News and Events: Press releases

Girls’ education will shape progress for Somalia, says UNICEF

Nairobi, Kenya, 7 March 2008 – As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, UNICEF Somalia called for urgent action to get more girls in school.

According to UNICEF estimates, only one in 4 girls of primary school-age in Somalia is enrolled in school – one of the lowest rates worldwide. “This is a situation that must change rapidly,” said UNICEF Representative in Somalia Christian Balslev-Olesen. “The education of girls will shape the progress we want to see for Somalia in terms of peace and development.”

According to the UNICEF Representative, much more must be done - and faster - to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of universal primary education and gender parity...

“The education of girls is paramount in the fight against poverty; against infant, child and maternal mortality and national under-development,” Balslev-Olesen said, “However, if wide-spread, large-scale resources are allocated to girls’ education it would make a tremendous difference to the progress that Somalia can make in terms of recovery and reconciliation.”

A recent Primary Education Survey of Somalia conducted by UNICEF shows girls’ gross enrolment at 25 per cent, while boys’ gross enrolment is 37 per cent. At present, only some 121,000 Somali girls attend primary school. By 2009, UNICEF wants to see that figure increase by at least 50,000. 

Although UNICEF’s work over the years with communities, local authorities and partners has yielded results in getting more children into school - especially girls – the children’s agency wants local authorities and the international community to invest much more in Somalia’s education sector.

Seventeen years without a central government in Somalia has resulted in an education system that lacks a national education policy, copes with inadequate infrastructure and equipment and relies mostly on low-qualified volunteer teachers.

UNICEF Somalia is helping Somali girls to complete their primary schooling by addressing several of the factors that dissuade them from going to school. The agency’s ‘Go to School’ programme not only provides school spaces, teacher training and teaching and learning materials but also provides schools with water, sanitation and hygiene education, health care and life-skills to create child-friendly environments where girls are encouraged and supported in their learning.

UNICEF works in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For interviews, please call: 
Christian Balslev-Olesen, UNICEF Representative, +254 722 514 569 or +254 733 629 933
Nuradin Dirie (for interviews in Somali and Arabic), +254 722 582 646

For further information, please contact:
Denise Shepherd-Johnson, Chief, Communication, UNICEF Somalia, Tel: +254 20 762-3958;
Mob: +254 722 919 867; Email:



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