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Press release: 75 million girls absent from world’s classrooms must be urgently addressed

11 October 2012

The estimated 75 million girls missing from classrooms across the world is a major violation of rights and a huge waste of young potential, according to international child rights and development organisation Plan International.

As the world marks the inaugural International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, Plan is calling upon the EU, and the international community at large, to urgently prioritise quality education for girls as an essential factor in tackling global poverty.

Plan launches its Because I am a Girl campaign today with a policy debate in the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Veronique Mathieu. The campaign aims to directly help four million girls living in poverty worldwide including countless adolescent girls who are pushed out from school and denied their right to education by child marriage, violence, discrimination and poverty. It aims to reach millions more through changes in legislation and policy.

The organisation says while some progress has been made in increasing the number of girls enrolled in primary school, its Learning for Life report released today finds many are still dropping out before reaching secondary level and the quality of education that children are receiving remains poor in many countries.

As part of this campaign, the organisation is recommending a minimum of nine years schooling for girls and boys, which ensures a better transition to the critical stage of secondary education.

“It’s unacceptable that there are so many girls still being denied the right to education,” said Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office. “Education is the cornerstone of development and the fact that so many girls are missing out is a massive waste of potential. Educated girls are more likely to marry later, have fewer – healthier – children, and become economic and political actors. In short, they will become the drivers of lasting change in their communities and countries.”

In order to increase access to quality basic education for girls, Plan:

  • Calls upon the European Union to step up its efforts to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in all of its development cooperation by implementing commitments in the EU Gender Action Plan;
  • Urges the European Commission to increase investment in quality basic education for girls, moving beyond access to focus on the transition to, and completion of, lower secondary education which provides girls with the necessary skills to benefit from this investment;
  • Calls upon the European Commission and the European External Action Service to play a leading role in child protection, in particular in addressing the barriers that girls face in realising their rights such as early and forced marriage and gender-based violence;
  • Calls upon the European Union to ensure girls are made visible in the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) by explicitly including commitments on gender equality from the Gender Action Plan;
  • Asks the European Union to ensure that the EU position on the post-2015 development framework maintains a strong priority on quality primary and lower secondary education, and that gender equality is mainstreamed across all targets and indicators.

Editor's notes

Fast facts:

  • Globally one in three girls is denied an education
  • Girls’ primary school completion rates are below 50% in most poor countries
  • Every 3 seconds, another girl is forced or coerced to marry
  • 1 in every 3 girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18, 1 in 7 marries before the age of 15
  • 150 million girls, and 73 million boys, under 18 have experienced rape or other forms of sexual violence
  • The leading cause of death for young women aged 15-19 in developing countries is pregnancy.
  • An extra year of secondary school increases a girl’s potential income by 15 to 25%.
  • Each extra year of a mother’s schooling cuts infant mortality by between 5 and 10%.
  • An increase of only 1% in girls secondary education attendance, adds 0.3% to a country's GDP.

Plan led the call for an International Day of Girl. During last year’s European Week of Action for Girls, MEPs Véronique Mathieu, Jean Lambert, Edite Estrela, Katarína Neveďalová, Roberta Angelilli co-submitted the successful Written Declaration 39/2011 in support of the International Day of the Girl. The resolution was adopted by the European Parliament on 15 December 2011, two days before the United Nations inaugurated the 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child.

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