This unusual scene was the highlight of the launch of the 2006 campaign for the acceleration of girls’ education in Benin, led by the government with the support of UNICEF and 12 other partners. In this West African country, where one girl out of three does not attend school, this six-month campaign aims at inciting parents to register their daughters in school.
"UNICEF made the right choice in using 5,000 zemidjans as a vector for sensitization, said Robert Yehouenou, their Secretary General, prior to offering the shirts to the Ministers, who were surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic zemidjans. By circulating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we form a real communication network, in permanent contact with the population and particularly with the targets of the campaign.”
The guest of honour, the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, Agnes Van Ardenne, announced that as of 2007, 15 per cent of her total budget of Development Cooperation, which amounts to 670 million euros, would be allocated to basic education. Benin will benefit from this assistance through its bilateral cooperation with the Netherlands and the partnership that will be launched with UNICEF within the coming days.
The UNICEF Representative in Benin, Philippe Duamelle, hailed the decision of the Netherlands to become a major actor in the education sector in Benin as a significant move. He underlined that despite important progress made in the past few years, there is still a 21 point gap between the number of boys and girls in school. "This situation requires an urgent and large-scale reaction,” he said. “We need political commitment from all actors, followed by concrete actions."
Duamelle exhorted partners to rapidly adopt the Ten-Year Plan for Education and to start implementing its various components, including the Essential Learning Package. When officially launching the campaign, the Beninese Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Colette Houeto, called for a synergy of actions around the Ten-Year Plan for Education and asserted that she was full of hope that parity between girls and boys in school may become a reality in a near future. ‘All girls to school’ was the title of the song that artist Zeynab specially wrote for UNICEF and sang amongst the cheerful smiles of dozens of children who came up on the stage to join her at the end of the ceremony.
For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For more information, please contact:
Chantal Lorho, Communication Officer, UNICEF Bénin,
Tel: +229 21 300 266, email@example.com