The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today announced the launch of a new campaign to get girls into school in 25 priority countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Speaking to a meeting of African education ministers in Dar-es-Salaam, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy announced the "25 by 2005" drive to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education, pledging that her agency will do whatever is necessary to help the countries meet the goal of gender equality in education by 2005.
"It is our commitment that no girl will be left behind as her country attempts to move forward, and that every girl will be educated to assume her rightful place as an agent in her country's development," Ms. Bellamy told the eighth conference of Ministers of Education of African Member States.
The UNICEF chief warned that failure to achieve credible progress toward the goals is a threat to human development. "Any delay will only perpetuate entrenched inequities and condemn yet another generation of children to a life of poverty, dependence, and unfulfilled possibility," she said.
The new initiative targets countries based on such factors as low enrolment rates for girls, more than 1 million girls out of school, and prevailing crises that affect schooling opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.
In each country, UNICEF will work with the government to mobilize new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls in school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to girls.
The campaign will cover Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Sudan, Tanzania, Turkey, Yemen and Zambia.