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United Arab Emirates: Newsline

UAE: Bringing education closer to the reality of young Arab girls

UNICEF MENA Regional Director, Mr. Thomas McDermott addresses the audience at the opening session of the Second Arab Regional Media Forum.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, 3 May 2006 - In the midst of its hasty, futuristic development as a global business center, cosmopolitan Dubai this week has also become the capital of deliberation around one largely unsettled developmental issue in Arab countries: Girls' Education.
Faced with increasing consensus on the need for profound reforms in the social and economic domains, several Arab countries have witnessed positive advancement of women's issues, especially in terms of human rights and participation. Yet, with nearly half of the region's women remaining unable to read or write, girls' education transcends the status of a developmental priority to become a survival imperative.

Luckily, the substance of this week's debates rises above the traditional conference sessions and goodwill declarations. This time, all the event's sponsors are to identify areas of collaboration with media professionals in the region. A revolution in the concept of meetings, technical experts from guest organizations are requested to lecture less and listen closer to media-driven ideas and initiatives on the ground to promote girls' education, which have proven to work both in principle and practice.

Media stories and anecdotes are filling the room as evidence is shared of UNICEF-supported initiatives including community schools for quality education in Upper Egypt; the grille école de qualité, reaching some 300 school councils in Morocco and involving parents and teachers in the review of curricula and issues of child protection, and the journalist clubs promoting quality of education and adequate water and sanitation facilities for girls in Yemen. 

UNICEF MENA Regional Goodwill Ambassador, Mahmoud Kabil, discusses girls' education issues with Dubai-based journalists.

Innovative approaches to partnering with media are at the core of the Second Arab Regional Media Forum on Child Rights. Participants –including a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child- expressed confidence that this exercise will enhance options for interaction with child-friendly media associations.

Examples already abound of media projects supporting girls' education in the region:

• The BBC World Service Trust, through creative storytelling and media workshops held with UNICEF support in four countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen) launched the "My Life" project. This involved the participation of young girls and women from different social backgrounds, encouraging them to voice their personal dreams for the future.

• Similarly, the BBC Arabic – UNICEF radio series Madrassa Li'l Banat (A school for girls) presents a set of success stories of Arab girls' commitment to education despite tradition and circumstance.

• Also an effect of liaison with UNICEF, the Al Jazeera news network this year produced and aired a number of TV spots with compelling images and a clear focus on child rights and MDGs.

Still very often, bringing girls into school and keeping them from forsaking their education opportunities has failed to recognize the potential of media partners as amplifiers of girls' concerns and expectations in terms of their schooling. Hopes are that action resulting from this forum will rectify that omission and help create sustainable media partnerships to promote equality and support girls in their effort to progress and excel.


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