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Symposium 2009

Proposal - Overcoming Inequality-Girls Education

The Challenge

According to the International Labor Organization, income inequality has increased in about two thirds of countries world since the 1990s. The financial crisis and the accompanying global recession ...

According to the International Labor Organization, income inequality has increased in about two thirds of countries world since the 1990s. The financial crisis and the accompanying global recession are expected to widen the gap further between the rich and the poor.

A key and essential component of the challenge of education is the access to all levels of education for girls.  The World Economic Forum Gender Gap report reflects on the gaps between girls education and boys education for over 110 countries.  In many countries, the gap is greater than 50% starting from primary education levels.

The World Bank has clearly found that girls education has a direct positive correlation with health of a family and reduction of family size.  It also continues generational to the next generation of girls.

Overcoming inequality in this area is not just a matter of providing more dollars, aid or government attention, although those are necessary.  They are just not sufficient.  Culture and its correlary, religion, often plays a dramatically powerful role in determining whether girls will have access to education.  Prime example of that would be the Taliban's prohibition against girls education.

Other gatekeepers for girls to go to school are economic.  The family may not be able to afford the fees for school and only the boy child or children get to go.  The girl may be pulled from school to help the mother fetch water or firewood, an all day event in some places harshly hit with environmental degradation.  Girls may be sold by their fathers and sent to the city for human trafficking or other.

No access to toilet facilities can prevent teenage girls from continuing education.

Governments particularly must play a strong local role in resolving both the cultural and resource constraints.  Incentives such as those put in place by the Government of Rajasthan in India are examples-the family gets a bike if the girl stays in primary school and a motorbike if she stays through secondary school.  This does not get to the heart of the basic devaluation of the girl child but the end result is she gets educated.

Quality of education is essential too as in many schools boys are given the clear message that girls and women are not equal to them and can be treated with fewer human rights or even violence.

It is not enough to just focus on education when we know that this is a different issue when viewed through the lens of girls.

Laura Liswood

Secretary General Council of Women World Leaders

June 2009

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