UNESCO calls for enhanced investment in girls’ and women’s education

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, established in 2015 and backed by China, annually honors initiatives combating gender disparity in education.

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Some 129 million girls worldwide are not attending school. The figure includes 32 million primary and 97 million secondary school-age pupils, according to UNESCO estimates.

Primary and secondary school enrollment rates are approaching equality for girls and boys (90% male, 89% female). However, while enrollment rates are similar, completion rates for girls are lower in low-income countries, with 63% of female primary school students completing primary school compared to 67% of their male counterparts.

On Sept. 28, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay – who co-chaired the 2023 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education award ceremony in Beijing alongside UNESCO Special Envoy Professor Peng Liyuan – advocated for increased global investment to enhance girls’ and women’s access to education.

UNESCO’s ongoing commitment to women’s rights and education

“In 1995, in Beijing, the international community adopted the UN Declaration and Platform for Action for women’s rights.” said Azoulay, who highlighted progress in education. She noted how 90% of girls globally complete primary school, and over 40% of women have access to higher education. However, she stressed the need for continued momentum, as gender equality in education remains unrealized. Two-thirds of illiterate adults are women.

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education, established in 2015 and backed by China, annually honors initiatives combating gender disparity in education. The 2023 laureates recommended by an international expert jury are the Star Schools programme in Pakistan and the Spring Bud project in China.

The project in Pakistan ensures girls’ education during emergencies, aiding over 540,000 girls from minority groups including Afghan and Rohingya refugees, and those affected by disasters. Meanwhile, the project in China supports quality education for 4 million adolescent girls, representing 56 ethnic groups across 31 provinces.

Advocacy for Afghan girls’ education and international cooperation

Earlier in January, Azoulay emphasized that education is a universal human right that should not be denied to women and girls. She called on the international community to ensure that the rights of Afghan girls and women to education are swiftly restored.

UNESCO Director-General’s China visit and collaborations

During her China visit, Azoulay met President Xi Jinping, who reiterated China’s strong commitment to supporting UNESCO’s mandate and working collaboratively with all member states.

The UNESCO Director-General visited World Heritage sites, the Forbidden City and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian. UNESCO has actively supported the production of a Chinese-French documentary on Peking Man, emphasizing the archaeological significance of the site. The documentary is now being distributed globally.

Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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