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UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira meets adolescent girls in India

© UNICEF India/2011/Vishwanathan

UDAIPUR, India, 15 November 2011 - UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira met today with a group of adolescent girls from impoverished parts of the country to discuss the importance of educating and empowering girls to break the cycle of poverty and inequity – nationally and globally.

The singer and global education advocate met the group of adolescent girls associated with the KGBV (Kasturba Gandhi Ballika vidalaya) residential educational programme in Udaipur, Rajasthan, who come from areas where the literacy level is around 5 per cent for women and some 20 per cent for men. 

“My interaction with these adolescent girls was energizing and inspiring,” said Shakira.  “It only reminded me, once again, that girls are a precious resource of intellectual and physical ability - a resource that can help to further society. They need the chance to be educated and empowered.”

The KGBV programme addresses the need for education for the most disadvantaged girls who are marginalized and often difficult to reach.  The value of the girl child in the family is generally low, leading to boys being valued over girls – from nutritional intake to getting an education - and girls dropping out of school in order to look after the household.  In addition, the school environment is often not conducive for girls, including the lack of sanitation facilities. 

Shakira called for a collective push to ensure that girls have the ability, support and availability to get a quality education.

“For too many girls, the basic human right to education is denied,” said Shakira. “Yet, educating adolescent girls and ensuring their participation in decision-making that affects them plays a significant role in enhancing their sense of self-worth.”

Shakira’s meeting was part of the Colombian singer’s passionate advocacy work for global education, calling for the expansion and improvement of education, especially for the most disadvantaged children and youth.

Today 1.2 billion youth stand at the crossroads between childhood and the adult world.  India is home to 20 per cent of the world’s adolescents. With 243 million adolescents in India, about a quarter of its population are adolescents.  If this group flourishes, so will communities and countries.  Although progress is being made, in India almost 40 per cent of young girls in the ages of 14 to 17 are out of school.

UNICEF works in 190 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 more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:
Kate Donovan, UNICEF New York,
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Caroline Den dulk, Chief, Advocacy and Partnerships
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