Send more girls to school, UNICEF stresses during Global Education Action Week

21 April 2004

As part of the global Education for All Week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for increased efforts to reduce the disproportionate number of girls denied schooling.

As part of the global Education for All Week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for increased efforts to reduce the disproportionate number of girls denied schooling.

“As long as millions of girls are denied a basic education, we stand little chance of improving the lives of the world’s poorest people,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy says in a message. “Education is not only the key to a young girl's personal fulfilment, but it is essential for reducing poverty, stopping HIV/AIDS, and achieving all other development goals.”

Of the 121 million children out of school, more than half are girls. As the world nears the 2005 goal to get as many girls as boys into school, UNICEF’s key education initiative, “25 by 2005,” has made a concerted effort to maximize the enrolment of girls in 25 countries where the situation is most critical.

In these countries, UNICEF is working closely with national governments and a wide range of partners to rapidly reduce the number of out-of-school girls.

The agency focuses strategically on protecting the right of girls to education since they are systematically denied schooling and generally face higher barriers than boys to get into and stay in school.

The gender gap is most pronounced in sub-Saharan Africa, where 24 million girls were out of school in 2002, and in South Asia, where 23.5 million girls are denied schooling. Eighty-three percent of all girls out of school live in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific.

Girls’ education brings with it a multitude of benefits that begin with the girl herself and extend to her family, community and ultimately to her country. Educating girls is the most effective tool to reduce infant and maternal mortality and to combat HIV/AIDS, child trafficking and exploitation. And by making schools more inviting for girls, classrooms become better learning places for both girls and boys.

“The benefits of educating girls are both immediate and long-lasting,” Ms. Bellamy says. “Developing countries would be hard put to find an investment that would bring a better return.”

Meanwhile, in Mexico City yesterday, UNICEF Ambassador Jessica Lange launched a handbook for parliamentarians on child protection. The guide details ways in which legislators around the world can take practical steps can ensure children are protected.

 

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