Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – World Population Day, 11 July 2009
The Working Group on Girls partnered with the UN Department of Public Information to produce the April 1, 2010 NGO Briefing entitled, “Girls’ Education” An End to Poverty?”
Established as a human right over 60 years ago, education is unquestionably a valuable investment for countries in the development of their people, allowing them in turn to make better lives for themselves. Nowhere is this more important than in developing countries, and most specifically among the adolescent female population. According to an important study on the subject by the Center for Global Development, entitled Girls Count: A Global Investment and Action Agenda: “without adequate skills and training, and without access to economic self-sufficiency, many girls in developing countries enter into child marriages. One in seven girls in developing countries marry by age 15, and in 15 countries throughout South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of all girls are married before age 18.” There is also a very strong link between lack of education, gender inequality and poverty. This is underscored by the Girls Count study: “approximately one-sixth of the world’s young people live on less than two dollars a day….This level of extreme poverty determines the lives and possibilities for many young women and girls, such as the 122 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa who live on less than one dollar a day.”
Indeed, for girls and women living in poverty, education is not only the key to a brighter future but the means for survival and a critical driver for economic growth worldwide. Fortunately, considerable progress has been made towards shrinking the gender gap in education: overall female enrollment at the primary level in low-income countries has grown from 87% in 1990 to 94% in 2004, the result of governments among others, recognizing the centrality of girls’ education to development.
This Briefing focused on the issue of girls’ education and its connection to development. Specifically, the panel examined how the issue is being addressed in the sub-Saharan country of Benin, where significant strides have been made during the past decade to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary schools. Severe constraints and challenges nevertheless remain for the country to reach the goal of universal education, and adequate action is necessary to overcome obstacles that girls face in becoming productive women and citizens. To help the attendees better understand the challenges of girls’ education in Benin, part of the documentary “Time for School,” produced by Channel Thirteen and aired on their program “Wide Angle” was screened. The film follows seven children from around the world, including a young girl from Benin, Nanavi, in their struggles to receive an education.
As we continue to promote the goal of “Education for All” advocated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] we hope this Briefing will serve as a further motivation for NGOs who work in the arena of education for girls.
Moderator: María-Luisa Chávez; Chief, NGO Relations, Department of Public Information (DPI)
H.E. Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Permanent Representative of the Republic of Benin to the United Nations
Elizabeth Fordham, Education Programme Specialist, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in New York
Tamara Rosenberg, co-producer of Time for School 3, Public Broadcasting Service/Thirteen
Winifred Doherty, Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd representative to the United Nations in New York and member of the Working Group on Girls