During today’s session, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women discussed the topic of community-based education in low-income countries, primarily within Africa. Education remains one of the biggest challenges in the continent, as Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of education exclusion globally, and nearly 60% of youth aged 15 to 17 cannot attend school. All states present agreed that teaching the population through local communities through formal and informal education is crucial in improving the living conditions in many African countries.
The United States of America strongly advocates for the use of social media-based education to access younger demographics. Supported by other nations, they argue that this approach has already sparked great success in other low-income countries, and the implementation can further boost external funding. The representative of Uganda agrees, yet reminds the developed countries present that the current energy infrastructure - or lack thereof - in many African countries is an important issue. Due to this, blackouts occur frequently, and WIFI access is sparse; this assessment challenged the uncritical optimism of communication technology. Noticeably, despite the widespread agreement on the necessity of social media, Sierra Leone strongly calls into question the success of this endeavor in low-income countries.
The nation's representative firmly advocates for supporting traditional education without social media. They fear that access to social media will cause a more significant social gap between lower and higher-income countries and individuals in their respective communities. The other delegates met this assessment with general disagreement, reminding them that this is not an either-or scenario. This discussion concluded, with the compromise that they should implement a combination of traditional and technology-based education to solve the African learning crisis. Following the overall drop in government budget going into education following the pandemic, investments in learning remain the best chance for a better future.
The delegate from New Zealand redirects the discussion about community-based education to the education of midwives to improve the medical attention of pregnant women and general reproductive health. This issue has been at the top of the committee's agenda, as insufficient maternal care has caused the death of over 4.5 million women and newborns per year. One considerable maternal mortality and morbidity issue is the significant inter regional disparity in health coverage and antenatal care. Different propositions to sustain an improvement in this area, include the proposal that local organizations could educate maternal healthcare workers in a manner that respects their respective cultural backgrounds.
Other nations propose that the UN instead focus on midwives, which are already actively working in said communities, to be given the necessary resources to educate others. The representative of New Zealand reminds the delegates that there needs to be a universal standard towards medical care, specifically safe abortion procedures and the ban on genital mutilation. Hence, the UN and respective countries need to find a way to reduce some medical practices currently used in local communities which are not in line with the UN Charta.
As the conference continues, we can await various solutions that can hopefully increase access to safe and effective methods of maternal care regardless of wealth status in the African continent.
- Pauline Keller, Women Rights Correspondent for The New York Times