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UK Launches £45 Million Higher Education Programme to Empower Women and Girls in Egypt and Beyond


Tue 21 May 2024 | 07:47 PM
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Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell has unveiled an ambitious £45 million higher education programme designed to create a brighter future for young people, especially women and girls, in Egypt, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The announcement was made at the Education World Forum, which gathered over 100 education ministers from around the globe.

The new initiative, titled Strengthening Higher Education for Female Empowerment (SHEFE), aims to break down barriers preventing women and girls from accessing higher education. The programme will foster safer and more inclusive learning environments, benefiting 1 million young people and enhancing their opportunities and employability.

In Egypt, the SHEFE programme will work closely with local businesses, universities, and the government to transform industrial parks into Eco-Industrial Parks (EIPs), promoting sustainable industrial development. The initiative will also form 12 partnerships across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa to support this mission.

During his keynote speech, Deputy Foreign Secretary Andrew Mitchell highlighted the importance of gender equality: “Greater gender equality brings freedom, boosts prosperity, and strengthens global security. Countries can’t develop if half the population is held back from fulfilling their full potential. The UK is committed to ensuring that the next generation of female teachers, doctors, inventors, and leaders can unlock their potential without being hindered by gender bias and discrimination. Education is the foundation for empowerment, equipping women and girls with the knowledge to challenge harmful norms and make informed decisions about their lives and health.”

Key components of the SHEFE programme include:

Investing in initiatives to reduce gender-based violence by training staff and students and strengthening institutional policies to protect them.

Increasing the uptake of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects and female representation in senior academic positions, and improving university curriculums by collaborating with industry and government to meet labor market needs.

Strengthening research on gender equality, violence prevention, and employability to support evidence-based approaches for partner governments and higher education institutions.

The benefits of higher education for women are profound. Girls who pursue higher education are up to six times less likely to marry as children and are less likely to experience partner violence. Women with advanced education levels also see increased earnings. However, many women face significant barriers, including widespread sexual harassment and violence, which the SHEFE programme aims to address.

Since 2015, the UK has supported nearly 20 million children, half of whom are girls, in gaining a decent education. The new SHEFE initiative builds on the success of the Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform (SPHEIR) programme, which started in 2016. SPHEIR strengthened higher education in 16 countries, benefiting over 1 million students, including direct support to refugees and displaced young people in Jordan and Lebanon, and students in Myanmar with access to online courses.

The SHEFE initiative underscores the UK's ongoing commitment to unlocking the potential of women and girls through education, particularly in Egypt, ensuring that all students can live, work, and study in safe environments.

For more updates on the SHEFE programme and other educational initiatives, stay tuned to reliable news sources.