[Translate to francais:] On 28 September, the Director General spoke at the event led by the Asian University for Women, "Sabaya, Sister, Student: Overcoming Vulnerability through Education," hosted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
[Translate to francais:] "The Asian University for Women works for the most powerful transformational force," said Irina Bokova. "Educating girls and women is a force for empowerment, for inclusion, for human dignity, for justice. It is best way to fight poverty and build peace."
The event saw a discussion with Ambassador Catherine Russell for Global Women's Issues, Ms Elizabeth McCormack, Ms Amini Saeed Hassan, former member of Iraqi Parliament and an activist for women's rights who is fighting to save the lives of Yezidi women and Ms Rukmini Callimachi, a first Afghan graduate of AUW, moderated by Ms Krishanti Vignarajah, policy analyst of the Office of the First Lady of the United States.
Irina Bokova is a patron of the AUW, led by Chancellor, Ms Cherie Blair, and including the First Lady of Japan, HE Akie Abe, as well as HE Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
"Since 2000, we have seen rapid progress, but we are far from the mark," said the Director-General. "Only 60 percent of countries have achieved parity in primary education -- only 38 percent in secondary."
Irina Bokova underlined the importance of working across the board to empower girls and women, highlighting UNESCO's new Joint Programme with UN Women and UNFPA in partnership with the World Bank entitled "Empowering Adolescent Girls and Young Women through Education". This programme takes a holistic approach to improving the lives of adolescent girls and young women, working with education, health, gender equality and labour ministries. She also spoke about UNESCO's large scale programme to provide literacy to Afghan girls and women and the partnership with Proctor and gamble to address issues of illiteracy in Senegal.
The Director-General and other speakers underlined also the critical importance of political will and of creating a conducive environment by working with families, traditional and religious leaders, for more inclusive education.
"Education is the smartest, the most sustainable, investment a country can make -- a healthy, safe 12 year old girl in school must be the face defining the new sustainable development agenda."