|© Eric Kanalstein/UNMIL|
|Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, with students after launching Liberia's National Girls' Education Policy. The girl standing directly in front of the President, Hawa Kamara, 10, officially introduced the President during today's ceremony in Monrovia.|
MONROVIA, Liberia, 18 April 2006 – The education of girls is to become a “cornerstone” of development in Liberia, according to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, who officially launched a Girls’ Education National Policy today.
Speaking at the launch the President thanked UNICEF for its leadership in helping to formulate the policy, which calls for providing free and compulsory primary schools for every Liberian child.
President Sirleaf said that Liberia is working “to see a new country with a shared vision for girls’ education…to free humankind from poverty, discrimination and disease.” The President also stated that the government’s new policy will serve as a “catalyst to end illiteracy and underdevelopment to create literacy and development.” She was speaking at an official launch ceremony held in a red, white and blue balloon-festooned Monrovia City Hall.
A unique opportunity
The President told the assembled audience of government leaders, diplomats, United Nations officials, NGO partners and dozens of girls from government schools that her government’s commitment to girls’ education is a “commitment to our children and a unique opportunity to chart a new course of education for the girl child and for women.”
“If there is a global messenger of the maxim of when you educate a girl, you educate a nation, it is you, Madame President,” said Alan Doss, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and the Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Liberia.
President Sirleaf is the first elected female president of an African nation. “The education of the girl child in Liberia is critical and an urgent matter. It is actually about human rights and human dignity," she said. "It is about peace and the development of the country. That’s why achieving universal primary education for all girls and boys is one of the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the member states of the United Nations.”
|A girl looks up from her schoolwork in Liberia. UNICEF has helped the Liberian government develop a Girls’ Education National Policy.|
The President was introduced at today’s launch by Hawa Kamara, a 10-year-old third grader at JWA Pearson Kindergarten and Elementary School in Monrovia. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she thoughtfully paused and gathered her thoughts. “I want to be a nurse.”
UNICEF places a great deal of emphasis on education reconstruction in post-conflict states, as discussed at last week's UNICEF-Oxford University Conference on Education and Conflict. Optimism like Hawa’s is a huge step in the right direction towards children one day achieving their dreams and, through education, helping to free their countries from poverty.