International Women’s Day

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Launch of GIRLS Inspire on International Women’s Day at the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) office. From left to right: Ms Charisse Cruz, Project Coordinator – Women & Girls; Ms Rosanne Wong, Gender Equality Manager; Professor Asha Kanwar, President & CEO; Ms Frances J Ferreira, Senior Advisor – Women & Girls; Ms Jasmine Lee, Project Assistant – Women & Girls

Written by: Frances J. Ferreira

March 8, 2016


Happy International Women’s Day (IWD)! Let our Pledge4Parity become an action. Thank you ALL for joining us in celebrating the IWD with the launch of the GIRLS Inspire Community of Practice (CoP).


The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) has made Education and Training for Women and Girls a priority and a few months ago, COL, with the generous support from the Canadian and Australian Governments, introduced a new project, Women and Girls.


This project is developed on the premise or evidence that labour market, employment friendly and community oriented open schooling leads to better livelihood, changes in life-cycle behaviour and postponement of girls’ early marriage.


We aim to reach the unreached women and girls and to make an active contribution in ending the cycle of Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM). Through this project, COL will put its Pledge4Parity in action by working with partners in Bangladesh, India, Mozambique, Tanzania and Pakistan to:


  • Increase access to safe, quality gender sensitive Open Distance and Technology-based Learning (ODL) opportunities for girls and women


  • Increase equitable participation in quality ODL by disadvantaged women and girls to contribute to the reduction in the incidence of CEFM


  • Enhance economic leadership and family decision making, including family planning, for disadvantaged women and girls.


At this juncture I want to thank the President and CEO of COL. It is through her determination that we succeeded in getting the funding. I would also like to thank each and every person who made an active contribution, since the announcement of the funding, to make this a reality. A special thank you is extended to our partners, who worked very hard to prepare all the documentation, work plans, activity plans budgets, etc. to ensure that we execute this task.


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Launch of GIRLS Inspire on International Women’s Day at Commonwealth of Learning office

We all know that CEFM is a deep-rooted problem which is enforced by communities, and so are all the other barriers which prevent women and girls from attending school or vocational training. Having a budget, work plan and activity plan is not enough!


To ‘sell’ our story we need to package it and apply a proper ‘sales technique’ to mobilise communities, especially traditional and religious leaders, to appreciate the negative effects of child marriages on the girls, families and the community at large and to see the benefits of education for girls.


For this reason we developed a communications plan for the project. Let me pause and extend a special thanks to the colleagues in KM and Communications for their support in assisting us to package our product and to my own team who made every effort to make sure that we have an excellent product to ‘sell’ to ensure our Pledge4Parity becomes a reality. based Learning (ODL) opportunities for girls and women girls to contribute to the reduction in the incidence of CEFM planning, for disadvantaged women and girls.


The plan was designed to bring to life the stories and voices of the women and girls supported in this project with the aim to bring awareness to the issues of CEFM and other barriers to women and girls’ economic participation.


You will see that our key communication mechanisms are the branding, CoP, social media, COL’s website, press releases and newsletters as well as evaluation reports.


The past week we have embarked on a vigorous campaign on social media to ‘sell’ our brand, GIRLS Inspire. Our Facebook page has reached a record number of over 5,000 Likes the past week.


Today we will launch our CoP. Some people have asked, what is a CoP? In simple language, “A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. Our collective concern is improved sustainable livelihoods for disadvantaged women and girls. When women and girls have improved livelihoods, they will be empowered to make their own choices regarding marriage, further education, family, child bearing and other decisions in which they are left out at the moment.


Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways of learning and it has been a tradition amongst many nations and different cultures throughout the ages. They say that, with the new technologies, we may have lost the culture of sitting together and telling stories. However, while we may not sit together when telling stories, we can still share our stories.


The beauty of the online community is that it transcends all borders and we can still tell our stories, this time, to people all over the world.


Stories have been extremely inspiring and we want to inspire women and girls, communities, families and nations to support the education of women and girls as we #pledge4parity and strive towards #sustainable communities.


I want to encourage you all to making a difference in the lives of women and girls across the world, who are being denied the opportunity to schooling and skills training due to various challenges, by telling your stories and learn through the #community of practice how to improve our practises and strategies.