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Seventh SDG Seminar Spotlights Non-formal Education and Women's Education in the Developing World


Speaker Chiho Ohashi

In 2017, the Global Collaboration Center launched a seminar series on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Past seminars have targeted sustainability issues such as poverty, food security and nutrition, maternal and child health, peacebuilding, and the rights of refugees. The seventh SDG Seminar, held on December 23, 2019, spotlighted Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Education expert Chiho Ohashi, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA) was invited as a lecturer and delivered a presentation on the role of non-formal education, literacy development, and women’s education in Pakistan.

The seminar in progress

The illiteracy rate in Pakistan is as high as 42%, and the rate of illiteracy among rural women is especially high, at 64%. Ms. Ohashi noted that it is not uncommon among the extremely poor for no one in the family to be able to read, or for homes to be practically devoid of written materials such as newspapers, books, and calendars. Women’s education is often neglected, she said, as many families consider it a waste of money to school daughters who will just marry and join their husbands’ households.

Pakistani women attending a literacy class

In this social context, non-formal education (NFE) at the basic level offers the benefits of a primary education, particularly to rural children and adults who missed the opportunity to attend school. Ms. Ohashi, who has been closely involved in such programs, believes that the acquisition of reading, writing, and arithmetic skills in NFE classes not only makes life easier for participants but also gives them confidence and earns them the respect of their families and communities. Some participants tell her that the classes have given them new hope for the future. The seminar offered living proof of the inherent power of education to open up opportunities for a better, more rewarding life.

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