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Discrimination against girls excludes them from education

Education provides the opportunity for girls (and boys) to become more empowered and self-confident as they acquire the range of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values critical to negotiating an equal place in society. Gender inequality in education means that for every 100 boys out of primary school, there are 117 girls who also miss out on primary education. While the gender gap in primary education has been closing steadily since 1980, many countries will not achieve the MDG 3 target of gender parity in primary education by 2005. [figure 2.6]

Gender gaps in secondary education are even more pronounced: of 75 countries surveyed by UNICEF, only 22 were on course to meet gender parity by 2015, while 25 were far from the goal. Girls' exclusion from education relative to boys - especially in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East - is the clearest statistical indicator of gender discrimination.

But gender discrimination is both more subtle and all-pervasive than can be measured in the statistics about gender parity in schooling. Gender plays a major part in determining which children end up being excluded from basic services and are, therefore, most likely to be left untouched by the Millennium agenda.

Women's disempowerment results in exclusion for their children. Mothers are generally the first caregivers for children. In situations and settings where they are denied access to basic services, essential resources, or information, it is the children who suffer the greatest exclusion. Impediments to progress in the fight against gender discrimination include the continued lack of good quality data disaggregated by sex, the paucity of financial and technical resources for women's programmes at both international and national levels, and the lack of representation in the political sphere.