Women and girls in many parts of the world continue to suffer discrimination in the area of education, despite the progress made in narrowing gender gaps in education over the past decades. The prolonged school closures and unprecedented disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic, protracted conflicts, natural disasters and forced displacement, poverty and inequalities within countries are making it harder for female students to exercise their right to education. Data on out-of-school girls, particularly in conflict-affected countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and the Syrian Arab Republic, remains scant – and the available data often refers to the situation before the pandemic. The most pressing situation is currently unveiling in Afghanistan – the only country in the world where a ban is imposed on secondary education for girls and, more recently, on access to university education.
Denying women and girls their inherent right to education not only represents a flagrant violation of the basic human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination, but is likely to result in a significant setback at various levels of the socio-economic fabric of that country, especially in the domains of health, justice and education, with a foreseeable lack in the near future of female doctors, lawyers and teachers. Moreover, it would aggravate the risk of forced, underage marriages, early pregnancies, female genital mutilation and domestic and gender-based violence.
On the occasion of the International Day of Education, celebrated each year on 24 January, and building on the global momentum generated by the UN Transforming Education Summit in September 2022, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue organized a panel event entitled “Defending Women and Girls’ Right to Education: Current Challenges and Perspectives”. The event aimed to create a space for discussion and call for mobilization around women and girls’ right to education. The publication discusses good practices on how to encourage more national and international commitments from the governments, concrete initiatives and action from the grassroots level to ensure the right to education for every woman and girl, which contributes to laying the foundation for women’s empowerment and is fundamental to achieving gender equality.
The publication contains a summary of the seven panel presentations, the Q & A session, and the full statements submitted by the panellists.
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Year of publication: 2023
Cover photo: Getty Images Signature / yongyuan