A new Gender Report compiled by UNESCO’s EFA Global Monitoring Report (GMR) was launched at a side-event during the 38th UNESCO General Conference on 4 November. Ministers, including H.E. Ms Marta Lafuente, the Minister of Education from Paraguay, and H.E. Ms Ali Mariama Elhadj Ibrahim, the Minister of Education, Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages from Niger spoke at the event.
UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Sustainable development has a face and it's a 12 year old girl in school in a safe environment. Educating a girl educates a nation. Empowering girls and women stands at the heart of the new SDG agenda as one of the most important multipliers we have.
“It unleashes a ripple effect that changes the world unmistakably for the better. We have recently set ourselves a new ambitious agenda to achieve a sustainable future. Success in this endeavour is simply not possible without educated, empowered girls, young women and mothers.”
Attending the launch, the Minister of Education, Literacy and the Promotion of National Languages from Niger H.E. Ms Ali Mariama Elhadj Ibrahim said her country would be building rural colleges to enable girls to continue through secondary school and had new policies to engage cultural and community leaders in encouraging girls to go and stay in school.
She said: “When parents are illiterate, the household is illiterate. We should not forget about the education and learning of adults as we focus on the education and learning of young people.”
H.E. Ms Marta Lafuente, Minister of Education from Paraguay said: “The gender challenge is a cultural challenge – to change the status quo and to learn to see each other in a new way.”
Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the United States of America to UNESCO, H.E. Ms Crystal Nix-Hines told participants: “There is no more transformational change for development than improving girls’ education. We must do our part for this generation.”
The report shows that, although the goal has not been met by all, progress towards gender parity is one of the biggest education success stories since 2000. The number of countries that have achieved the goal of gender parity in both primary and secondary education has risen from 36 to 62 since 2000. Although 62 million girls are still denied their basic right to education, the number of out-of-school girls has declined by 52 million in the last 15 years. Nonetheless, considerable challenges remain, with gender disparities widening at each cycle of the education system and the poorest girls remaining at stark disadvantage.
Aaron Benavot, Director of the EFA GMR said: “Lacking any other way of measuring gender equality, we have focused on getting equal numbers of boys and girls in school. But we will never achieve this unless we tackle the roots of imbalance: social barriers and entrenched discriminatory social norms. Until we begin to understand equality as a much broader concept, girls and young women will never be able to reap the full benefits of education.”
Alongside the Report, the EFA GMR has produced an online interactive tool to show how wide gender gaps are in different contexts. It shows, for instance, that in sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest girls are almost nine times more likely never to have set foot in a classroom than the richest boys. In the Arab States, one fifth of the poorest girls have never been to school, compared to one tenth of the poorest boys. In Latin America and the Caribbean, boys are at a disadvantage: 55 per cent of boys compared to 63 per cent of girls in rural areas complete lower secondary education.