Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is no stranger to education reform. Before her term of service from 2010 to 2013, Gillard was the minister of education in Australia. As prime minister, she drew upon her work experiences to improve many of Australia’s policies for the country’s educational system.
Having accepted the position of Board Chair for the Global Partnership for Education in February, Gillard has since expanded her desire to promote high quality education to countries across the globe.
One of Gillard’s primary focuses is female education. The global leader has voiced her concern with the lack of funding and attention that female education typically receives. As Board Chair, Gillard has set out to instill a greater sense of gender equality in discussions regarding educational aid.
Gillard received a great deal of press in 2012 when she became engaged in a heated debate with opposition leader Tony Abbot during a meeting of parliament about the concept of sexism. Julia Gillard accused Abbot of behaving and speaking in a misogynistic manner and highlighted the evils of sexism.
The video of her speech from parliament that day went viral, becoming an online symbol of female empowerment.
Today, Gillard is continuing her passion for gender equality by accepting a partnership with the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). At the GPE Replenishment Conference in June, Gillard opened the “Girls’ Education: Moving Beyond Access” session.
Gillard commented on the state of female global education saying, “There are more girls in school today, but there are still millions who are still not in school. There is a lot more that needs to be done.”
The session offered discussion on the most effective ways to respond to gender inequality in schools in the poorest areas of the world. The transition from primary to secondary education became a popular topic of conversation because so many girls drop out of school between the two levels.
The session also pinpointed the recent reasons behind female education’s success. For example, women are gaining land ownership rights more often in Nepal because daughters as well as sons can inherit family land now. Representatives from Nepal at the GPE conference believe that the opportunity to own land has affected female enrollment in schools because it has shifted the attitude toward women in the country.
Gillard advocates for complete equal access to education. As Board Chair for GPE, she leads initiatives to fund education for children with disabilities, children in rural and impoverished areas and girls dealing with oppression. Though female education is not her only focus, the fact that she, a prominent global symbol for both feminism and education reform, is leading these initiatives, seems like good news for the future of female education.
– Emily Walthouse