Erna Solberg is a Norwegian politician who was born and raised in Bergen, Norway and has held many different positions of power during her career. Since 2004, she has been the leader of the Conservative Party of Norway (EPP, IDU) and has been Prime Minister of Norway since the General Election in 2013. Norway re-elected her as Prime Minister in September 2017 and she has leveraged her position as the leader of a wealthy and influential country to fight for female education and children’s rights in developing countries. The Prime Minister has a long track record of international educational aid especially for women and children, and these are just three examples of the important strides Ms. Solberg has taken.
Three Initiatives in the Fight for Female Education
1. Starting in 2016, the Prime Minister co-chaired the U.N. Secretary General’s Advocacy group for the Sustainable Development Goals. During her residency as co-chair, she committed herself to increasing equitable access to education for girls and children in conflict areas. In fact, in 2018, Norway promised to increase its contribution to The Global Partnership for Education (an organization that works to improve education in developing countries) to $255 million.
2. In 2015, under the direction of Ms. Solberg, Norway committed to providing at least $6 million to improve sanitation for the estimated two billion people lacking it. This commitment may seem unrelated to education but many developing nations lack adequate sanitation, which often keeps girls from attending school regularly. Cultural stereotypes and taboos around female hygiene, especially in regards to menstruation, often keep girls out of class. The $6 million Norway pledged can make a huge difference in closing the gender gap in classrooms. For example, a UNICEF study showed that girl’s attendance improved by 12 percent in Tanzania when the girls had access to clean water. Norway’s support for proper sanitation, in tandem with education, will give girls a better opportunity to obtain a quality education.
3. In 2014, Erna Solberg launched a $12.3 million initiative in Malawi to improve the access and quality of girl’s education. On a trip to Malawi in July 2014, Ms. Solberg announced the initiative and stated that it would strengthen the education system, particularly for girls, and improve aid effectiveness. With Norway’s money and cooperation, Malawi has launched a number of programs including promoting secondary school for girls, further integrating minorities and children with disabilities into the education system and providing new technologies to enhance learning. The program has been successful so far and under Ms. Solberg’s guidance, the initiative will continue until 2020.
It is clear that since her appointment as Prime Minister of Norway in 2013, Erna Solberg has focused the plentiful resources of her nation to uplift girls in the most underprivileged countries. In an op-ed she co-wrote in 2014, she said, “if you invest in a girl, she feeds herself, educates future children, lifts up her community and propels her nation forward – charting a path that offers dignity for all in the process.” The Prime Minister openly continues to hold this belief and has launched and supported many initiatives that prove it.
– Isabel Fernandez