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Press release

Executive Director of UNICEF says girls in South Asia “cannot afford to wait”

Islamabad/New York, Wednesday, 21 May – UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy today arrived in Pakistan, carrying a strong message that until girls’ education becomes an urgent priority in South Asia, the region’s economic and social development will be hindered.

Bellamy is in Pakistan for a three-day visit to concentrate attention on education in the region, as part of a global campaign to scale up efforts to achieve the Education for All (EFA) goals.

Today she launched a national initiative to accelerate progress for girls’ education in Pakistan. Speaking at the launch, Bellamy noted that 7 million Pakistani girls of school-going-age are not in school.

“Each one of these girls is an asset to her country,” Bellamy said. “But their prospects are dwindling by the day. Every day spent outside of a school is a tremendous loss not only for the girl but for the future of her country.”

Tomorrow, Bellamy will address Education Ministers attending the South Asian Ministerial meeting for the EFA Forum, being held 22-23 May, hosted by the government of Pakistan and organized by UNESCO with the support of UNICEF.

Bellamy said she will urge the South Asian Ministers to take immediate action to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of gender parity in primary and secondary schools by 2005. She pointed to the daunting statistics that make this a priority: South Asia is home to 43 million out-of-school children. Over half of these children are girls.

Notable progress has been made in education in South Asia over the years, but Bellamy said much work remains to be done. She said that the promise of economic development in the region would be short-lived if education, and particularly that of girls, takes a back seat. The region must address the disparities that make girls from the poorest families the least likely to receive a quality basic education.

Pakistan is one of six South Asian countries where UNICEF is rapidly scaling up investments to increase the number of girls attending school. While continuing to support all of its programmes for girls’ education, UNICEF is making a long-term commitment to ‘accompany’ a set of 25 at-risk countries where urgent help is required to make any real progress by 2005.

“UNICEF is prepared to do what it takes in any country that has not yet realized the value of educating its girls. These girls simply cannot afford to wait any longer,” Bellamy said.

For further information please contact:

Kathryn Grusovin, UNICEF Pakistan, (92) 300 450 6972, kmgrusovin@unicef.org
Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224, ahickling@unicef.org


About UNICEF’s Girls’ Education campaign:

UNICEF’s ‘25 by 2005’ campaign is a major initiative to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in 25 countries by the year 2005. The campaign, which includes fifteen countries in Africa and Asian countries such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, focuses on countries where girls’ education is in a critical situation and progress would make a real impact.

UNICEF will work closely with national governments and other partners to identify girls who are not in school. In each country, UNICEF will work with the government to mobilise new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls to school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to girls.

UNICEF has chosen a manageable number of countries and based its selection on criteria that looked for countries with one or more of the following: low enrolment rates for girls; gender gaps of more than 10% in primary education enrolment; countries with more than one million girls out of school; countries included on the Education For All Fast Track initiative; and countries hard hit by a range of crises that affect school opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.

For further information please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF New York, (212) 326-7224, ahickling@unicef.org




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