‘WE ARE ABLE’ (Achieving Better Living and Education) – a new UNESCO initiative puts the voices of Ethnic Minority girls and women first

Together with its strategic partners, the Ministry of Education and Training and CJ Group (Republic of Korea), UNESCO announces the inception of ‘We Are Able’, a new three-year project, funded by the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education with financial support from CJ Group. The project aims to improve access and retention of ethnic minority children, especially girls in lower secondary school, and to improve employment opportunities for ethnic minority girls and women.

Following the successful completion of the project ‘Gender Equality and Girls’ Education Initiative in Viet Nam’, working closely with national and local authorities, UNESCO will focus its new efforts on ethnic minorities women and girls, helping them to ensure equal access to quality education and employment opportunities within a safe and friendly environment, free from violence and abuse.

Designed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Training and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, the project will support the implementation of the Education Development Strategic Plan 2011-2020, the Action Plan for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and the National Strategy concerning Ethnic Minority Affairs until 2020.

Under the motto ‘Achieving Better Living and Education’, the project will engage with 16,000 persons, including ethnic minority school students, teachers, principals, education officials, parents and community members in three provinces: Ha Giang, Ninh Thuan and Soc Trang.

The project also reflects the continued commitment of CJ Group, with whom UNESCO collaborates globally in support of girls’ education, as well as the personal engagement of the Executive Vice President of Global CSV, Ms. Heekyung Jo Min, who traveled to Ha Giang province in March 2019 to better understand the challenges faced by local populations. The partnership between CJ Group and UNESCO is based on a shared understanding that development solutions must take a multidimensional approach to address challenges effectively and sustainably.

Ms. Heekyung Jo Min stated at the launch that “Through this project, we hope ethnic minority girls can grow as respectable members of Vietnamese society with competence, skills, and self-esteem. For this, in addition to giving financial support, we plan to actively hold campaigns that promote the importance of girls’ education by utilizing the cultural platform of CJ Group.”

The project has four main areas of focus:

(i)  enhancing the understanding on the importance of girls’ education by allowing youth, especially young women, to demonstrate how education can positively influence their lives and the lives of their families and communities;

(ii)  fostering a safe and healthy educational environment by enhancing knowledge of gender-based violence in schools and strengthening teachers’ capacities on gender-responsive school counselling;

(iii)  improving employment opportunities for girls and young women through targeted career orientation programmes, training on income generation and facilitating access to the labor market; and

(iv)  supporting ethnic minority youth to overcome stereotypes and enhance understanding with their peers – other Vietnamese youth – across the country.

Mr. Michael Croft, UNESCO Representative to Viet Nam, stressed that “UNESCO is committed to respecting the traditional cultures of ethnic minority groups, working together with them and local and national authorities to support ethnic minority youth, especially women and girls, to give voice to their dreams, aspirations and hope for the future. The “We Are Able” slogan says it all; ethnic minorities in Viet Nam are indeed able to contribute to the amazing transformation taking place in this country – and we look forward to hearing what they have to say.”

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