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UNGEI Marks International Day of the Girl Child: The Power of the Adolescent Girl

©UNICEF/2015/Christine Nesbitt
New York, 12 October 2015 – A high-level discussion forum including prominent girls’ education advocates from partner organizations and keynote speaker Chelsea Clinton, was held at UNICEF headquarters to mark International Day of the Girl Child. The panel discussion was part of a full day of celebrations drawing global attention to the importance of increased social, economic, and political investment in adolescent girls both today and in the future. 

“The power of the adolescent girl is considerable. An estimated 600 million adolescent girls live in developing countries – an enormous pool of untapped potential,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, who opened the day’s events.

Lake was joined on the panel by Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair, Clinton Foundation, Aaron Benavot, Director of Education for All Gender Monitoring Report (EFA GMR), Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO, Plan International, and Shabana Basij-Rasikh, CEO, School of Leadership in Afghanistan. 

Education was at the heart of the discussion as each panelist highlighted how integral quality education is to empowering adolescent girls.

In her key note address, Clinton talked about the importance of bringing new global parties to the conversation and making new data more accessible to a global audience, and especially to girls.

"Data not only helps measure progress, but it helps inspire progress," she said. “Ultimately this is about every individual girl. And data is important, but so too, are leaders.”

A new gender report produced by the EFA GMR in partnership with UNGEI, was launched to report on global progress in achieving gender equity and equality in education since the year 2000. 

“If we don't shift focus (from gender parity) towards gender equality, girls will be restricted from accessing and benefiting from education,” said Benavot in his presentation of the report’s key findings.

Benavot emphasized that despite the positive strides made on a global scale in the past 15 years, progress does not always mean success. The report found that fewer than half of countries have achieved the goal of gender parity in both primary and secondary education, even though all were supposed to achieve it by 2005. 

Basij-Rasikh presented a picture of her experiences in Afghanistan that has made the fastest progress of any country over the past few years in closing the gender gap in education. She outlined some of the challenges faced for girls’ education in Afghanistan where she founded the School of Leadership in Kabul. Basij-Rasikh stressed the urgent need for good teachers if progress towards achieving the education goals was to continue in her country.


"I envision an Afghanistan where all girls and boys have equal access not just to the education that they are receiving today, but to a quality education," she said. “I envision an Afghanistan where brothers and fathers recognize sisters, wives, mothers as equal and responsible citizens in their households, in their societies, and in the world.”

The day was concluded by an exhibit to showcase work from partners including UNICEF, Plan International, Girls Not Brides, Together for Girls, ICRW, UN Foundation, Girl Effect, UNESCO, Population Council and others. The booths presented interactive social media campaigns featuring partners’ work related to adolescent girls around the world, as well as a virtual reality experience developed by the UN Millennium Campaign.

Watch a recording of the event:

unicef on Broadcast Live Free



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