By Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF


  • Excellencies, Hon. Ministers, Distinguished Heads of Agencies, dear colleagues and friends. On behalf of all partners in the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), I am delighted and honoured to welcome you all to this technical consultation on: “ Girls' Education and Female Adult Literacy: From Vicious Cycle to Virtuous Cycle ”.
  • This technical consultation is designed firstly for us to collectively take stock of achievements relating to gender parity in education, This, as you know, is the first credibility test of our ability to achieve the goals of Education for All (EFA) set out in Dakar in April, 2000; as well as the millennium development goals (MDGs) agreed by world leaders later in 2000. Indeed the headlines proclaim that we are meeting as the clock strikes midnight for this particular target of gender parity in primary and secondary education, set for 2005. We have a collective responsibility for achieving this target, celebrating success in every country as well as sharing the concerns and burden where countries are yet to achieve this target. As such we do not have the option of simply allocating blame or highlighting failure, as some are prone to do.
  • We must first acknowledge the achievements of many countries, often against great odds, in making progress towards the 2005 target. We hope to learn from your presentations on what countries have achieved. Yes, we know there should be serious concern over our failure to achieve this target in 45?? countries, but there is much to celebrate as well. You will find that this sense of celebration is evident in the presentations and discussions at this technical consultation. I do not mean just the numbers and statistical analysis, but more so the vivid life stories and moving examples that so richly illustrate what success or failure means for the girls and boys whose hopes and fears for the future depend on how well we deliver on the promise of quality basic education for all.
  • More importantly, we need to remind ourselves that gender parity is not simply an education destination, but a pathway through which education contributes to the building of a just and equitable society. Beyond the numbers measuring parity, there are issues of using parity as a platform for gender equality; so that girls and boys alike experience a quality of education that prepares them for equitable and just societies. This is something that UNGEI partners understand well and why we are very concerned with making gender a central concern in all aspects of education and development. It is also why we are focused on the way forward with gender and education at this technical consultation.
  • This brings me to the second purpose of the consultation, which is to assess the prospects for achieving parity and laying the foundations for gender equality. Much progress has been made with education since 2000, but this cannot be properly captured and reflected in our reporting with statistics that lag behind reality. We need other indicators such as policy changes, investment trends and changes in the way countries do business or assist each other, in order to gauge prospects for achieving gender parity in the future. These will be reflected in presentations made at this technical consultation. The GAP Review and the contributions of countries and development partners will highlight how we have been working on these issues and what prospects there are for the future.
  • The way forward as we see it, is to learn valuable lessons from the way we have worked in the past and build on the emerging frameworks for good practice in country leadership as well as external support and aid effectiveness in education and development. It is in this regard that we should embrace a series of bold initiatives to transform progress and prospects for the future. In support of such bold initiatives, UNGEI partners need to strengthen the partnership and sharpen the contribution we can make to this process. It is my hope that as the clock strikes midnight for gender parity in education, UNGEI will be further strengthened at the country level as well as the regional and global levels. As the principal spokesperson for girls' education in UNICEF, I promise that I will continue to articulate the cause of UNGEI loudly and clearly. Please join me and raise your voices for UNGEI, so that together we can become a most persuasive and articulate chorus for gender parity and equality in education and development.