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Global partners meet in Cairo to advance girls’ education and early childhood care

© UNICEF video
This year’s conference of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative focused on the theme, ‘Gender and Early Childhood Care and Education’.

By Sabine Dolan

NEW YORK, USA, 13 November 2006 – Education officials from Egypt and several other countries have joined forces with non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and independent experts at a conference in Cairo to promote early childhood care and put an end to gender disparities in education.

“The most important message from the meeting is to concentrate on early childhood care and education,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah at the closing of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) partnership meeting.

“Many studies now show the importance of early development for children and its link to the achievement of education for all. And also, we have still 115 million children that are out of school, and most of them are girls,” added Ms. Salah.

Meeting development goals

Providing early childhood care and quality education, particularly for disadvantaged girls, is a crucial element of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the benchmarks for basic human progress in health, education and other areas that the world is committed to achieving by 2015.

The international community failed to meet the 2005 MDG target for gender parity, and UNGEI is committed to advancing girls’ education and raising awareness on the issue.

© UNICEF video
Providing early childhood care and quality education, particularly for disadvantaged girls, is a crucial element of the Millennium Development Goals. Each of the goals was represented in the UN ‘Sailing the Nile’ project, shown here.

Universal primary education for all contributes significantly to gender equality and the empowerment of women. When girls don’t go to school, they are more likely to go on to raise children of their own who are uneducated, unvaccinated and at higher risk of HIV/AIDS. In developing countries, 75 per cent of children not in primary school have mothers who themselves did not have access to education.

‘Sailing the Nile’ project

At the Cairo meeting, UNGEI delegates warned governments that some MDG targets will not be reached unless bolder steps are taken to ensure that girls have the same access to quality education as boys.

This year’s UNGEI conference – which focused on the theme, ‘Gender and Early Childhood Care and Education’ – stressed the importance of supporting families and promoting quality early childhood programmes with well trained teachers, well informed parents and child-centered care. Egypt was one of the first countries to become involved in the UNGEI partnership.

In a related development, sailboats bearing the symbols of the eight MDGs sailed down the Nile as part of the UN ‘Sailing the Nile’ project. The event aimed to highlight Egypt’s progress towards the development goals – and to promote achievements such as the UNICEF-supported community schools set up in some of Egypt’s most remote villages.




13 November 2006:
UNICEF’s Simon Ingram reports on the UN ‘Sailing the Nile’ project highlighting Egypt’s progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, especially education.
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Lila Pieters, Programme Coordinator of UNICEF Turkey, discusses the linkages between early childhood development, girls’ education and poverty.
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Malak Zaalouk, Regional Education Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, explains how school readiness contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
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