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Statement by UNICEF Representative, Dr. Bertrand Desmoulins on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl 2013

SKOPJE 11 October 2013:  “Today is the International Day of the Girl – a day established by the United Nations to recognise girl’s right and highlight the unique challenges and solutions to realising these rights.  This year around the world, the United Nations is marking the day by focusing on Innovating for Girls’ Education.

UNICEF and its partners recognize the power of girls to effect real change and yet globally 31 million girls of primary school age are still not in school.  The good news for this country is that when it comes to primary school attendance, girls are just as likely to attend primary school as are boys. The latest numbers tell as that as many as 98% of boys and girls are in primary school.  

However, when it comes to secondary education, in some communities girls are more likely to miss out than boys or other girls from different communities.  For examples, girls from rural communities (76 per cent) are less likely to attend secondary school compared to girls from urban communities (93 per cent).  Only 35 per cent of Roma girls and 70 per cent of Albanian girls attend secondary school, while 96 per cent of Macedonian girls attend secondary school.   The numbers show that Macedonian girls are even more likely to attend secondary school compared to Macedonian boys (90 per cent).

Persisting gender stereotypes in the country are holding some girls back from fully completing their education, and holding some women back from participating in the labor force and political life.   Innovation for girls’ education has the power to change that.  This is why - as part of an initiative to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s membership to the United Nations - gender equality was included as one of the themes of a social innovation competition.   UN agencies in the country together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on citizens to propose ideas on how to place young people at the forefront of challenging prevalent gender stereotypes in private and public life.  While the results of the innovation competition will be announced on 25 October, today is a day to reflect on how to leverage innovation to improve the lives of women and girls and empower them to realize their potential. 

Girls’ education is the single most powerful investment for development. It fights poverty, inequality, and discrimination. And, the children born to educated women are healthier and survive at better rates.  When girls get the education they deserve, they can contribute to the wellbeing of their communities in amazing ways.  

UNICEF is calling on all to think about what more can be done and how technology can be used to overcome gender barriers to girls’ learning and achievement.  Some examples from around the globe include improving means of transportation for girls to get to school; corporate mentorship programmes to help girls acquire critical work and leadership skills and facilitate their transition from school to work and; deploying mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls, especially in remote areas.” 




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