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World experts on girls’ education meet in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU, 11 June 2008 – Education experts representing United Nations agencies, donor countries, national governments and non-governmental organizations are meeting in the Nepalese capital today to discuss issues related to gender equality in education in the Asia-Pacific region.

During the two-day event, participants, representing the Global Advisory Committee of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative and senior technical partners from 13 countries,  will look at the progress achieved in girls’ education in the Asia-Pacific region and the obstacles remaining to gender equality in education. It is the first time that the Committee convenes at the regional level, a move aimed to focus attention on countries’ efforts to ensure that all children, including girls, enjoy their right to education.

“We are working to address the complex challenges of making sure that all girls, no matter how marginalized they are or how hard-to-reach they can be, still enjoy their right to complete quality education,” said Cheryl Gregory Faye, head of UNGEI’s Global Secretariat.

The choice of the Asia-Pacific region as venue for this meeting recognizes the tremendous strides that the region has made towards ensuring quality education for all children. Yet it also acknowledges a persistent gender gap in educational enrollment, retention and performance in a number of areas, as well as inequalities in the teaching and learning process and in education outcomes. 

In the face of persistent gender inequities, countries in the region are adopting special measures to promote girls’ education. Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, for example, have set up specific bodies tasked with monitoring gender parity in education. Nepal has developed a Girls’ Education Strategy Paper to promote gender parity and equity in education. Afghanistan made special provisions for girls’ education, health and employment so they participate to a greater extent in national development.

The discussions at the Kathmandu meeting will focus on a range of issues including how to improve the nature of the curriculum and the textbooks adopted so they empower girls and women in their learning, how to make the school environment girl-friendly and safe, and how to enhance the quality of teachers and teaching-learning processes.

With many countries facing a serious shortage of qualified teachers, a first priority for the Advisory Committee will be how to advocate for improving the status, pay and support of teachers, especially those posted to rural or underprivileged areas.

Financing education is also a major issue for the Committee’s advocacy work with governments. These are encouraged to increase their investment in pre-primary education and to abolish school fees and other related costs at primary and secondary levels. In addition, offering individual families stipends, conditional cash transfers or food supplements allows families to have all their children – girls as well as boys - complete their education. 

The Committee, currently co-chaired by the Campaign for Female Education (Camfed) and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), is expected to call for strong sanctions against sexual abuse and harassment of girl pupils, and for increased community involvement in school management as an effective means of making schools safer places for children, particularly girls.

Prior to the meeting, field trips to the Katmandu Valley, Kaski District (Pokhara) and Kapilvastu District Bhairahawa will enable participants to observe first-hand school conditions and to meet the relevant education authorities, teachers, students, and members of school management committees. The field visits will explore complex issues - such as madrassas, or religious schools, child labour, multi-grade teaching, early childhood development and children with disabilities - and show how the community and government are addressing them.
Notes to editors:

- The Asia-Pacific region includes the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Niue, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam

Further information about the meeting is available on: www.ungei.org/nepal.

About UNGEI:
The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) was launched in April 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Its goal is to narrow the gender gap in primary and secondary education and to ensure that by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to all levels of education. UNGEI is a partnership that embraces the United Nations system, governments, donor countries, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, and communities and families. UNGEI provides stakeholders with a platform for action and galvanizes their efforts to get girls in school. UNICEF serves as the lead agency and Secretariat.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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:
John Brittain, UNICEF Nepal, +977-1-552-3200, jbrittain@unicef.org

Malli Kamimura, UNICEF New York, +1-212-824-6129, mkamimura@unicef.org




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