the world, girls are less likely to be enrolled in school, and even less likely
to complete a basic education, than boys. In many countries, girls face much
higher barriers to getting into school. Entrenched traditions, poverty,
inadequate facilities and sometimes lack of government are some of the many
hurdles that disproportionately affect girls and hamper their
As long as girls are left behind, the goals of educating all
children and ensuring real human development can never be achieved. A girl who
is denied an education is more vulnerable to poverty, hunger, violence, abuse
and exploitation, trafficking, HIV/AIDS and maternal mortality – a legacy that
may well be passed on to her own children.
Few of the Millennium
Development Goals will be met unless there is significant progress in girls’
education. Educating girls is a sure way to raise economic productivity, lower
child and maternal mortality, improve nutritional status and health, reduce
poverty and eliminate HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Getting more girls
into school today will also pay enormous dividends for the next generation. A
girl who has an education is more likely to contribute fully to political,
social and economic life and grow up to be a mother whose own children are more
likely to survive, be better nourished and go to school themselves. She will be
more productive at home and better paid in the workplace. She will be better
able to protect herself and her children.
The best way to ensure quality
education for all children – boys as well as girls – is to eliminate the
barriers that keep girls out of the classroom: schools that are long distances
from home, school feels and other hidden costs, lack of safe water and
sanitation, discrimination and the threat of violence.
The challenge is
a daunting one and requires the combined efforts of more than just one
organization. Strong in its capacity as a convener for children, UNICEF is the
lead agency in the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, a network
bringing together governments, donor countries, other United Nations agencies,
non-governmental organizations and other partners to ensure that by 2015, all
children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to
all levels of education.
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