Education is a human right. However, for so many girls and women, it is an empty promise. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, 132 million girls worldwide are out of school. A third of the world’s poorest adolescent girls have never been to school. Girls have a historic disadvantage in education, as seen in the persistent problem of women’s literacy. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women – a proportion that has not changed in over 20 years.
Investing in a girl’s education is one of the most effective ways to ensure a better life for her and a better world for us all. If every girl worldwide received 12 years of quality education, child marriage could be eliminated, and early childbearing could be reduced by up to three-quarters. Girls could double their expected earnings in adulthood, and improve living standards, for themselves and their families.
To help girls and women realize their potential through education, we need better data, better policies and better practices – the three pillars of UNESCO’s Her Education, Our Future initiative.
The first step in this process is knowledge. Quantitative and qualitative data – knowing where to focus our efforts – are key to overcoming the barriers preventing girls and women from exercising their right to education. UNESCO’s ongoing efforts in this field, led by its Institute for Statistics and its Institute for Educational Planning, provide the evidence and bases to orient local and global actions. In the same spirit, the Global Education Monitoring Report ensures information is communicated to the widest possible audience.
The second step is ensuring that policies and normative frameworks uphold the right to education. Millions of children face gender-based violence in and on the way to school. This is why adequate policies and guidelines are needed to support the creation of safe and secure school environments. Her Atlas, UNESCO’s interactive visual monitoring and advocacy tool, supports these efforts by mapping out the status of national legislation related to girls’ and women’s education.
Improving, scaling up and disseminating proven practices is the third step. In this respect, the Government of India’s flagship initiative “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” is an ambitious programme that sends a very powerful message, both nationally and globally, on the government’s commitment to gender equality. When girls benefit from quality education, they gain knowledge, skills, and confidence – which creates benefits for society as a whole
The rights of girls and women matter, as do their dreams, their voices, and their leadership. At UNESCO, we believe in the transformative power of education to allow girls and women to realize their full potential, chart their own future, and build better lives for themselves, their families, communities, and nations.
About the author:
Ms. Audrey Azoulay is Director-General, UNESCO
 UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). 2018. One in Five Children, Adolescents, and Youth is Out of School. Montreal, UIS.
 UNICEF. 2020. Addressing the learning crisis: An urgent need to better finance education for the poorest children. New York, UNICEF.
 World Bank, Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls (2018) http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/775261531234655903/Missed-Opportunities-The-High-Cost-of-Not-Educating-Girls
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