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This policy document discusses the global situation of girls in schools and highlights the importance of a human rights approach to education.

The Dakar Framework for Action represents the most important international political commitment towards promoting Education for All. The Framework contains two gender-based goals. In Article 7 (ii) the participants commit themselves to eliminating "gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005". The second commitment is to achieve gender equality in education (Article 7 (v)). These are described as "gender parity" and "gender equality" respectively. This article focuses on gender equality and examines gender parity by way of comparison, on the premise that it is a necessary but insufficient precondition for the realisation of equality. It also discusses a human rights framework for education to promote gender equality in and through education.

The report provides a thorough analysis of why girls have limited access to education. Despite a firm legal framework, the implementation of the right to education remains problematic, especially for girls. Three main causes are indicated, including gender inequality in cultural practices, poverty and safety risks for girls. The report aims to give a better understanding of the challenges girls face in their struggle to get access to education. The situation in Pakistan serves as an example showing the complex problems surrounding the implementation of the right to education for girls. With 5.1 million children, the country has the second highest number of boys and girls who are not able to access education after Nigeria. In rural areas, widespread gender inequality remains, and the hurdles described above all apply. Furthermore, the conflict between the Pakistani Government and the Taliban often brings girls, teachers and school buildings in the direct line of fire.

The report concludes by highlighting what still needs to be done to improve the situation of access to education for girls globally and in Pakistan. By meeting these challenges worldwide, a true change can be achieved, enabling all girls to take school for granted because no-one is excluded.

In this report, Plan is calling for urgent, concerted and integrated action at local, national and international levels to enable millions of girls to avoid child marriage, stay in school and benefit from a quality education. Plan draws attention to the barriers stopping many girls from realising their right to quality education, which, in turn, increases their risk of marrying too young. Financial barriers and harmful gender norms can drive parents to prioritise sons’ education over that of daughters’ – often on the assumption that girls will marry soon anyway. Many parents also fear for their daughters’ safety in school. The onset of puberty makes girls more vulnerable to sexual violence, harassment and abuse by teachers, staff and other pupils. Poor teaching and unsupportive environments make girls less likely to pass critical examinations needed to access higher levels of education. Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign aims to ensure that girls receive a quality primary education and can transition to, and successfully complete, secondary school. It seeks to enable girls to have more choices in life, to allow them to play an active role in their community.

Education is a vital element in efforts to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS. Sexual assault against girls in and around schools carries the danger of HIV infection. The threat of violence reduces the ability of girls to protect themselves from infection. In this information sheet in Amnesty International calls on governments and schools to take steps such as the prohibition of all forms of violence against girls; provision of appropriate treatment and HIV/AIDS information; and implementation of policies to include girls living with HIV, for example, in schools.

Certain girls face an increased risk of violence at school because of who they are. Lesbian girls, for example, experience both sexism and homophobia combined. Girls with disabilities face both sexism and disability discrimination. In this information sheet Amnesty International calls on governments and schools to train school staff in early intervention strategies and to develop and implement a code of conduct for all students that explicitly prohibits sexual violence and sexual harassment in the educational context

 

Education is held up as the key strategy to empower girls and break the cycles of poverty, to propel social and economic development in poor countries, and to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Many girls from poor families have little or no access to even a primary education, because the costs are beyond their families' means. In this information sheet Amnesty International calls o governments to eliminate direct and indirect fees for primary schools and take steps to make secondary schools accessible to all.

All over the world girls face violence as they pursue their education. Some suffer long-term harm to their mental and physical health. Their human rights are violated. In this information sheet Amnesty International calls on government officials and bodies, including schools, in collaboration with all relevant parties to take six steps to stop school-related violence. These include making schools safe for girls, protection of girls from abuse and the removal of barriers to girls' access to school.

All over the world girls face violence as they pursue their education. Some suffer long-term harm to their mental and physical health. Their human rights are violated. In this information sheet Amnesty International calls on government officials and bodies, including schools, in collaboration with all relevant parties to take six steps to stop school-related violence. These include making schools safe for girls, protection of girls from abuse and the removal of barriers to girls' access to school.

This report is the culmination of five years’ implementation of ActionAid’s multi-country project aimed at empowering girls and enabling them to enjoy their rights to education and participation in a violence-free environment. The uniqueness of this project resides in the connection between research, community intervention and advocacy reinforced by a strong partnership approach.

On ActionAid website are also available the executive summary (French and English) and the success stories (English and Portuguese).

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