8 March 2010 – This year, International Women’s Day is focusing on the theme: “Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all.” Though significant progress has been made towards gender parity and equality in education, many challenges remain.
According to latest UNICEF estimates, girls make up more than half of the 101 million children of primary school age that are not in school.
To look at the advances made and challenges ahead for girls’ education, moderator Amy Costello spoke to Tamara Kreinin, executive director of Women and Population at the United Nations Foundation, and the Honourable Ambassador Professor Samson Kagengo Ongeri, Kenya’s Minister of Education and UNICEF Champion for Child-Friendly Schools.
Listen to the podcast in streaming MP3 format
“The girls are still being pushed aside for the boys, and we have to put them front and centre,” said Tamara Kreinin. During her 25-year career in the private and public sectors, Kreinin has worked around the globe on issues affecting young girls and adolescents. Ms. Kreinin says that girls are still often left out in data collection and programming. “You often times find that when there is a program for youth, 90 per cent of the participants are boys.”
Honourable Ambassador Professor Samson Kagengo Ongeri discussed the experience of the Kenyan government in bringing more girls into their educational system.
Despite the strides that Kenya has made in many parts of the country, getting girls in nomadic districts to attend school has proved challenging. The enrolment for boys in the nomadic areas reached 50 percent, compared to only 22.5 percent for girls due to high drop-out rates for girls and early marriages.
However, there has been progress. “We have been able to create mobile schools, we’ve also been able to create low-cost boarding schools in order to attract the young boys and girls into our schools,” said Minister Ongeri. “And also by the provision of other services like HIV and AIDS programmes and water and sanitation programmes we have been able to maintain our retention rate reasonably within reach.”