Annual flagship report

Statement by Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureaute (SOWC)

The State of the World's Children 2004, 11 December 2003

 Education and literacy is even more important for girls than boys since girls are the mothers of tomorrow and thus have to raise others in the future. An illiterate or inadequately literate mother cannot sufficiently fulfill her motherly role for her children.

Cultural obstacles are the major problem of girls’ education. There are still families who maintain the incorrect belief that girls who go to school become subject to moral perversion and so they prevent their daughters from going to school. Around eighty years ago in Iran, many traditional families would not allow their daughters to acquire the skills of reading and writing holding that a girl who could write may actually write a love letter to a boy she was fond of.

One more recent and living example is my own mother: despite her enthusiasm to further her education, she was not allowed to enter university and study her favorite major. This was because she was a beautiful young girl then and her family did not want her to sit in a class with young men.

Fortunately, 63% of university students in Iran are currently females and this itself proves the cultural change in the fabric of Iranian society. This change, however, does not mean that all girls in the country are left without problems in their education. A main problem we still face is that some traditional families do not allow their daughters to go to school. Also, in remote areas, there is less diversity of courses for girls. Such is also the case around the globe with over 120 million children – most of whom are girls – out of school.

We need to do more to eliminate wrong beliefs with respect to girls’ education. It is the duty of governments, with the active collaboration of the civil society, to create appropriate mechanisms for the development of children’s education, especially girls’ education.




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