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Building a just society through gender equality

©UNICEF China/2005/Li Ming
Ms Rima Salah speaking at the Reception.

BEIJING, China, 26-27 November 2005 – A new UNICEF report has proposed critical steps to help the countries that are struggling to achieve educational equality for girls.

The report, issued at a meeting of the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) and partners, revealed that 46 countries did not meet the international goals for gender parity in schools set for 2005.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah emphasized the importance of gender parity in education, calling it “a pathway to build a just and equitable society.”

“As principal spokesperson for girls’ education in UNICEF, I promise that I will continue to articulate the cause of UNGEI loudly and clearly,” said Ms. Salah at the opening session of the meeting, held in China’s capital, 26-27 November.

© UNICEF China/2005/Li Ming
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah speaks at the opening session of UNGEI meeting, held at Beijing Hotel, Beijing, China.

The majority of the nearly 115 million children that remain out of school are girls. The failure this year jeopardizes all of the Millennium Development Goals set by the U.N. and signed by world leaders in 2000. The Goals set year 2015 as a target for the world to achieve measurable improvements in the areas such as peace and security, poverty reduction, the environment and human rights.

Report reviews failure and celebrates achievements

The report, Gender Achievements and Progress in Education (GAP), not only examines why the deadline was missed – poverty, discrimination, poor government policies and disease are among the chief culprits – and discusses radical ways to help the countries that did not make the grade. The report also celebrates the achievements that had been made towards the 2005 target.

Some delegates at the meeting emphasized the importance of abolishing school fees to promote girls’ education, while others raised the issues of building partnerships between Governments and non-governmental organizations, and the need of more funding for adult literacy programmes. Participants also discussed alternative approaches outside the schools system, and shared their best practices in promoting girls’ education.

©UNICEF China/2005/Li Ming
Ms. Salah being interviewed by China Education Television after the meeting.

Chen Xiaoya, China’s Vice Minister of Basic Education, summarized China’s achievements since the major anti–illiteracy campaigns kicked off back in the 1950’s. Despite all that had been achieved, Madame Chen pointed out that China still has 55 million people, many of them women living in remote areas, who don’t know how to read and write.
Following the meeting, Ms. Salah took interviews with the Chinese TV and print media. Asked how it would be possible to achieve the gender parity goals in education, Ms. Salah replied that three fundamental issues need to be addressed, namely poverty, tradition and the lack of political commitment.

Cream Wright, UNICEF’s Chief of Education, agreed. "There are different problems in different countries but poverty is at the root. Thus it should not only be the responsibility of the state but of international society.”


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26-27 November 2005:
UNICEF Correspondent Steve Nettleton reports on the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) meeting.

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