NEW DELHI/KATHMANDU, 17 December 2003 – The extraordinarily high numbers of children out of school in South Asia, and the disproportionate number of girls, is causing immense damage to the region’s development, UNICEF’s Regional Director, Dr Sadig Rasheed, has told a consultation on education in New Delhi organised by the Baha’I community.
In his address Dr Rasheed wondered why the region allows such a disability to continue. While many in the region are celebrating the first win of an India cricket team in Australia for 22 years, Dr Sadig said that it was time that some of the attitudes inherent in the game were adopted to ensure that girls were given a fair chance to go to school.
‘There are something like 43 million children out of school in South Asia, of which an estimated 26 million are girls,’ he told delegates. ‘Educating a girl has a multiplier effect which means that the benefits of better health, the chance of better paid employment and even empowerment against exploitation are handed on to their future families. There is no investment that pays better dividends in terms of rapid human development and economic growth. Quite simply team South Asia will never be hitting the development pavilion and the umpire will not be signalling for a six in the game of life while girls are not getting their chance in school.’
He appealed for support from government, business, community leaders and sporting organisations to work together to ensure a region where there was ‘Fair Play for Girls’. He went on, ‘India waited a long time for its win, the children of South Asia cannot wait that long for their right to education and South Asia cannot afford to wait that long either.’
Dr Rasheed was speaking at the South Asian Regional Consultation – Education: The Right of Every Girl and Boy organised by the Baha’I International Community in New Delhi. UNICEF is working to accelerate girl’s education in 25 countries worldwide by 2005. Six of those countries are in South Asia and include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
For more details please contact UNICEF Regional Office, Kathmandu.
Martin Dawes, Regional Communication Advisor,
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Binita Shah, Assistant Communication Officer,
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