At the same time, educated girls and women are strong powerful agents of change. Research has shown how empowering girls means a better future for societies as a whole: girls'/women's education leads to better reproductive health, improved family health, economic growth, for the family and for society, as well as lower rates of child mortality, malnutrition and child marriage. In this sense, girls' education can thus be a powerful tool to nurture a positive sense of identity and belonging and to provide them with the knowledge, values, attitudes and behaviors, which foster responsible global citizenship, critical thinking and empathy and provide powerful tools to fight against and prevent violent extremism.
The meeting, co-hosted by Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and Mr Mikayil Jabbarov, Minister of Education of the Republic of Azerbaijan, featured keynote addresses by the First Ladies of Ethiopia, Ms Roman Tesfaye Abneh, the First Lady of Mali, Ms Keïta Aminata Maiga, and the First Lady of Rwanda, Ms Jeanette Kagame as well as by the Chairwoman of the State Committee for Family, Women and Children Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ms Hijran Huseynova. Moderated by Ms S. Gülser Corat, Director for Gender Equality at UNESCO, the High Level Meeting was concluded with the launch of the Global Humanitarian Call to Invest in Girls' Education.
All speakers stressed the importance of girls' education as a tool to counter violent extremism, and called for increased investments in quality education for all. Quoting Malala Yousafzai, the Director-General noted that extremists are afraid of books and pens, and frightened by the power of education, they are also afraid of women and the power of their voice. She stressed that: 'Education is the way to disarm processes that can lead to violent extremism by undermining prejudice, by fighting ignorance and indifference'.
On the margins of this High-Level Meeting, the Director-General had a bilateral meeting with Ms Jeanette Kagame, the First Lady of Rwanda, during which they reiterated commitment to gender equality and opportunities for collaboration.