The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today called on Governments, the private sector and civil society to scale up efforts to provide quality education for girls, stressing the transformative benefits this has for all of society.
Speaking at the second annual Global Education and Skills Forum, held in Dubai, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova pointed out that there were 31 million girls out of school in 2011, of whom 55 per cent are expected to never enrol, and that women still represent two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.
“This is a waste of talent and human ingenuity that no society can afford,” Ms. Bokova stated in a news release.
“Girls education is a development multiplier and one of the most powerful transformational forces we have to build peace and social inclusion,” she added. “Educated girls have healthier families, earn more income and contribute to national growth. Everyone benefits.”
Ms. Bokova warned that “a generation of young women will be left behind” unless there is a concerted global push now, and at all levels of society, to change the status quo.
At a session devoted to New Partnerships for Girls’ and Women’s Education, the Director-General encouraged business leaders present to join UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ Education.
Launched in 2011 by Ms. Bokova, Secretary General Bank Ki-moon and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the initiative targets the weakest links in education – the transition to secondary education and literacy.
The Partnership has brought together several Governments, private sector leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide girls and women in underprivileged urban and rural areas in Africa and Asia with education and learning opportunities.
Some 20,000 learners and hundreds of teachers and ministry officials have benefitted from projects implemented in seven countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tanzania – including awareness-raising and capacity-building activities, academic support, access to learning opportunities, guidance and counselling, as well as access to, training on and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
“We have seen that we can produce results,” said Ms. Bokova. “But to make a real difference, we must scale up our efforts exponentially. Our actions must measure up to our ambitions. This requires greater engagement from all sectors.”
Over the next two years, UNESCO will seek to increase the number and diversity of its partners in girls’ education; expand the geographic coverage of its activities; increase the amount of resources invested; and promote innovative approaches and encourage South-South and North-South-South cooperation.
More than 1,000 representatives of Government, NGOs, business leaders and academia are attending the Forum, which is organized by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education of the United Arab Emirates, GEMS Education, the Varkey GEMS Foundation and Dubai Cares, in support of the Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative.