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Girls’ education conference concludes with strong call to focus on the most marginalized children

DAKAR, SENEGAL, 26 May 2010 – Although great strides have been made to get more girls into classrooms, those still out of school are likely to be from families already suffering social neglect and deprivation, an international conference concluded, as delegates unanimously passed a declaration aiming to accelerate girls’ access to education.

The “Dakar Declaration on Accelerating Girls’ Education and Gender Equality” was unanimously adopted by some 200 participants – that included scholars, government officials and education experts –  at the conclusion of the “Engendering Empowerment: Education and Equality,” or E4 conference on Thursday, which was organized by the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) to mark the tenth anniversary of its partnership.

“Powerless and poor girls make up the most disadvantaged group in education,” the declaration stated. “Achieving equity in education will entail putting in place a rights-based empowerment framework that will target the most vulnerable.”
The declaration warned that unless we do so, we will never give these children the chance to their right to education and an opportunity get them out of poverty and into a more stable and just society.

Since education targets were set in 2000, more than 22 million girls have enrolled in primary school from 1999 to 2007, and gender gaps in primary school enrolments have narrowed in many countries.

Despite this progress, poor quality of education, extreme poverty, emergencies, HIV and AIDS, and violence against girls are threatening the achievement of the Education for All and the education and gender-related Millennium Development Goals. The declaration calls for an urgent reversal of these trends to achieve education goals by the 2015 deadline.

“The sad reality is that if our progress continues at its current pace, by 2015 there still will be approximately 56 million children out of school,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, at the opening session of the E4 meeting. “You can count on those children being the hardest to reach, living in the poorest countries, with the highest and hardest barriers to overcome.”

There is also an urgent need for education policies, strategies, plans and budgets to be gender-responsive and make learning opportunities for both girls and boys a developmental priority.

“Only when governments, international institutions, and civil society work together unstintingly can we ensure that all girls receive an education,” said Prime Minister of Senegal, Mr. Souleymane Ndéné Ndiaye, at the conference.

In addition to the UNICEF Executive Director and the Prime Minister of Senegal, speakers at the conference included the World Bank Director of Education, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Africa, and a panel of experts on violence against women and girls in post-conflict contexts.

“We envision a world in which a special initiative for girls’ education is no longer needed, a world in which all girls and boys are empowered through quality education to realize their full potential and contribute to transforming their societies, so that gender equality becomes a reality,” the declaration said.

About UNGEI:
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) is a partnership of organizations committed to narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education. It also seeks to ensure that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education. UNGEI was launched in April 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, by then United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in response to a troubling reality: Of the millions of children worldwide who were not in school, more than half were girls – a reality that continues today. To read more about UNGEI, visit:  www.ungei.org

For further information, please contact:
Martin Dawes, UNICEF Media, West and Central Africa, Tel: + 221 775 69 19 26, mdawes@unicef.org

Shimali Senanayake, UNICEF Media, New York, Tel: + 1 917 265 4516, ssenanayake@unicef.org




United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI)

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