Harper Government reaffirms commitment to education and training for women and girls

April 11, 2013

Increasing access to quality education and vocational training opportunities for people, particularly women and girls, is a high priority for Canada. The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, today reaffirmed Canada's support for the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), which assists developing Commonwealth countries improve access to learning using distance and technology-based approaches.

Minister Fantino announced support to a Commonwealth of Learning initiative: Scaling Up Support for Lifelong Learning for Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. This project aims to enhance learning opportunities for hard-to-reach smallholder farmers, particularly women, who have limited access to education and vocational training. By providing capacity development for farmers in agriculture, market access and credit negotiation, this project will help to increase farmers' incomes, helping them get out of poverty and into prosperity.

"Moving individuals from poverty to prosperity requires investments in people, educators, growing businesses, and sustainable agricultural development, particularly for women smallholder farmers," said Minister Fantino during his meeting with COL President Asha Kanwar and her team. "This initiative will help improve the livelihoods of individuals and families in rural communities of sub-Saharan Africa and increase the incomes of farmers and landless labourers, particularly women, in remote, and often marginalized, rural communities."

Professor Asha Kanwar, President of the Commonwealth of Learning and a former Pro Vice Chancellor (Vice-President) of India's Indira Gandhi National Open University, welcomed Minister Fantino to Commonwealth of Learning's offices. "We are honoured that Minister Fantino came here to learn more about COL and our work. This year marks COL's 25th anniversary of operations and of being hosted here by the Government of Canada," said Professor Kanwar. "Thanks to the financial and intellectual support of the Government of Canada, COL has been able to respond to the human resource development needs of a wide range of stakeholders—from the rural women in Malawi, goat herders in India, out of school youth in Jamaica to ministries and institutions across the Commonwealth." Minister Fantino also announced further long-term institutional support to the COL to support their efforts in assisting countries to improve the scale, efficiency, and quality of education at all levels. This work will also help communities, civil society, and institutions to improve the livelihoods and health of their members by using learning technologies to enhance skills, share knowledge, and develop new economic opportunities.

"Our government is a strong supporter of the Commonwealth and is proud to be the largest contributor to the Commonwealth of Learning," said Minister Fantino. "Our government will continue to seek innovative ways to give youth the training and knowledge needed to become leaders in their countries and address the challenges they and their communities face."

As part of this commitment, Economic Action Plan 2013 (EAP2013) will promote Canada as a country of choice for study and world-class research, and encourage Canadian students to take advantage of training opportunities abroad through the International Education Strategy.

EAP2013 also reaffirms Canada's commitment to international development investments, such as securing the future of children and youth. The new Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will maintain the mandate of poverty alleviation and will enhance the coordination of international assistance with broader Canadian values. Furthermore, the amalgamation leading to this new department will achieve greater efficiency, accountability, and focus to continue to help improve the lives of people in need around the world.

Commonwealth of Learning
Founded in 1987, the COL is one of three intergovernmental organizations of the Commonwealth. With headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, it is the only official Commonwealth institution located outside the United Kingdom, and is an internationally renowned leader in open learning and distance education.

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For more information, media should contact:

Daniel Bezalel Richardsen
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation
Telephone: 819-953-6238
Email: danielbezalel.richardsen@acdi-cida.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534
Email: media@acdi-cida.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @CIDA_CA


Backgrounder

With headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) was created in 1987 to encourage the development and sharing of education, knowledge, resources, and technologies to help developing nations improve access to quality education and training. Canada has been a member of the Commonwealth of Learning since its inception, and Canada is the COL's largest donor.

Today's announcement by Minister Fantino provides $840,000 to the COL initiative Scaling Up Support for Lifelong Learning for Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, and $7.8 million over three years in long-term institutional support to the COL.

Canada's support to Scaling Up Support for Lifelong Learning for Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa will enable the COL to ramp up this successful program in a region where there is a clear need, and will provide technical assistance in agricultural education and skills development in countries such as Ghana and Tanzania:

  • Approximately 8,000 people, particularly women, will be able to access credit through various financial institutions, as well as strengthen their knowledge and skills in agriculture.
  • Since the Lifelong Learning for Farmers Program began in 2006, it has improved the livelihoods of approximately 50,000 participants, increasing their productivity, profit, and ability to repay bank loans in a timely manner.

The long-term support will expand the use of open schooling in member states, train 10,000 teachers and teacher educators, enhance access to higher education, and increase equitable access to quality technical and vocational skills development through flexible and blended approaches.

Canada's ongoing support to the COL, along with assistance from other donor countries, has contributed to:

  • 300,000 girls and boys in 10 countries attending 12 open schools;
  • more than 350,000 teachers and teacher educators being trained throughout the Commonwealth;
  • increased access to quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) through open and distance learning in seven institutions in three African countries;
  • 50,000 women and men learning daily through mobile phones in Asia and Africa; and
  • new opportunities to learn about maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, and environmental health for 8,000 active learners and an estimated 100,000 listeners in 10 countries.