UK’s £45 million education initiative focuses on empowering women in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Esther Muhozi
On 23 May 2024 at 02:04

The UK’s deputy foreign secretary, Andrew Mitchell, unveiled a £45 million initiative at the Education World Forum 2024 on May 20th, promising to forge a brighter future for young people, with a special focus on women and girls. Named "Strengthening Higher Education for Female Empowerment" (SHEFE), the program aims to establish 12 partnerships linking businesses, universities, and governments across regions including Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

The UK government has declared that approximately one million young people will gain from SHEFE by enhancing opportunities and employability. The initiative is especially designed to create safer and more accessible educational settings for women and girls, eliminating hurdles that prevent potential leaders from pursuing higher education.

Key efforts of the program include; tackling gender-based violence by training and enhancing institutional policies for safety, boosting participation in STEM fields and increasing female presence in top academic roles while refining university curriculums in alignment with labor market demands.

Advancing research in gender equality, violence prevention, and employability to support evidence-based strategies for partner governments and institutions are among other areas of priority.

Mitchell emphasized the broader impact of this initiative: "Greater gender equality brings freedom, boosts prosperity and strengthens global security. Countries can’t develop if half the population are held back from fulfilling their full potential," he stated.

He further highlighted the transformative power of education, noting, "Education is the foundation for empowerment. It equips women and girls with the knowledge to challenge harmful norms and make informed decisions, including about their health."

This new initiative builds on the achievements of the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform program initiated in 2016, which has significantly bolstered higher education in 16 countries, directly aiding over 12,500 refugees and displaced youths in regions like Jordan and Lebanon, and providing online course access to 12,000 students from Myanmar.

During the forum, Gillian Keegan, the UK’s secretary of state for education, also spoke, updating on the UK’s role as a premier destination for international students and highlighting the success of Transnational Education (TNE).

"We are home to some of the world’s top universities... Indeed, the UK has educated 58 current and recent world leaders," Keegan remarked. She also discussed the relevance of education in addressing global challenges like climate change, emphasizing the need for a curriculum that promotes a sustainable future.

The initiative is especially designed to create safer and more accessible educational settings for women and girls.