Commission on the Status of Women – 58th session, 2014. Girls Education

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Girls education is still high on the agenda for many development partners, and it is understandable given the scale of disadvantage girls in many countries are still facing. The present CSW 58 will prioritise access and participation in education, as listed below.

One ‘side’ event (Nordic Council of Ministers)  -highlighted the plight:

At UN Women, we recognize the power and the indispensable nature of education and training for girls and young women.

The recently released UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Report highlights the important role of education in advancing gender equality and overall development.

It also tells a worrying story.

We see that universal primary education is likely to be missed by a wide margin:

  • The number of children out of school was 57 million in 2011, half of whom lived in conflict-affected countries.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, only 23 per cent of poor girls in rural areas were completing primary education by the end of the decade.
  • If recent trends in the region continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086.

We see that many adolescents lack foundation skills gained through lower secondary education:

  • In 2011, 69 million adolescents were out of school, with little improvement to this number since 2004.
  • In low-income countries, only 37 per cent of adolescents complete lower secondary education. This rate is as low as 14 per cent for the poorest.
  • On recent trends, girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa are only expected to achieve lower secondary completion in 2111.

We see that adult literacy has hardly improved:

  • In 2011, there were 774 million illiterate adults, a decline of just 1 per cent since 2000. The number is projected to fall only slightly, to 743 million, by 2015.
  • Almost two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. The poorest young women in developing countries may not achieve universal literacy until 2072.

We see that gender disparities remain in many countries:

  • Even though gender parity was supposed to be achieved by 2005, in 2011 only 60 per cent of countries had achieved this goal at the primary level and 38 per cent at the secondary level.

We know that poor quality of education means millions of children are not learning the basics.

  • Around 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The annual cost of this failure is around USD $129 billion.
  • Investing in teachers is key: in around a third of countries, less than 75 per cent of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards. And in a third of countries, the challenge of training existing teachers is worse than that of recruiting and training new teachers.

We can and we must do better. So I hope we will focus on how we are going to do that today during our discussions.

Together must do more to reverse this trajectory.

We will not get far if we stop at giving girls primary education. We must provide opportunities and options for them to go higher – as far as they wish to go.

We will work through the Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative, and other initiatives and programmes, to ensure that girls everywhere have, not only an opportunity to enrol in primary school, but to progress to secondary, tertiary and vocational levels.

– See more at:

The fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 10 to 21 March 2014.

Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attend the session. Read the NGO advisories.


Priority theme:

Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls

The draft agreed conclusions are now available.

Review theme:

Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work (agreed conclusions from the fifty-fifth session)

Emerging issue:

Women’s access to productive resources

Organization of the session

In accordance with its multi-year programme of work (ECOSOC resolution 2009/15), the Commission’s two-week session includes the following activities:

– See more at:

More on girls education:



Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Where are we?

Chart on MDG2 - factors keeping kids out of school

Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 p. 15

Enrolment in primary education in developing regions reached 90 per cent in 2011, up from 82 per cent in 1999, which means more children than ever are attending primary school. But even as countries with the toughest challenges have advanced, progress on primary school enrolment has slowed since 2004, dimming hopes for achieving universal primary education by 2015.

Across 63 developing countries, girls were more likely to be out of school than boys among both primary and lower secondary age groups. The gender gap in school attendance widens in lower secondary education, even for girls living in better-off households.

UN Women’s efforts:

UN Women focuses action on girls’ school completion rates and improving school conditions for girls, i.e. the environment that makes it conducive for girls to attend schools. From making roads and public transport safer through the Safe Cities Initiative, to addressing the lack of female teachers as role models, to the lack of separate sanitation facilities, and school fees continuing to be deciding factors for whether a girl goes to school, UN Women works to focus on these issues.

Reports show mothers with at least a few years of formal education are considerably more likely to send their children to school. UN Women works to advance women’s empowerment through education and economic opportunities, which facilitate greater decision-making by women in their household, including the decision to send children to school. UN Women also works on campaigns that address attitudes and behaviours, including concerns about female modesty, safety, and the lack of economic returns to girls’ education, factors which often hamper girls’ school attendance.

