The U.K. minister for Development has announced funding of £30 million (US$37.8 million) to boost education opportunities for women and girls in Southeast Asia.
Minister of State for Development and Africa Andrew Mitchell launched the ASEAN Girls Education and Skills Program on Wednesday at the 2023 Education World Forum, which takes place between May 7 to 11 in London.
Girls at an elementary school in Muong Nhe District in the northern mountainous Dien Bien Province in 2021.
Funded by the U.K. government, the program will be delivered in Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam.
The program will offer "some of the most marginalized women and girls in Southeast Asia a better future by boosting access to a quality education," the U.K. Embassy in Vietnam said in a statement Wednesday.
Funding will go towards improving the quality of education for women and girls by prioritizing teaching basic reading and maths skills to unlock their full potential.
The five-year program will expand women and girls’ access to digital and technical education, focusing on what skills are needed to gain employment in high-skill sectors such as technology and manufacturing.
It will also promote the inclusion of remote and minority communities, the urban poor and children with disabilities by setting up disability assessments to identify additional needs and medical referrals for eye tests.
"Greater gender equality brings freedom, boosts prosperity and strengthens global security. Countries can’t develop if half the population are held back from fulfilling their full potential," said Mitchell.
He said via the program, the U.K. would partner with countries "to provide a quality education for all with a focus on girls to address the barriers they face including violence, poverty, harmful gender norms and climate change."
Mitchell told the forum, the world’s largest gathering of education and skills ministers that is attended by 117 ministers and 700 delegates from 118 countries, that around 140 million children in Southeast Asia experienced loss of education due to school closures during the pandemic.
This is made worse by low quality schooling, learning poverty, limited access to schools in rural areas, education that fails to equip students with workplace skills and girls dropping out of school because of early marriage, he said.