The five-year campaign, which was launched at a ceremony in the northern Rwandan town of Ruhengeri, compels communities and schools to address the existing gender imbalance by taking extra measures to encourage girls to enroll and stay in primary and secondary school.
“We need to help Rwandan girls strengthen their self-confidence so that they can confront the challenges that exist in life,” said Rwanda’s First Lady, Jeannette Kagame. “Women can do everything that men can do; they should not be intimidated.”
Rwanda has made great progress in recent years to encourage equal opportunities for women and men, and as a result many more girls are enrolling in the 2,295 primary schools throughout the country. However, girls are far more likely than boys to drop out of school. Only about half of all girls who enroll in primary school actually complete their education. The main factors contributing to their drop-out rate include demands of the household, gender-related violence and improper sanitation facilities at schools.
UNICEF has supported the campaign from its infancy by providing technical and financial support to the Ministry of Education’s Girls’ Education Taskforce, which was created in 2005. The taskforce – together with the First Lady’s office and civil society partners – have worked together to plan the campaign, which will grant annual awards to those schools making progress in retaining girl pupils. The three best performing schools each year will also be rewarded with new scholastic or laboratory equipment, or with needed improvements to school facilities.
“Success in attaining gender parity, equality and specifically maintaining the girl in school lies in an effective and meaningful process for engaging schools and communities where negative beliefs, attitudes and practices that have maximum impact on their participation are entrenched,” UNICEF Representative in Rwanda said on this occasion. “The results for Rwanda will be worth the time and resources spent."
UNICEF is 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.
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