Girls' education and gender equality
For far too long, the right to education has been denied to many girls across the world. In Eastern and Southern Africa, poverty, poor access to school, lack of sanitary facilities and social norms such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting, have all been preventing girls from realizing this basic right.
As a result of these and other factors, in countries such as Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Mozambique, the enrolment rate of girls in primary school is lower than that of boys, and in secondary and tertiary education the figure is even lower across the region as a whole.
This comes at a time, when girls’ education has proven to be one of the most cost-effective strategies to promote development and economic growth. Studies have shown that educated mothers tend to have healthier, better nourished babies, and that their own children are more likely to attend school; thus helping break the vicious cycle of poverty. Recognizing such impacts, UNICEF ensures that gender equality cuts across all its programmes, including education.
UNICEF in action
To boost girls’ education, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), a partnership of organizations dedicated to promoting girls’ education, was launched in 2000 by the then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Its goal was to ensure that by 2015, all children are able to complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education.
UNICEF is the lead agency and secretariat for UNGEI. Together with its partners, such as UNESCO, the World Bank, bilateral donors and NGOs, UNICEF works towards transcending barriers to girls’ education and narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. The focus is on the countries and regions with the widest gender disparities in primary education – those places where simply being born female resigns so many children to a life of illiteracy and missed opportunities.
Committed to enhancing the evidence base, UNICEF is leading the way in research focusing on how different drivers of inequality interact to exclude girls and boys from school. Work has been carried out through the global Out-of-School Children’s Initiative (OOSCI), as well as collaborative research with UNESCO to understand factors contributing to gender inequalities.
Results for children
More on girls' education and gender equality