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Pakistan Girls’ Education Initiative Launched to tackle inequality

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©UNICEF Pakistan/2010
At the launch of the Pakistan Girls’ Education Initiative, (L-R) Mr. Aurangzeb Khan, Ms. Nafisa Shah, Dr. Fehmida Mirza, Ms. Cheryl Gregory Faye and Mr. Deepak Bajracharya

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, 30 December 2010 - In a concerted effort to address gender disparities in education, Pakistan’s Federal Ministry of Education, with the support of the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD), the UNGEI Secretariat, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launched the Pakistan Girls’ Education Initiative (PGEI) on 9 December at the Pakistan National Council for Arts, Islamabad.

The initiative, which grew out of extensive consultations with stakeholders across the country, aims to address the critical issues of educating girls in a country with an estimated 5 million children, the majority of them girls, are out of school.  Man-made and natural disasters, including the wide-spread flooding in July this year further exacerbated the situation, with over 10,000 schools partially or fully damaged and almost 2,900 schools now occupied by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Before an audience of 300 participants from all parts of the country, National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza welcomed the establishment of PGEI as a “step towards creating effective alliances of committed partners at the international, federal and provincial levels in order to create an enabling educational environment, where girls, as well as boys, can flourish and unleash their untapped potential.”

“World development models have shown that by educating their women, nations have succeeded in minimizing the maternal and infant mortality risks, improved the community health structures, created employments, enhanced economic returns and transformed human settlements into peaceful, self-respecting and progressive societies,” Ms. Mirza said.

The Government of Pakistan has taken vital strategic steps towards creating an “education friendly country”, Ms. Mirza continued.  “Eight important bills have been forwarded to the constitutional committee … The foremost among them has been the inclusion of Article 25-A in the constitution through the 18th amendment, which now guarantees the right of free and compulsory education to every child - both girls as well as boys - of the age of five to six years.”

NCHD Director-General Zulfiqar Ahmad said the government has endorsed a global mandate on gender equity for promoting and mainstreaming the integration of gender-sensitive policy strategies into national development policies and programmes at all levels.

According to Mr. Ahmad, the NCHD, a civil society organization, has adopted a two-pronged strategy to enhance literacy rates in Pakistan, through the support of provinces and districts in Universal Primary Education and adult literacy programs. This effort will support evidence-based planning and implementation for enhancement of girls’ education in Pakistan.

Head of the UNGEI Secretariat Cheryl Gregory Faye said that PGEI was the outcome of the effective participation of the Pakistan delegation in UNGEI’s 10th anniversary conference, “Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality,” held in May 2010 in Dakar, Senegal, and its dynamic membership in the drafting committee of the Dakar Declaration on Accelerating Girls’ Education and Gender Equality, the first global declaration on girls’ education.

“Through the PGEI network – with its enhanced capability for information sharing, building partnerships among key stakeholders, policy advocacy and assistance to the government of Pakistan in its response to emergencies – our hope is that each child in Pakistan, girl and boy alike, will complete a high quality education,” Ms. Faye said.

PGEI, the newest addition to UNGEI in the South Asia region, is currently developing a work plan for 2011 which will feature the establishment of subnational partnerships in the country’s six province.

 

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