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News note

Arab media enthusiasm to promote girls' education enjoys renewed momentum

Second Arab Regional Media Forum concludes in Dubai

DUBAI, May 4, 2006 – Media representatives and experts at the Second Arab Regional Media Forum today concluded an extensive review of the situation surrounding Arab girls' access to education and remaining challenges in several countries to ensure sustained enrolment and retention in school.

Deliberation during the three-day meeting has reinvigorated the sense of urgency surrounding the issue, as it prompted expressions from media individuals and guest organisations to more thoroughly explore, unveil and confront the socioeconomic and cultural factors hampering girls' access to schooling as well as to boost their longer-term chances for development and participation in society.

Among panellists and guests were renowned media professionals and human rights experts, as well as regional and international NGO collaborators from countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, UAE and Oman.

Following a review of the Arab charter drafted last year, media participants today agreed to individual contracts whereby they commit to undertaking different activities to support dissemination of child rights stories, including girls' education.  Implementation and follow-up constitute the immediate response to the plenary proposal to strengthen regional media networking around children-related issues. 

The event was organized by UNICEF, in partnership with the World Food Programme, UNESCO, the Dubai Humanitarian City, the Dubai Press Club, Al Bayan Newspaper, the Arab Institute for Human Rights and the Centre for Arab Women for Training & Research.

Quality education: A renovated concept

UNICEF Regional Education Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, Dr. Malak Zaalouk said Arab countries' efforts to achieve quality education need to go beyond the one-dimensional approaches such as hiring teachers or providing textbooks.

"New models need to be devised so that education systems can take account of a wider range of factors from ensuring water, toilets, playing areas, and supporting girls to learn how to learn, to the more demanding aspects of safeguarding and protecting children, and especially girls, from environments that threaten their dignity and physical wellbeing," Zaalouk noted.

"It is also essential that we develop systems for measuring learning achievements in its broader sense, including life skills as well as children's creative capacities," she added.

In perfect harmony with the subject under discussion, the Dubai Forum also made reference to the World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 3 and the UN Secretary General's statement highlighting that "as agents of change … media have a powerful influence on human behaviour."  On the occasion, Secretary General Kofi Annan stated that "information is also becoming more diverse.  Mainstream media reporting, for example, is being supplemented by participatory media."

Cultivating long-lasting partnerships with the Arab media

During the closing ceremony, the Dubai Forum today reiterated the value of media as catalysts for crucial transformations and also the need to mobilize communities to get and keep Arab girls in school.

The Dubai-based O3 Productions, which is the production and acquisition arm of MBC Group of channels that includes al Arabiya News channel, in close cooperation with UNICEF, has embarked on a multi-country co-production with exclusive features and special reports looking at the status of girls' education in Yemen, Sudan, Morocco and Egypt.

"We look with great excitement at the opportunity ahead to associate with UNICEF and lend the best of our energies to this project.  Hopefully, this contribution will help Arab societies look at girls' education as a vital investment with the highest possible dividends for the future," said Fadi Ismail, General Manager of O3 Productions.

The MBC girls' education programme follows similar successful UNICEF-supported initiatives in the recent past with the BBC and Al Jazeera.

For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. 

For further information, please contact:

M. Anis Salem, Regional Communication Adviser, UNICEF MENA-RO
E-mail :asalem@unicef.org  Mobile: 962-79-557-9991

Wolfgang Friedl, Communication Officer UNICEF MENA-RO,
E-mail: wfriedl@unicef.org Mobile: 962 – 79 – 573-2745




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