Irina Bokova: Director General of UNESCO and SDGs


SEATTLE — “I believe,” says Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, “that the face for the sustainable agenda is the face of an adolescent girl today. The plan of action and the targets of Agenda 2030 are really about providing a quality education free from violence with services that provide equitable and quality education, healthcare, safety, decent work and an enabling environment where each person, girl or boy can achieve their full potential.”

This agenda is both a personal priority for Irina Bokova and a top priority for UNESCO. Should the organization provide these essential elements to girls between the ages of 13 and 14 today and assist them in becoming successful adults, the organization asserts that they will have achieved their objectives.

If looking to previous successes is any indictor that Irina Bokova and the team she leads will succeed with the global empowerment of educating youth in vulnerable settings, it is prudent to share the organizations successes.

“I have launched several programmes focusing on girls’ and women’s education,” explains Irina Bokova.

In 2011, UNESCO built an innovative alliance with private sector companies to support adolescent girls and young women by launching the Better Life, Better Future Initiative; as a result, additional partnerships have grown.

Multiple partnerships supporting Irina’s dedication to supporting education for women and girls include a range of initiatives from empowering mobile technology projects to literacy and life skills for marginalized women in Senegal. These projects were funded by Ericsson and Proctor and Gamble. UNESCO also launched a Joint Policy Platform with Intel to share Best Practices in Education.

UNESCO targets countries where gender disparities are the most significant. Their partnership with L’Oreal, The Women and Science Program has established groundbreaking work, acknowledging the contributions of female scientists; thus, this partnership offers young women role models and supports young girls to pursue careers in the field of science.

The Institute of International Education in conjunction with Microsoft, Fitbit and other NGO and private sector partners began training teachers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America in June of 2016 as a part of the TeachHer initative launched by The United States Mission to UNESCO,

“Ensuring access to education for all has never been so important.”

And this access is particularly important in countries where there is limited availability to education, healthcare and safety. When asked how UNESCO overcomes barriers such as gender violence, and devalued roles of women in certain cultures, Irina Bokova offered this response:

“I believe that UNESCO is in a unique position to affect change as education and culture provide the nexus where change can happen. We nurture education and dialogue – with girls, women, boys, men, opinion leaders, traditional leaders, civil society advocates, government officials and all other stakeholder – to provide new perspective of thinking.”

UNESCO aims to empower and strengthen dialogue within communities and governments in order to eliminate harmful practices such as early forced child marriage and gender-based violence that exists both in communities and in and around schools.

UNESCO is not alone as they strive to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda is a collaborative effort of the global community which includes governments, U.N. agencies and civil society and requires that everyone acts in new ways. All 17 SDGs are interconnected, and mobilize collective action and resources nationally, regionally and globally.

The plan is demand-driven, based on evidence-based practices and policy advice based on areas of competence. It will require triangular cooperation to implement all of the expected outcomes for the 2030 Agenda. The group has 169 targets that provide a concrete framework for action.

Addison Grace Evans
Photo: Flickr


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