There is no tool more effective for development and poverty reduction than the education of girls. Today, on International Women’s Day, EI demands greater investment in and political commitment to achieving this goal.
In many countries around the world, basic education is not accessible to millions of people. Of the 796 million illiterate people, women make up two thirds. Girls and women face particular obstacles that keep them out of education: Violence on the way to school, in and around schools; early pregnancy and early marriage; vulnerability to the HIV epidemic, as well as discrimination based on gender stereotypes in the wider community and at schools; school fees, which may mean that parents send their boys and not their girls to school; and lack of gender sensitive quality education especially in rural areas. EI Deputy General Secretary Jan Eastman said: “This early discrimination contributes fundamentally to the disadvantages that women are faced with in so many areas of life. Conversely, investing in girls’ education not only gives women and girls the tools to stand up against discrimination and violence, it is also a precondition for democracy and development. It raises economic productivity, lowers infant and maternal mortality, and leads to considerable improvements in families’ health and nutrition.” A report released last week by the Education For All Fast Track Initiative shows the progress that girls have made not only in enrolling in school but also in completing their education. It highlights the most effective tools to achieve this progress: The mobilisation of communities to send girls to school, targeted financial support for girls to cover for school fees and textbook costs, and the creation of school health and feeding programs. “Education to at least secondary level is crucial for the empowerment of girls,” said Eastman. Using the slogan “It is a right! Make it right!”, women’s and girls’ right to education is the theme of this year’s Global Action Week from 2 to 8 May 2011. Under the heading “The Big Story” millions of people around the world will share stories on women’s and girls’ education. The main aim of the Global Action Week will be to urge leaders to make specific policy pledges which must be followed through and implemented. EI advocates for greater investment in the education of girls, today and every other day of the year. Click here to read the EI Statement for International Women’s Day 2011.