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Leading international experts offer an action plan for accelerating progress on achieving gender parity in education target

UNITED NATIONS, 9 March 2005 – With the international community’s failure to meet the first  Millennium Development Goal target in 2005 for equal participation in education for girls and boys, leading international experts from a broad sector of civil society and multilateral organizations warned that unless bold actions are taken by countries, reaching the 2015 goal of universal primary education may be dangerously at risk.
 
During a side event on Mar. 9 at the ten-year review of the Fourth World Conference on Women, experts reviewed the challenges in meeting the 2005 target and offered a new plan of action to accelerate progress toward achieving the gender parity in education target. It also aims to strengthen alliances between education organizations and women's groups.
 
While some progress has been made on girls’ education, girls are still largely out of school compared to boys. Today, some 115 children worldwide are not enrolled in school, of which 60 million are girls. In Africa, only 1 in 5 girls attend secondary school.
 
The side event, “Missing the 2005 Gender Parity Target -- Strategies for Accelerating Progress,” was organized by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and co-sponsored by the Global Campaign for Education and the Beyond Access Project.
 
The Beijing Platform of Action and Millennium Development Goals made a firm commitment to education as a human right and essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. Despite the pledges by world governments, the international community missed the first MDG target, set for 2005, for gender parity in primary and secondary education.
 
Based on current trends, a new briefing paper released at the event, charged that since most countries have not met the 2005 target, achieving the goal by 2015 may be out of reach for 40 percent of countries around the world.
 
The briefing paper, “Girls Can’t Wait,” produced by the Global Campaign for Education, a member of UNGEI, stressed that world governments need to take drastic action now to prevent devastating economic and social costs. It predicted that the slow progress on girls’ education would account for 10 million child and maternal deaths and cost impoverished countries as much as 3 percentage points in lost economic growth.
 
“The Beijing +10 review and the MDG +5 review later this year are probably the last chance before 2015 to mobilize genuine political will and resources behind a robust plan and timetable to get every girl in school and learning,” the paper stated.
 
Rima Salah UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director said: “We know that progress in girls’ education is fundamental to the achievement and sustainability of poverty reduction and all of the other development goals.” 
 
“We know that educating girls brings multiple benefits and the positive impact is quick and long-lasting: reduced child mortality, increased productivity and income, more educated children, and gains for women and girls’ social status and empowerment,” Salah asserted.
 
Emphasizing that poverty and child work are the biggest factors denying girls’ access to education, the briefing paper recommended three steps to remove barriers to girls’ access and  learning:
 
1. Abolish user fees in basic education - provide tuition, books and materials free of charge and eliminate compulsory uniform requirements.
 
2. Provide extra incentives and support to the poorest families to help compensate them for the costs of girls' labor.
 
3. Invest more resources in education.  Governments need to spend at least 3% of GDP on basic education and donors need to provide at least $7 billion a year in international assistance.
 
The panelists at the side event included: Marilyn Blaeser of CARE, representing Global Campaign for Education; Fama Ba, UNFPA, Director, Africa Division; Susan Hopgood, Education International, Vice-President; Frances Vavrus, Columbia University, Associate Professor of Education; Arezo Mohammad Yasin Educational and Training Center for Poor Women and Girls of Afghanistan, Project Manager; and Susan Matale of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Council of Zambia.  Rima Salah, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director, moderated the event.
 
 
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For more information:

Shanta Bryant Gyan: (1) 202.412.4603  

Organizer: United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) is a global partnership that aims to narrow the gender gap in primary and secondary education by 2005 and to ensure that by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to all levels of education. UNICEF is the lead agency and Secretariat for UNGEI. Co-sponsored by the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) whose objectives are to promote education as a basic human right, and mobilize public pressure on governments and the international community to fulfill their promises to provide free, compulsory public basic education for all people; The Beyond Access Project, a partnership between OXFAM , DFID and the Institute of Education of the University of London, which seeks to promote MDG 3-promoting gender equality and empower women by generating, examining and sharing knowledge and practice regarding gender equality and education.


 

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