Media centre

Media home


Press releases


Information for journalist

Calendar of events

Media contacts

Photo essays

RSS Feeds


Global Action Week on Education 2-8 May 2011: Overcoming barriers to women’s and girls’ education

© UNICEF Mozambique
Research shows that investing in girls’ education produces considerable returns both in terms of greater economic growth and improved health outcomes.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 2 May 2011 – In many countries, women and girls face significant obstacles that prevent them from getting an education or that force them to drop out of school. They are vulnerable to violence on the way to school and in and around schools, sexual abuse, early pregnancy, early marriage, poor health, HIV infection and various forms of gender discrimination. The theme of this year’s Global Action Week on Education, an international campaign promoting children’s right to an education, is the problems girls face in getting an education and the immense potential that lies in their education and empowerment.

In Mozambique, as in many other countries, cultural traditions can act as barriers to education – for both boys and girls. According to the 2010 ‘Child Poverty and Disparities Study’, early marriage among girls and initiation rites among both boys and girls tend to have a negative impact on primary school attendance. Rites of initiation still occur in some, mainly rural, parts of the country. Child marriage affects access to school, retention and completion. Respondents in a 2007 World Bank study noted child marriage as a reason why girls do not begin secondary school or later drop out.

According to the data presented in the study, there is a strong correlation between the proportion of girls out of secondary school and the prevalence of child marriage in a province. Child marriage is more prevalent in the northern and central provinces than in the south of the country. Child marriage is also highly correlated with household wealth. Girls from the poorest families are far more likely to get married early than girls from wealthier backgrounds.

© UNICEF Mozambique
Violence and sexual abuse in schools and in and around schools remain a significant barrier to girls’ continued education in Mozambique.

The prevalence of violence, sexual abuse and harassment in schools affects pupils’ attendance, especially that of girls, and has been identified by parents as a factor influencing their decision to withdraw their children from school.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Education (MINED) in 2008 of children, school council members and gender unit members of provincial education administrations assessed the prevalence of all kinds of violence, harassment and sexual abuse in schools. Seventy per cent of girls interviewed stated that some teachers require sexual intercourse before promoting students and that schools do not offer security against this, as the act is perpetrated with the complicit knowledge of school authorities. The study also noted that victims and guardians are not aware that sexual abuse is punishable by law. Fear of retaliation often induces silence among the victims.

In 2003, MINED issues a decree explicitly prohibiting teachers from having sexual relations with students. MINED has also declared a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against sexual abuse and in the annual 2010 Economic and Social Plan has strengthened the capacity of provincial gender focal points to monitor and report abuse in schools. However, follow up on abuse in schools and strict enforcement of the decree and zero tolerance policy remain weak. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed concern at the prevalence of sexual abuse and harassment in Mozambican schools.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:



 Email this article

unite for children