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Millions of girls being denied right to education, says report


ISLAMABAD: Almost 16 million girls between the ages of six and 11 will never get the chance to enrol in primary school compared to about 8m boys if current trends continue, according to a new report of the Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS).

Published in the run-up to International Women’s Day on March 8, the Unesco’s ‘eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education’ report shows that girls are still the first to be denied the right to education despite the progress made over the past 20 years.

Gender disparities remain highest in Arab states, sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. In South and West Asia 80 per cent of out-of-school girls will never enter formal education compared to 16pc of such boys. This affects about 4m girls compared to less than 1m boys.

According to recent data, the total number of children of primary school-going age who are out of school has begun to increase, reaching 59m. Out of this number 31m are girls.

While the gender gap in the out-of-school population is considerably smaller than in the early 2000s, the UIS data show little improvement in recent years despite many campaigns and initiatives designed to break barriers that keep girls out of school.

For example, in Pakistan 2.9m adolescent girls, or 53pc of those of lower secondary school-going age, are out of school, compared to 43pc of such boys (2.6m).

This year’s theme for the International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.

“We will never achieve any of the Sustainable Development Goals without overcoming the discrimination and poverty that stunt the lives of girls and women from one generation to the next,” said Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova.

“We must work at all levels, from grassroots to global leaders, to put equity and inclusion at the heart of every policy so that all girls, whatever their circumstances, go to school, stay in school and become empowered citizens.”

With the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals-4, governments have pledged to eliminate gender disparities and ensure that every child is in school by 2030. Yet one out of eight children between the ages of 6 and 15 is denied a basic education, and girls are the first to be excluded. More than 63m girls are out of school and data suggest that the number is rising.

The greatest progress in reducing the gender gap in School Life Expectancy (SLE) has been made in South and West Asia, where a girl starting school can expect to receive 11 years of education, compared to only six years in 1990. However, boys continue to have the advantage, with an average SLE of 12 years. The SLE reflects the average number of years of instruction that a boy or girl starting school can expect to receive based on current enrolment rates.

Only about 28pc of the world’s researchers are women. Latin American and the Caribbean states have the highest share of women researchers at 44pc. In contrast, the share falls to 23pc in Asia.

In 2013, there were more female than male graduates in three-quarters of the 133 countries with available data. Despite improved access, women face considerable barriers as they move up the ladder to research positions. Globally, women outnumber men at the level of Bachelor’s degree, with men accounting for about 47pc of graduates and women accounting for 53pc in countries with available data. Women are also more likely to pursue a Master’s degree, representing 54pc of graduates.

Women are more likely than men to graduate in education, humanity and arts; social sciences, business and law; and health and welfare.

In every region, women researchers remain a minority in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Women researchers also tend to work in academic and government sectors, while men dominate the private sector, which offers better salaries and opportunities.