Empowering girls for a better future

The International Day of the Girl Child, Friday 11 October 2013

GENEVA (11 October 2013) – A group of United Nations and regional human rights experts proposed today a list of key action points for governments, civil society organisations, the private sector and global policymakers to give all the “Malalas” in the world a better future through education.

“The exclusion of girls from the education system carries too high a cost to girls themselves, their families and the wider society to be ignored,” the experts stressed in a statement* to mark the second International Day of the Girl Child, on Friday 11 October 2013, while calling for swift action to eliminate barriers to girls’ education.

The human rights experts noted that despite a significant reduction in school drop-outs in developing countries – from 102 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2011 – gender disparity in enrolment at the primary and secondary levels remains high, according to the UN. The difference is even more striking at the higher levels, especially in certain regions with girls accounting for 55% of the out-of-school population.

“Barriers to the fuller participation of girls at all levels of education include the burden of care in the household, patriarchal norms that undervalue girls’ education, the threat of sexual violence in and out of school, early and forced marriages and adolescent pregnancies,” they noted, with religious, political, cultural stereotypes or other ideological factors also thwarting the right to primary education for girls.

What more can be done?

In their statement, the human rights experts called for an increase on girls’ enrollment and attendance through better access to all levels of education. This requires, amongst others:

  • Providing mandatory and free education at least at the primary level
  • Building awareness among parents and the wider society of the benefits of educating girls
  • Providing families with financial resources to offset incidental costs for education
  • Instituting temporary special measures to ensure girls’ participation in areas of study in which females are under-represented
  • Creating schools that provide sanitary facilities and safe environments where sexual violence and harassment are not tolerated including during transit to and from school.

The experts also recalled that measures to ensure gender equality must go hand in hand with increased access by for example:

  • Ending sex-segregation of school curricula and enabling girls engagement in non-traditional areas
  • Empowering girls by moving from didactic to constructivist approaches that allow them to become active and confident, assertive learners
  • Eliminating gender stereotypes that reproduce patriarchal norms from curricula, textbooks and teaching materials
  • Introducing mandatory gender awareness courses for teachers

“The time to act is now!” the experts underscored.

(*) Check the full statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13841&LangID=E

This joint statement was issued by UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice (Frances Raday, Chairperson-Rapporteur; Emna Aouij, Vice-Chairperson; Patricia Olamendi Torres; Kamala Chandrakirana; and Eleonora Zielinska); the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), Soyata Maiga; the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Tracy Robinson; and the Chairperson of the Council of Europe Gender Equality Commission, Council of Europe, Carlien Scheele.

The above experts gathered for the first time in Geneva on 1st October 2013 to exchange views on women’s rights at the UN.

Check the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CEDAW.aspx and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Narcisse Madjiyore Dongar (+41 22 917 9325 / ndongar@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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