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UNESCO and P&G Launch New Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education


By: Noha Bawazir, UNESCO

In April 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Always brand of Proctor & Gamble launched a new cause-related marketing partnership to support UNESCO’s Women and Girls’ Education Advocacy Program.

Globally, some 39 million girls of lower secondary age are currently not enrolled in either primary or secondary education, while two-thirds of the world’s 796 million illiterate adults are women. Only about one-third of countries have achieved gender parity at the secondary level and girls account for 53 percent of the 67 million primary-age school children around the world who are not receiving the education to which they have a right.

Indeed, poor education is at once the result and the cause of the continuing gender gap that deprives women of their right to take charge of their lives. Educating girls and women has proven to have a positive impact on social and economic conditions for society at large. Educating a girl can have a number of additional effects; for example, educated women take better care of their families and can serve as multipliers by taking what they have learned and passing it on to their entire family and their community. A baby born to a literate mother has a 50 percent better chance of living to the age of five than one born to an illiterate woman. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS spreads twice as fast among illiterate girls and women as it does among those with some literacy skills.

Overcoming the gender gap is one of UNESCO’s major priorities, including for the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who has a strong personal commitment to the issue. However, this very ambitious goal cannot be achieved by UNESCO alone and a strong political commitment, pooled expertise and diverse sources of funding and support are needed. In May 2011, UNESCO’s Director General, together with Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, launched a major global partnership for girls’ and women’s education which brought together world political and corporate leaders to step up global advocacy and make quality education available for girls and women everywhere, especially in Africa and Asia.

As a cause-related marketing partnership, the program is financed through the contribution by P&G of a percentage of sales generated through the sale of feminine hygiene products in France and Romania and via social networks such as Facebook. With a timeframe of 3 years, the partnership will initially focus on the empowerment of women and girls in Senegal by helping them to learn to read and write. The first project launched under the partnership is dedicated to supporting girls’ literacy in Senegal, where 45 percent of young women are illiterate and school years expectancy for girls is just 7.2 years. In 2009, Senegal made cuts in education spending, leaving more children out of school and without the proper resources to learn. Poverty often means taking girls out of school, contributing to their uncertain futures. Without the basic and essential skills of reading and writing that girls would learn during their primary school years, they are not provided with the resources that will help them reach their maximum potential as adults. The project is being implemented in the regions of Diourbel, Fatick, Kédougou, Matam, Saint-Louis and Tambacounda. Educational kits and digital resources are developed and disseminated to train and support more than 1,200 teachers who devote 600 hours of literacy and life skills teaching to girls in Senegal.

To launch the Senegal project, P&G Always provided an up-front contribution to UNESCO. In addition, P&G Always will conduct media campaigns in both France and Romania to get the word out.

This is the first time UNESCO has engaged in a cause-related marketing campaign of this scale and with a private sector partner whose expertise and knowledge are leveraged for achieving the project goals. For example, P&G has launched a major national advertising campaign to support the initiative in France between September and December 2011, including committed celebrities such as Aïssa Maïga, the Senegalese-born French actress, who is the Godmother of the Always-UNESCO Literacy Project for Young Girls and Young Women in Senegal. In addition, since 1 September 2011, members of the public are invited to support the project by liking it on Facebook.

For more information, please contact Noha Bawazir, Program Specialist/Cooperation with the Private Sector, UNESCO