News and Events: Press releases

UN Girls’ Education Initiative calls for girls’ education to be a top international priority

NEW YORK, 4 May 2011 – As the world celebrates Global Action Week for education, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) called for greater efforts at both national and international levels to make education for girls and women a priority.

This year’s Global Action Week focuses on Education for Women and Girls, as females continue to constitute 53 per cent – more than half – of the population of out-of-school children.

“Making sure that both girls and boys have an equal opportunity to education is a huge challenge for the global community,” said Cheryl Gregory Faye, Head of the UNGEI Secretariat. “With only four years left until the Millennium Development Goals deadline, we must step up our efforts to ensure all children everywhere their right to a quality education. Recent key reports have warned the progress made in education and gender equality over recent years is slowing down,” she continued. “UNGEI calls on the global community to step up the momentum.”

There have been impressive gains over the last two decades to ensure girls and boys have equal access to primary education. However, at least 69 countries are yet to achieve gender parity in primary school enrolment and many are unlikely to achieve this target by the 2015 deadline, according to the 2011 Education for All Global Monitoring Report. And in 26 countries, there are fewer than nine girls in primary school for every ten boys. The gap widens at secondary level.

Children, particularly girls, in conflict-affected countries are the most deprived of access to education, according to the same report.

With barely four years remaining, the stakes in meeting the Millennium Development Goals are high, and costs of the failure to meet these targets will most likely be disproportionately borne by the world’s poorest and most vulnerable girls and women.

Globally, only one out of three countries has reached parity in both primary and secondary education, and where parity has been reached the challenge still remains in keeping girls in school and learning.

Deep-rooted inequalities linked to wealth, gender, ethnicity, language and location continue to be major barriers to universal primary education.

UNGEI is committed to working to overcome these challenges through continued investments in initiatives that promote enrolment and retention of girls in school. These include subsidies and financial incentives for girls, such as stipends, scholarships and uniforms, as well as school fee abolition for all children. Creating safe school environments, both physical and psychological, and introducing changes in education systems that can contribute to gender equality in the long term are critically important.

Other key steps include paying greater attention to policy, finance and programming relating to gender equality, including in education in emergencies, ensuring that gender equality efforts address the rights of boys as well as girls. Mainstreaming gender in education at all levels, including policy, budgeting and administration, and integrating gender in various aspects of development, especially social protection and poverty alleviation, are other important interventions.


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