The former minister for education, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, who is the current chair of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) was in Kuwait on Wednesday to receive the 2017 Al-Sumait Prize for African Development in the field of education.
Prof Opoku-Agyemang was one of the key stakeholders who created the proposal that won this award which is worth $1,000,000 and will be used to improve the work that FAWE does in education in Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the organization she received the award for she said, “We are privileged to have been recognized by Al-Sumait Prize in the work that we do in education. We feel again privileged to join the group of people who have been solely recognized globally, and this global recognition has made a lot of impact in the current work that we are doing, for our future work and existence.”
Initiated in 2013 by His Highness The Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah, the Al-Sumait Prize for African Development is designed to reward innovative and inspiring initiatives and research by individuals and organizations that address the challenges facing the African continent. The award recognizes and honors individuals or institutions that help advance economic and social development, human resources development and infrastructure in Africa.
She explained that FAWE is pan African organization which operates in 33 African countries and operate through their chapters and so the global publicity that the Al-Sumait Prize gives them is very important to them.
“On the African continent we need to get many more children to school…However the situation is that we have girls dropping out of school at various stages, to the extent that if I was to give a visual representation we would be looking at a funnel being turned upside down where the base is broad and as you move up you see less and less girls. There are reasons that account for this and the importance of FAWE is to identify these challenges, find ways of removing these challenges to ensure that girls do not just go to school but they stay in school, they learn and they excel,” she added.
Dr. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General of the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) which administers Kuwait’s Al-Sumait Prize for African Development, told the audience that FAWE’s inclusive and strategic approach to tackling education inequality in particular between girls and boys education was truly inspiring.
Award To Change Africa
Prof. Opoku-Agyemang in an interview after the event expressed FAWE’s gratitude to the organisers of the Al-Sumait Prize, and assured that the Forum will ensure that the award makes the African continent look better in terms of the girl child education.
“We are conscious of how it transcends the immediate and affect the future. . . We need to get more people into school,boys and girls. However, the situation is that, we have girls dropping out of various stages to the extent that if I were to give a visual representation, we may look at a funnel turned upside down where the base is broad and as you move up, you see less and less girls,” she added.
The reasons for the school drop out in Africa, she disclosed, will be looked into by FAWE and make sure they are dealt with to “ensure that girls don’t just go to school, but to stay in school and excel” in life.
At a conference of African Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education held in Manchester in 1992, five women participants at a discussion conceived the idea of forming an association that could promote the education of girls in Africa. These five women Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education, having the political status and power to back their words, took a bold decision that gave birth to FAWE, an acronym, which stands for Forum for African Women Educationalists. These women were:
Hon. Alice Tiendrebeogo from Burkina Faso in West Africa
Hon. Paulette Missambo from Gabon in Central Africa
Hon. Vida Amaadi Yeboah from Ghana in West Africa
Hon. Simone de Comormand from Seychelles in East Africa
Hon. Fay Chung from Zimbabwe in Southern Africa
Currently chaired at the continental level is Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast and former Minister for Education, Ghana.
FAWE is registered as a Pan-African Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) with its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and it operates in thirty-three African countries. The Regional Secretariat is run by an Executive Director under the direction of an Executive Committee. The first Chairperson of FAWE was Hon. Fay Chung, a former Minister of Education of Zimbabwe and the first Chairperson was Hon. Aicha Ba Diallo who played a guiding role in the formation of FAWE. The pioneer Executive Director of the Regional Secretariat of FAWE was the famous Kenyan Educationist Dr. Eddah Gachukia. FAWE is currently headed by Dr. Hendrina Doroba of Zambia.
All women Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Education, Vice-Chancellors of Universities and Permanent Secretaries or Chief Directors of Education are considered Full Members, as is a cross-section of professional and grassroots women who share in the vision of FAWE . Male Ministers of Education from Sub-Saharan Africa are also given recognition as Associate Members when they exhibit commitment to the vision and mission of FAWE.
FAWE envisions a world in which all girls have access to education, perform well and complete their studies and a world in which gender disparities in education are eliminated. Its mission is to promote gender equity and equality in education in Africa by fostering positive policies, practices and attitudes towards girls’ education. We can simply sum up the vision and mission of FAWE as follows: To get everybody to realize how important the education of girls and women is to development and to see every stakeholder making an effort to close the gender gap in education at all levels.
This has resulted in the campaign slogan: “Send Your Girl Child to School.” Perhaps the time has come to include ‘ensure she stays, advances and excels in the school environment and beyond.’
FAWE operates from the premise that women play a central role in the process of social and economic development of families, communities and nations, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Females form the bulk of workers in the agricultural and commercial sectors. They are contributors to the economy in many other ways and are mainly responsible for the quality of nutrition, health, early education, physical environment and even sometimes the economic stability of the family.
There is no doubt that women need to be educated to acquire the knowledge and skills to carry out these responsibilities adequately and efficiently. The reality is that the large majority of women all over the developing countries have low literacy levels, while a high number of girls are not being educated. FAWE strives to change this situation in order to forestall the adverse cycle of ignorance, illiteracy, malnutrition, poor child and maternal health, over-population, poor environmental conditions and poverty. FAWE agrees with all those who, like Dr. James Aggrey, believe that educating girls is the key to a better national future. Indeed, studies show that countries that invest more in giving girls quality education tend to make more progress at all levels.
FAWE’s strengths lie in credible social policy, and educational research; visionary model projects; membership with a proven commitment and and/or achievement at all levels of education; a network of national chapters and a track record of integrity in the professional execution of programs.
The organisation believes that through education of women and girls, livelihoods are improved for entire communities and civic education and liberties are enhanced. Educated girls become educated women who have the knowledge, skills and opportunity to play effective roles in governance and democratic processes and to influence the direction of their societies.
FAWE works hand-in-hand with communities, schools, civil society, Non-Governmental Organizations and ministries to achieve gender equity and equality in education through targeted programs. We encourage our partners to enact policies and provide positive learning environments that treat girls and boys fairly and equally.
The work of FAWE influences government policy, builds public awareness, demonstrates best educational practice through effective models, and encourages the adoption of these models by governments and institutions of education.
This has led to increased rates of girls’ enrollment, retention and completion of school in countries in which our National Chapters operate. Through our work, girls and women across sub-Saharan Africa have the chance to attend school and overcome material deprivation and social and political exclusion. Apart from many interventions in advocacy, awareness and sensitization programs through workshops, the media, newsletters, talk shows and films to sensitize and educate policy makers, parents and the general public about the need to promote girls’ education, the Ghana Chapter, for example has two distinctive interventions. There is an FM Radio Station (FAWE FM 109.9 Mhz) at Fotobi near Nsawam in the Eastern Region, used as part of its advocacy tools to promote girls’ education in its catchment area. Again, it operates a Girls’ Senior High School (SHS), Diaspora Girls’ SHS, at Obodan in the same district. This makes it possible for girls from deprived communities to have secondary education.
Recent events of FAWE at the continental level include a conference on the education of girls, which event was also used to celebrate its 25th anniversary under the theme: “Towards Gender equality in Education: Positioning Youth to champion Africa’s education Agenda” in Lusaka, Zambia (August 23-25, 2017); and a High Level Meeting on Ending Child Marriage in Dakar, Senegal (October 23-25, 2017). These events were highly patronized by decision makers including ministers of education, of children and gender, vice chancellors, development partners, opinion leaders, traditional and religious leaders, students and many others.