Despite widespread worldwide initiatives, such as those focused on ending poverty and expanding access to education, humankind continues to struggle with challenges related to education, poverty, inequality, and global insecurity. While it is true that not everyone who has access to an educational system ends up in poverty, the vast majority of today's poor never even made it through elementary school (two out of every five individuals are illiterate, and violence is on the rise).
According to the World Bank, around 8.5% of the today’s world population might be extremely poor by the end of 2022, and poverty is now falling at a relatively slower rate of barely 2% per year. Today's population is poorer than that of 1990's where 1.9 billion people, or 36% of the global population, lived on less than $1.90 a day back then.
There is a direct correlation between poverty and hunger in Africa. A quarter of the world's hungry people live in Africa. Africa’s population are malnourished and more than 30% of children in Africa have growth anomalies such stunting as a result of chronic malnutrition, making it impossible for them to benefit fully from receiving education.
Education is a great tool for breaking the cycle of poverty since it helps people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. It has the potential to aid those in need by providing them with pathways to employment, resources, and the development of employability skills that can allow them to break out of poverty.
Issues described above were the main drivers to invite a specialist in field: On Friday, December 9, 2022, former President of Finland Her Excellency Mrs. Tarja Halonen flew from Helsinki to spend an entire day with the fellows of the Executive’s Masters of International Relations and Global Politics students at the Swiss Geneva University, organized by professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic.
Sustainable development goals, their influence on the global system, and the significance of poverty eradication, education, and inequality were all central to the discussion themes. Excellency Halonen began her talk by explaining the origins of SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as we know them now by drawing on her considerable background in multilateralism and international politics.
SDGs evolved from their original name, the "Millennium Development Goals," to their current form over time. However, the ironic connection is that all of these goals were compared to a home with many windows. A window that has a goal with a specific purpose.
Excellency Halonen focused on four goals; The first goal is the “elimination of poverty.” The fourth goal is “quality education.” The fifth goal is “gender equality.” Finally, the sixteenth goal is “peace, justice, and strong institutions.”
Most of her presentation focused on the first goal: why poverty is the underlying cause of most global problems and how to begin addressing it. For instance, as SDGs are interconnected, excellent education and gender equality go hand-in-hand with reducing poverty. First, getting an education is a great approach to better one's life and to erdicate poverty in the long term since it increases one's earning potential and decreases wealth disparity. This implies that persons in poverty have a more difficult time bettering their situation due to obstacles such as physical ability, religion, race, and caste. If we zoom down on more vulnerable regions, however, such as Africa, we see that 67.4% of adults from the age of 15 in 2021 have necessary literacy skills to read and comprehend a short phrase.
In 2022, Africa had a population of little over 1.4 billion people, with a literacy rate lower than that of Russia. A total of 143.4 million individuals can read and write at a 99.69% proficiency level by the year 2021.
There is a significant gender gap in the world's illiterate population, with women making up a disproportionate share. Some nations have nearly female literacy, such as 64% in Burkina Faso and 39% in Niger, while others, such as Afghanistan, have just around 30% of women who are literate.
However, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) continues to be a problem for women in Burkina Faso, Niger, and other nearby countries. This violence frequently occurs in societies where sexism and patriarchy are prevalent and this issue might serve as a roadblock for women, preventing them from exercising their rights.
Worldwide gender equality will presently take four generations. All inclusive, 388 million women are poorer than men, with the lion's share living in Sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia, and the Middle East. The COVID pandemic raised the perils of GBV over the world, with 13 million additional young girls at chance of getting to be child brides, on top of the 100 million people who are now in danger.
If women are not enrolled into social equations, how can they be treated equally? Increases in sexual violence, domestic violence, early and forced marriages, manipulation, and maltreatment of girls and women are being fueled by conflict and displacement in the Sahel area.
Not only in Africa, but also countries such as Afghanistan, where the international community was caught off guard by the rise of the Taliban’s action toward women in Afghanistan.
The Taliban's latest statement on suspending women from attending college is emblematic of their larger discriminatory practices. They have restricted the mobility of women and girls, preventing most women from participating in the labor market, and banning them from using public utilities since August 2021. Ultimately, these restrictions keep Afghan women and girls within their homes, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
As efforts to engage her efforts and activate this crucial role at the international and local levels are a priority for Her Excellency, Mrs. Taria Halonen firmly recognizes the value of women's contributions to development.
In addition, in line with the fifth goal of the sustainable development goals, women must have an all-encompassing goal of growing their participation to the labor market and maintaining their rights in the fields of health and education as part of the decision-making process. Women have an important role in bringing peace to situations of armed conflict, yet their contributions are often overlooked. The effectiveness of United Nations Peacekeeping actions and the maintenance of peace depend on the recognition and incorporation of women's various perspectives, experiences, and abilities in all aspects of UN Peacekeeping operations.
Despite progress in the number of women in the highest levels of political leadership, the Inter-Parliamentary Union of the United Nations (IPU-UN) reports that gender inequalities persist in several areas in the year 2021. However, following a jump of 21.3% of women occupying ministerial posts in 2021, as well as development has stalled, with just a little increase to 21.9% in 2021. The data also shows that the number of states with no women in government has grown, defying a recent declining trend.
Amid record global military spending of $2.1 trillion, funding for women's organizations in combat zones has declined. Presently, women only make about 19% of peace negotiators in
Her Excellency Halonen emphasized the significance of women's participation in peace talks and the value of having female leaders of countries present at the negotiations table. Mrs. Halonen is one of the first in this field and a member of the high-level advisory board of the Secretary-General on Mediation of the United Nations. Women's involvement in peace-building processes is more than simply achieving parity. Where, women hold just 18.9% of parliamentary seats in conflict and post-conflict countries, compared to 25.5% worldwide, a still-inadequate figure.
In order to address the root causes of conflict, it is necessary to rethink peace-building and come up with solutions that take into account the requirements of all parties involved in the conflict. The goal is to usher in an era of permanent global peace and security by dismantling the systems that sustain and promote conflict. Many of the ills from which people in war zones and poorer parts of the world suffer are easily solvable through education, which should be a basic human right.
One may say that education is the key to achieving all Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Since 1960, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ratified the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, which acknowledges the right of all students to an education. Furthermore, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of the United Nations has recognized access to education as a human right since 1966.
In conclusion, by expanding access to high-quality education for all, SDG four has the potential to be a powerful tool in the fight against extreme poverty and for raising living standards in developing countries. Lack of education, gender inequality, poverty, and global insecurity are the main reasons why states should invest more in education rather than military and armaments warfare. Education should be a national priority to eliminate all causes of poverty, gender inequality, and insecurity.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.
Written by Sara AlDhahri:
Sara AlDhahri is an international officer at the humanitarian affairs department of the OIC.