal access to education for 40-plus years. Now girls are finding more opportunities and choices to enrich their lives.
I just want to thank you again for asking me to join this session. I hope you can hear me. I have really gained a lot myself from the comments of some of the other participants, and just hearing the wonderful things that people are doing in different parts of the world for girls' education. Thanks.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you. I'll thank you now, because we can hear you loud and clear, and it came in beautifully. We really have valued your participation and hearing your comments and your response. Let's hear from Ambassador Powell.
Ambassador Powell: Well, I certainly recognize the importance of money. I think we have to emphasize some of the multiplier effects, and particularly the community and the parents that have been described earlier in the program. I would include also the very important role that educated women in societies around the world can play as role models, as providers of funds for girls who may not have opportunities, as speakers and encouragers of girls who are looking for opportunities.
The third point that I would make is the importance of finding ways to do nontraditional education for young women and older women who have missed the opportunities of a formal education, but very, very much need these skills if they are going to improve their own lives and those of their children. I echo Maureen's comments, and thank you very much for including Accra. I think we have all had a very nice afternoon here. Thank you very much.
Under Secretary Dobriansky: Thank you all. Before we close, I did want to respond to the question posed from Accra with regard to the President's speech. In the President's speech, he did lay down certain broad benchmarks for looking at such assistance -- benchmarks that would have particular ramifications for issues concerning institutions, good governance, transparency, and anti-corruption measures. There is a meeting that is being convened today by the National Security Council including the State Department and some others to take a first look at the kind of broad benchmarks that should be considered in this regard. I know that we will be setting up a group to also look at this here in the State Department. Why am I sharing this with you? Because education, we believe, will be an important benchmark in this process. It has to be in terms of overall sustainable development. It has to be in terms of overall economic development growth. I think that you could hear that all of the comments here in this room today substantiate that.
So my understanding is that I think you can expect that this area will certainly serve as a benchmark. And in terms of future assistance, I would only imagine that it would be very much affected in a positive way by the announcement made by the President.
Let me thank all of our guests, our audience here this morning. I also would like to thank our distinguished guests who have joined us and who have commented. We really have appreciated your participation. And I also want to thank our distinguished panel -- Mr. Chickering, as well as Ambassadors Quinn and Powell. We just really thank you for your comments this morning -- very, very much appreciate it.
I would like to just conclude by quoting President Bush's statement. He made this in a recent radio address. He said: "Nations whose women are educated are more competitive, more prosperous, and more advanced than nations where the education of women is forbidden or ignored." I think the comments and the discussion this morning really attests to this statement, and underscores the importance of it and the importance of the need for future programs. We really must ensure that an investment is well made in this area, because it's not only in our own interests, but it certainly is in our global interests. Thank you all.
Released on April 25, 2002