Without achieving gender equality for girls in education, the world has no chance of achieving many of the ambitious health, social and development targets it has set for itself, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today.
"Education is the right of every one of the world's daughters, as well as its sons. It is also crucial to our progress in reaching many other development goals," he told the Conference on Gender Parity in Education in Washington in a video message.
"If we are to succeed in our efforts to build a healthier, peaceful and equitable world, classrooms must be full of girls as well as boys. By educating girls, we will help raise economic productivity and reduce both maternal and infant mortality. By educating girls, we will improve nutrition, promote health, and fight HIV/AIDS.
"By educating girls, we will trigger a transformation of society as a whole – social, economic and political. That is why education and gender equality together must be given priority," he added.
"Yet of the more than 100 million children who are not in school, most are still girls," he declared, noting that world leaders have set this year as the target date for girls to catch up with boys in primary and secondary education, not 2015 as with other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that slash other ills such as extreme poverty, hunger and infant and maternal mortality.
"There can be no more excuses. No more broken promises. We have to work much harder to meet our targets," he said.