|© UNICEF Niger/2007/Pirozzi|
|Only about a third of primary school-age girls are enrolled in school in Niger, and just 6 per cent of secondary school-age girls are enrolled.|
By Sandra Bisin
NIAMEY, Niger, 9 October 2008 - Ahead of the new school year that started this week in Niger, the Nigerien Government, with UNICEF's support, launched a communications campaign called 'All Girls to School for a Brighter Future'.
The aims of the girls' education campaign were announced during a concert last week here in Niger's capital. The concert featured a national appeal to sensitize decision-makers and parents on the importance of sending girls to school.
During the event, Nigerien celebrities such as singers Fati Mariko and Boureima Disco, as well as government leaders, highlighted the benefits of educating girls.
Education as a human right
Minister for Women's Promotion and Child Protection Bibata Barry and Minister of Education Ousmane Samba Mamadou appeared together to speak to an ecstatic audience of over 400 young people.
Education is a human right, and no girl should be deprived of it, the ministers declared - adding that getting more girls in school will make Niger more prosperous and advance democracy.
UNICEF has found that girls' education has cascading benefits, including helping to reduce poverty, prevent disease and violence, and deter political instability. It is a catalyst for social development and economic growth, which makes sense not only for girls but for the wider society.
|© UNICEF Niger/2008/Bisin|
|UNICEF Representative in Niger Akhil Iyer speaks at the concert launching the communication campaign promoting girls' education in Niger.|
'The situation is critical'
"When girls are educated and have the opportunity to study, they participate actively in the development of their country, and nations get wealthier," noted UNICEF Representative Akhil Iyer. "In Niger, however, because of poverty but also biases and wrong beliefs about women in general and girls in particular, thousands of girls are deprived of education."
In fact, only about a third of primary school-age girls are enrolled in school in Niger, and just 6 per cent of secondary school-age girls are enrolled. Even fewer are able to attend regularly.
"The situation is critical," said Mr. Iyer. "It is high time we take action if we want to reach Millennium Development Goal 2, which is to ensure access to primary education to all by 2015."
Along with other initiatives of UNICEF and the Government of Niger, the 'All Girls to School' campaign aims to mobilize the national media, the public, and political and religious leaders on this key issue.
The communications initiative represents the media arm of a wider strategy to promote girls' education. Efforts are also taking place on the ground in local villages, where trained community workers are conducting group discussions about girls' access to school.
The campaign is using several means to reach its audience, including:
The campaign will last one year, reaching out to rural areas and urban centres throughout the country. It is the result of a partnership between UNICEF, the government, civil society, the Nigerien arts community and the international community.