– See more at:

In Afghanistan, women and girls strive to get an education

Date: 09 July 2013

“Educating women and girls and women’s empowerment in our community is my dream,” says Beheshta, a 20-year-old Afghan girl who recently completed classes offered by the UN Women-supported Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Centre in Parwan Province, northeastern Afghanistan.

Girls study at the Sultan Razia High School in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province. (Photo: UN Photo/Shehzad Noorani)

Girls study at the Sultan Razia High School in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province. (Photo: UN Photo/Shehzad Noorani)

Education is often not an option for many women and girls in Afghanistan. According to Government figures, only 26 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is literate, and among women the rate is only 12 per cent.[1] Among school age children, 38 per cent (4.2 million in real numbers) do not have access to schools, most of which are girls.[2]

Attacks by insurgents who oppose women’s education lead to regular closures of girls’ schools.[3] Moreover, 50 per cent of schools do not have buildings and other necessities, and a dearth of textbooks, teaching materials and equipped laboratories, along with the large number of school closures or relocations directly affects the quality of education.[4]

After graduating from high school, Beheshta wanted to pursue a higher education in a government university, but she did not pass the kankor, or entrance exam.

Every year, more than 100,000 secondary school graduates write the kankor, but due to insufficient spaces and limited capacity, only about half of those students find a spot at the government universities and colleges. Those who fail either go to private institutions, which are very expensive and out of reach for most Afghan families, or try to pass the entrance exam again.

Beheshta’s parents were not able to pay for her education in a private institute, so, when she had the opportunity to join the English language class at the ICT Centre she saw it as a second chance.

Opened in 2011, the key objective of the UN-Women-sponsored Women’s ICT Centre in Parwan is to enable women’s economic participation through training in the English language and computer skills. The Centre also provides job placement support for graduates in private schools, with NGOs, municipalities or the Provincial Department of Women’s Affairs.

Beheshta successfully completed the course, along with about 80 other girls, and is currently teaching English to new students and members of her own community, in the same ICT Centre where she studied.

Beheshta is currently teaching English to new students in the same ICT Centre where she studied in Parwan Province. (Photo: UN Women/Fahim Akbari)

Beheshta is currently teaching English to new students in the same ICT Centre where she studied in Parwan Province. (Photo: UN Women/Fahim Akbari)

“It seemed to me like a fairy tale that I would get a job and earn money for my family while supporting women and girls as a whole,” she says proudly.

While Beheshta’s story and the barriers in accessing primary and higher education is a familiar one in Afghanistan, some progress is evident. The country became Party to the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the Women’s Bill of Rights, on 5 March 2003 and Afghanistan is currently preparing for the CEDAW Committee’s review of its first-ever periodic report on 10 July 2013.

The Afghan Government was supported by UN Women in the process of drafting the report.

According to that first periodic report, the percentage of women in universities is increasing year-by-year – reaching 20 per cent of the university population in 2006, and 24.8 per cent by 2009.[5] The report states that the last eight years have also seen a “tremendous increase in the overall number of educational institutions in the country and women have benefited substantially.”[6] It specifically mentions English language courses, computer classes, and preparation classes for university entrance exams provided by private educational institutions.

The report highlights progress and challenges in several areas, including the lack of security and violence against women as the single most important challenge to the country’s implementation of CEDAW. On the issue of education, the report underlines that much work is still needed. It mentions various strategies for education, especially for women, and says the establishment, promotion and construction of buildings for girls’ schools are at the top of the priority list for the Ministry of Education. To increase the number of female students in professional and technical education schools, the Ministry also plans to run public awareness programmes in media.

Accompanying the Government’s report is the Civil Society Shadow Report, by the Afghan Women’s Network, which was submitted to the CEDAW Committee in April 2013. UN Women also provided support for that report, which among other recommendations urges the Government to develop programmes that will help girls prepare for university entrance exams and overcome key barriers and challenges that women encounter when trying to find work, such as traditional beliefs about women’s roles as mothers rather than breadwinners.

Meanwhile, speaking about the long journey towards women and girl’s education, Beheshta says: “I am aware that it takes a long time but I’m hopeful to see this happen and be part of this valued process.”

– See more at:

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