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UNICEF launches drive to get more girls into school

[Afghanistan] Carol Bellamy, UNICEF Executive Director.
David Swanson/IRIN
UNICEF executive director, Carol Bellamy
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a campaign on Tuesday to get more girls into primary school in West and Central Africa. "Hopes of improving education in this part of Africa have been shattered by a devastating set of social and economic ills, coupled with internal conflicts in several countries," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. As a result, hopes of achieving sustainable development had been dashed. "Educating girls is a proven way to revive these hopes," she said. Bellamy flew to Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to launch the initiative and to attend a three-day workshop on gender disparities in education sponsored by UNICEF and the World Bank. The eight countries in the region targeted by UNICEF - Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Benin and Guinea - all have have low rates of enrolment for girls in primary school. In Burkina Faso, for example, only 28 percent of girls receive primary education, compared to 41 percent of boys. In Benin, which has a more advanced education system, 57 percent of girls go to school, but that still compares unfavourably with 82 percent of boys. In Nigeria and DRC the gender gap is much narrower but only a third of all children attend school. UNICEF reckons that in both countries there are more than a million girls who receive no education at all. The organisation has launched a global initiative called "25 by 2005" to boost the proportion of girls attending school in 25 countries over the next two years and reduce the gender gap with boys. Thirteen of the targeted countries are in Africa. UNICEF said better educated females were more likely to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS and other diseases. They were also more likely to have safer pregnancies and healthy children of their own. And the children of educated mothers would receive greater encouragement to attend school. The organisation said that in all 25 countries it targeted, girl's education was in "a critical situation" and "urgent help" was needed to reach the goal of gender parity in primary and secondary schools.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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