Two-thirds of Yemen's women are illiterate and half of Yemeni girls receive no primary schooling. Yet education of both girls and boys is the key to unlocking many of Yemen's development problems.

Numerous social and practical obstacles keep girls out of the classroom. Culturally, their education is undervalued. Families often keep their daughters at home to help run the house. And even if girls do complete primary school, their chances of attending secondary school are slim. Girls often leave before high school to be married or because only male teachers are available or simply because there are no schools, especially in rural areas.

Girls' enrolment at the secondary level reaches 70 per cent of boys' in only four major cities. As a result, the nation cannot achieve gender parity (MDG 3) by 2015, unless major policy changes are implemented.

Nevertheless, Yemen is making progress. Gross enrollment is up markedly and has been growing steadily for the past seven years, with girls' enrolment taking the biggest strides of all.

© UNICEF/HQ07-1641/Pirozzi
A primary school, Hodeidah Governorate.