Initiative to promote education of adolescent girls launched at UN


Photo taken on Nov. 29, 2017 shows girls in class at the girl's class of Baiyun Township Central School, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Photo: Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Ireland's UN mission on Tuesday organized a high-level event to launch "The Drive for Five" initiative, which aims to spur "five transformative actions" to promote education of adolescent girls.

The campaign calls on all nations to take "five transformative actions" for girls' education to deliver on the fifth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG5) of the UN's 2030 Agenda: gender equality, said Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland's Permanent Representative to the UN.

According to an introductive video played at the event, the five actions include: Guarantee that every girl receives 12 years of free quality education; provide supportive school environments through gender-sensitive curriculums, mentoring and menstrual hygiene facilities; strengthen teacher training and provide girls with quality education; ensure that every girl is safe from violence; and keep girls healthy and in school by providing adequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.

Speaking of the experience of her own country, Nason said Ireland shows that "when we invest in girls, they rise up, and when they rise up, they lead... But we can't lead if we're pushed back, if we are held back, if we're kept down."

She further said that thanks to investment in education, Ireland transformed from one of the poorest countries in Europe into one of the most highly developed countries in the world in the space of just two generations.

"We are now recognizing that those two generations benefited hugely from free secondary education introduced in the 1960s. It was simply revolutionary, and particularly for girls," she said.

On this note, she said the Irish government is committing to one quarter of a billion euros (about 273 million U.S. dollars) over five years to global education, putting focus on girls and emergencies.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for his part, stressed the need to overturn deeply-rooted stereotypes and social norms that see women and girls as less deserving of an education.

He also called for investments to help women and girls build new skills so that they are equipped for the changing world of work.

"A good education can boost a woman's quality of life and open doors to decent work opportunities. It can give women and girls the life skills they need to adjust to an uncertain future to stand up to discrimination, violence, and to make decisions about health care, including sexual and reproductive health," he noted.

Other participants of Tuesday's event include UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, co-founder of the ONE Campaign and lead singer of Irish rock band U2 Bono, and Chair of the Elders Mary Robinson, as well as youth advocates who shared their personal stories of being deprived of education and fighting to gain the right to it.

According to an Irish government website, Ireland will partner with the Global Partnership for Education, UN Women, the One Campaign and Malala Fund to "put a spotlight on adolescent girls' education" in "The Drive for Five" campaign.

The website says more than 130 million girls worldwide are not in school, of whom 96.5 million are excluded from secondary education.

Despite increasing global gender parity in secondary school enrolment, only 29 percent of girls complete lower secondary and just 13 percent complete upper secondary in low income countries.