New York, US - The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Ms. Irina Bokova, on Monday called on governments, the private sector and civil society to scale up efforts to provide quality education for girls, stressing the transformative benefits this has for all of society.
Speaking at the second annual Global Education and Skills Forum, held in Dubai, Ms. Bokova pointed out that there were 31 million girls out of school in 2011, of whom 55 per cent were expected to never enrol, and that women still represented two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults.
A statement issued at the UN headquarters in New York quoted her as saying this was a waste of talent and human ingenuity that no society could afford.
She stated that girls' education was a development multiplier and one of the most powerful transformational forces to build peace and social inclusion.
She said that educated girls had healthier families, earned more income and contributed to national growth.
Ms. Bokova, however, warned that a generation of young women would be left behind unless there was a concerted global push now, and at all levels of society, to change the status quo.
The statement noted that at a session devoted to New Partnerships for Girls’ and Women’s Education, the UNESCO chief encouraged business leaders present to join UNESCO’s Global Partnership for Girls’ Education.
Launched in 2011 by Ms. Bokova, UN Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon and former US Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Clinton, the initiative targets the weakest links in education – the transition to secondary education and literacy.
The Partnership has brought together several governments, private sector leaders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide girls and women in underprivileged urban and rural areas in Africa and Asia with education and learning opportunities.
UNESCO said some 20,000 learners and hundreds of teachers and ministry officials had benefitted from projects implemented in seven countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal and Tanzania.
It also included awareness-raising and capacity-building activities, academic support, access to learning opportunities, guidance and counselling, as well as access to, training on and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).
Over the next two years, UNESCO will seek to increase the number and diversity of its partners in girls’ education, expand the geographic coverage of its activities, increase the amount of resources invested and promote innovative approaches and encourage South-South and North-South-South cooperation.
More than 1,000 representatives of Government, NGOs, business leaders and academia are attending the Forum, which is organised by UNESCO, the Ministry of Education of the United Arab Emirates, GEMS Education, the Varkey GEMS Foundation and Dubai Cares, in support of the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative.