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Girls demand equal access to education
Each of the secondary school-age girls at the workshop attended school for at least 5 years despite strong opposition from their families and communities. They spoke of the battle they had faced while trying to go to school; education, they said, had freed them from chains that had seemed unbreakable and given them lives and opportunities that they had once only dreamed of.
Among those present at the workshop were India’s Secretary for Elementary Education and UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, who applauded the girls for their steadfastness and determination. She encouraged them to continue advocating the value of education to their families, communities, and the government, and reiterated that quality education for girls is key to transforming societies.
The proportion of girls who are able to attend school in India continues to remain low in comparison to that of boys their age. Approximately 70% of girls between the age of 6 and 10 attend primary school in India as compared to 76% of boys in the same age group. The situation is worse at the upper primary level where only 40% of girls attend school. The main factors influencing this disparity include poverty and the continuing hold of social and cultural beliefs that discriminate against girls.
This call for an equal education coincides with a crucial deadline set by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals: that gender parity in primary and secondary education be achieved this year, 2005.