COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge. Recognizing that past public health outbreaks have had distinct gendered impacts, UNESCO and its partners in the Global Education Coalition are making sure that response efforts understand the gender dimensions of this crisis to avoid widening inequalities. Girls’ education has always been particularly vulnerable to community pressures such as early and forced marriage, early and unintended pregnancy and violence. The wider impacts of COVID-19 exacerbate these pressures, putting 11 million girls at risk of not going back to school this year.
When girls miss out on education, the impacts last a lifetime and beyond to future generations as girls miss out on the opportunities that enable them and their communities to prosper.
UNESCO launched the “Keeping Girls in the Picture” campaign to ensure that every girl is able to learn while schools are closed and return to the classroom once schools safely reopen. This ambitious goal would call for a multifaceted campaign that made use of a wide range of media throughout to reach global audiences, along with those in the regions with the greatest gender disparities in education before COVID-19, namely South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
In order to reach the rural areas where internet access is scarce, we made use of a variety of non-digital mediums such as radio, flyers, posters and newspaper adverts. We created a toolkit to support community radio programmes in creating memorable content to raise awareness about girls’ education in the regions where it is most at risk. We worked with youth-led organizations to develop a toolkit for youth advocacy, drawing on the power of youth voices and networks.
Amplifying the voices of girls in difficult contexts was another important objective of the campaign, moving people to consider the people behind the stats and facts. Deepa, 16, from Nepal; Halima, 16, from Somalia; Bati, 18, from Kenya; and Mariam, 18, from Afghanistan all shared their inspiring stories on how COVID-19 has impacted their education and how they are managing to continue learning and even support other girls to learn.
We leveraged support from social media influencers, partners and person-to-person approaches in order to reach key regional leaders that have the power to insist on and effect change. Getting influential activists and high-profile figures like Aychuta Samanta and Joyce Banda, and rising voices like Ameyaw Debrah, Edith Yah Brou, Stella Damasus and Japheth Joshua Omojuwa, to name just a few, to work with us added credibility to the campaign’s mission and helped reach highly targeted niche online audiences.
Rooftop supported UNESCO in adopting a targeted and structured marketing strategy that increased the reach and credibility of the campaign, and played a crucial role in achieving its objectives. This campaign was successful because it worked at multiple levels (offline and online) and with a wide range of partners that targeted different key audience segments effectively. The digital side of the campaign was translated into more than 8 languages and had a potential reach of over 360 million people. The campaign video received over 5.4M views on UNESCO’s Facebook and Instagram channels in English, Spanish and French. With extensive tools, resources, and links to community partners, UNESCO is now moving the campaign into countries – with the aim to ensure that all girls can achieve their right to education.