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UNGEI returns to Dakar for milestone meeting on girls’ education

Samedi Belvia Micheline, 11, at Cotanof School in the town of Boda in the south-western Lobaye Province, Central African Republic.

By Shivangi Shrivastava

DAKAR, 16 May 2010 – As education, particularly for girls, is threatened to be pushed onto the back burner, a major conference will open here on Monday, to put girls’ education front and center.

“Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality” (E4), will run for three days and marks the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), launched by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Education Forum in Dakar.

“The present situation demands urgent action. Millions of children are still denied an education and most of them are girls,” said Ms. Cheryl Gregory Faye, Head of the UNGEI Secretariat. “Dakar can boost efforts to close the gender gap by promoting girls’ education and can also lead to implementing strategies for reaching other marginalized and excluded children, like those affected by emergencies, displaced children, children with disabilities and those ostracized by disease, ethnicity or distance.”

In the last week, preparations have intensified for the conference, organized in collaboration with the Government of Senegal. This high-level international gathering will bring together over 200 global experts to unlock quality education opportunities for girls and boys worldwide. While commending the Government of Senegal for its leadership in the organization of E4, Ms. Faye said that the collaboration also helped advance the newly formed country-level UNGEI partnership here in Senegal.

E4 will be officially opened by His Excellency Mr. Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye, Prime Minister of Senegal.  Mr. Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF and Mr. Kalidou Diallo, Senegal Minister of Preschool, Primary and Lower Secondary Education and National Languages, will attend the opening ceremony.

Given this high-level participation, security in and around the venue, Le Meridien President, in the Almadies neighborhood of Dakar, has been beefed up, and protocol considerations are paramount. In addition to the dignitaries, acclaimed Senegalese singer, Coumba Galow will be part of the opening ceremony, which will be hosted by leading international journalist and broadcaster Femi Oke.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1889/Josh Estey
A girl smiles as she peers out from behind her classroom door at a primary school in Bantul District, Indonesia.

Delegates have begun to pour in for the conference.  Country delegations to the conference comprised of experts from governments, civil society, and international institutions span 22 countries from West and Central Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and the Pacific.  Leading global researchers on gender and education from many additional countries will present their work at the conference.

In line with the considerable interest in the media around the issue of gender and education, E4 aims to utilize the opportunity to bring its message of quality education for all children, girls and boys alike, to new constituencies globally.

The conference will conclude with solid outcomes that spur action on advancing education and gender equality goals at the global, regional and country levels.

At the global level, the Dakar Declaration on Girls’ Education will galvanize the international community on the girls’ education agenda to accelerate action to the MDG end date and beyond.

At the regional and country levels, E4 will add to the existing knowledge base on pressing obstacles around girls’ education and how to overcome them, culminating in country plans to achieve gender and education targets as we move toward 2015-a target by world leaders to achieve universal primary education and gender equality and female empowerment.

“Taking a rights based approach to education requires us to know who is not in school, to find out what it will take to get them and keep them there—and then to make it happen. This is what we hope to achieve in Dakar,” Ms. Faye said.

Sonia Yeo and Shimali Senanayake contributed to this report from New York.


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The E4 Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality Conference
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The Dakar conference starts Monday,17 May 2010.  The opening ceremony will be webcastlive at 17:00 UTC (view time across timezones)!


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