UNGEI global conference on girls’ education focuses on preventing "56 million wasted opportunities"
Dakar, Senegal, 17 May 2010 – A conference designed to find new ways to ensure that some 56 million children – most of them girls – do not miss out on their right to education opens in Senegal today.
The "Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality" (E4) conference on gender equality and education is being organized by the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) and marks the tenth anniversary of the UNGEI global partnership.
In the last decade, there has been progress in girls’ education and many more girls and boys have been enrolled in schools worldwide. Gender gaps have closed or are closing in most regions, including central and Eastern Europe, East Asia and Latin America.
But despite this progress, some 56 million children – over half of whom would be girls – could still be out of school in 2015 if current trends continue.
Many countries missed the 2005 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) benchmark and other international targets on education and gender parity. More than two-thirds of the children not in school today live in sub-Saharan Africa and south and west Asia.
"At current rates of progress, 56 million lives will be blighted by lack of access to education in 2015, and 56 million opportunities to promote economic development will have been missed," said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director.
"This conference aims to map a better future for children who are already marginalized and vulnerable and who may fall farther behind unless we can provide them with access to education."
The conference brings together a global mix of more than 200 scholars, government representatives, civil society representatives and other development partners to examine how to improve children’s access to a classroom and so to a better life.
Poverty, violence, poor health and climate change often prevent girls from enrolling in school. Poor educational quality keeps them from staying in school.
Various studies have shown that educated girls grow into agents of change for their families, economies, and societies. Unleashing the potential of girls by providing them a quality education is a highly effective tool to address poverty, fight disease, and improve economies.
Additional funding of approximately US $16 billion annually is required to achieve universal primary education and meet education goals by 2015, according to the latest Education for All Global
Uncertainty about existing commitments is also inhibiting education planning in some countries most in need.
If the 2015 MDG targets of universal primary education and gender equality are to be met, then urgent action is needed now.
In addition to the UNICEF Executive Director and the Prime Minister of Senegal, speakers addressing the conference include the World Bank Director of Education, the Head of Education Indicators and Data Analysis at the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, and a panel of experts on violence against women and girls in post-conflict contexts.
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