Building peace in the minds of men and women

Education and gender equality

Gender equality is a global priority for UNESCO and inextricably linked to its efforts to promote the right to education and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Education 2030 agenda recognizes that gender equality requires an approach that ‘ensures that girls and boys, women and men not only gain access to and complete education cycles, but are empowered equally in and through education’.

UNESCO’s work on education and gender equality is guided by the UNESCO Strategy for gender equality in and through education (2019-2025) and the Gender Equality Action Plan (2014-2021, 2019 revision). It focuses on system-wide transformation to benefit all learners equally, and supports targeted action for girls’ and women’s empowerment across three areas of priority: better data, better policies and better practices.

Large gender gaps exist in access, learning achievement and continuation in education in many settings, most often at the expense of girls, although in some regions boys are at a disadvantage. Despite progress, more girls than boys still remain out of school - 16 million girls will never set foot in a classroom (UNESCO Institute for Statistics) - and women account for two thirds of the 750 million adults without basic literacy skills. 

Poverty, geographical isolation, minority status, disability, early marriage and pregnancy, gender-based violence, and traditional attitudes about the status and role of women, are among the many obstacles that stand in the way of women and girls fully exercising their right to participate in, complete and benefit from education.

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