Hans-Heinrich Wrede: 'Gender equality is essential to African development'

From the opening address of chairman of the executive board of Unesco to the organisation's round table on West Africa, held in Paris
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive." Regional co-operation is absolutely crucial for achieving sustainable educational and social changes. Many West African countries have to wrestle with the devastating effects of poverty and internal conflicts. This is the number one preoccupation of Unesco. By focusing implementation at the country level, we can help governments to mobilise resources, strengthen capacity-building, and foster "ownership" and self- sufficiency among communities.

Mahatma Gandhi once said: "No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive." Regional co-operation is absolutely crucial for achieving sustainable educational and social changes. Many West African countries have to wrestle with the devastating effects of poverty and internal conflicts. This is the number one preoccupation of Unesco. By focusing implementation at the country level, we can help governments to mobilise resources, strengthen capacity-building, and foster "ownership" and self- sufficiency among communities.

Moreover, there is the need for quality education: make learning relevant and adapt to the region's needs; implement the tools needed to improve teacher training and ensure local design to curriculum content; establish means to foster tolerance while maintaining cultural diversity.

Let me emphasise one more essential aspect to Africa's redevelopment: gender equality. Girls and women are the most adversely affected by a lack of education and sadly, by HIV/Aids. In Africa, this disease has, unfortunately, become one of the gravest threats. Unesco is actively advancing its prevention education initiative.

We recognise that building international networks is simply not enough; regional networks, through renewed commitment from member states, will help even more in ultimately eradicating this disease.

Strengthening civil society is also indispensable to development in West Africa. The technology of today has not reached enough people. While we hear stories of cyber cafés popping up in big cities, it is still globalisation without localisation.

Indeed, mass media can make a powerful contribution to development in Africa by promoting regional integration. A number of African broadcasters are already joining forces in regional networks, and are bound to expand them into global partnerships. Africa will continue to be a top priority in all of Unesco's fields of competence, whether it is in water issues, education, preserving cultural diversity or building knowledge societies through technology and science.

Comments