African News

New UN Program for Girls’ Education

18 April 2006 at 03:55 | 588 views

The United Nations has launched a new broad based initiative in West and Central
Africa to increase girls’ access to quality education in an effort to achieve
the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of universal primary education and gender equality.

“The challenges we face in terms of access to education for girls in this region
are enormous, but they are achievable when we join all our efforts,” UN
Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Yvonne Chaka-Chaka(photo), the South
African singer said at the launch in Dakar, Senegal, of the UN Girls’ Education
Initiative (UNGEI), a wide partnership of UN agencies, national and local
governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Girls’ education and quality education in the region face many challenges, from
emergencies and HIV/AIDS, to deepening poverty and persistent gender
disparities. The result is that about one child out of two is out of school,
most of them girls from poor rural areas.

Over 80 per cent of children out of school have mothers with no formal
education, and region-wide only 86 girls are in school for every 100 boys.

“There is so much at stake, economically and politically for this region, that
we simply cannot trifle with the contribution of women and girls,” UNICEF acting
interim Regional Director Theophane Nikyema said.

“The sooner we give more attention to gender equality and equity, to prepare the
foundation for girls through a quality, empowering education, the better for
both the region and the continent as a whole,” he added.

The complexity of the issues preventing girls from accessing school requires a
diverse group of partners to address them with the goal of moving girls’
education forward at every level and in every setting, UNICEF said.

To reach the MDGs related to girls’ education by their target date of 2015,
countries in the region must increase the enrolment rate by 3.5 per cent per
year, but the annual increase observed between 1980 and 2001 has been only 1 per
cent. The NGO Oxfam predicts that “at the current rate of progress, gender
parity will not be reached until 2038.”

UN agencies participating in UNGEI include UNICEF, the UN International Labour
Organization (ILO), World Bank, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint UN
Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM),
the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Other key partners include national and local governments, ministries of
education, grass-roots organizations, local and international NGOs and donor
governments. Partnerships already struck with the African Union (AU) and the
Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) are critical in mobilizing
country action for UNGEI objectives

For more details go to UN News Centre at