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Indian girls demand equal access to education

© UNICEF ROSA/2005/Biswas
In New Delhi, girls demand greater support for equality and access to a good education.

UNICEF’s latest ‘Progress for Children’ report, on gender parity and primary education, is part of the many efforts by partners in the world community to ensure that opportunities for going to school are equally available to both girls and boys. The report complements the work of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and the Gender Achievement and Prospects in Education (GAP) project, both supported by UN agencies, governments, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector and communities and families. ‘Progress for Children’ will be released on 18 April 2005.

NEW DELHI, India, 11 April 2005 – Girls in India are demanding greater, sustained support for equal access to a good education. At a workshop organised by UNICEF in the Indian capital New Delhi on 7 April a group of around fifty girls from seven Indian states came together  to discuss and share their experiences of schooling.

Each of the secondary school-age girls at the workshop attended school for at least 5 years despite strong opposition from their families and communities. They spoke of  the battle they had faced while trying to go to school;  education, they said, had freed them from chains that had seemed unbreakable and given them lives and opportunities that they had once only dreamed of.

© UNICEF ROSA/2005/Biswas
At a UNICEF workshop in New Delhi girls use theatre and storytelling to describe the difficulties they face in getting a good education.

Through theatre, art and story-telling sessions, the girls demanded that schools be located closer to home; that they be safe and clean with functioning toilets; that there be qualified, female teachers, and that education be relevant and meaningful, going beyond the scope of prescribed textbooks.

Among those present at the workshop were India’s Secretary for Elementary Education and UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy,  who applauded the girls for their steadfastness and determination.  She encouraged them to continue advocating the value of education to their families, communities, and the government, and reiterated that quality education for girls is key to transforming societies.

The proportion of girls who are able to attend school in India continues to remain low in comparison to that of boys their age. Approximately 70% of girls between the age of 6 and 10 attend primary school in India as compared to 76% of boys in the same age group. The situation is  worse at the upper primary level where only 40% of girls attend school. The main factors influencing this disparity include poverty and the continuing hold of social and cultural beliefs that discriminate against girls.

This call for an equal education  coincides with a crucial deadline set by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals: that gender parity in primary and secondary education be achieved this year, 2005.




11 April 2005:
Carol Bellamy listens to school girls in India.

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