<%-- Page Title--%> Human Rights <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 134 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 19, 2003

<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- Navigation Bar--%>
<%-- 5% Text Table--%>

Garden Parity Needs a Muti-Sectoral Approach

UNICEF's State of the World Report 2004


Srabonti Narmeen Ali

The year 2000 marked a milestone for the development community. It was the year in which various United Nations Organisations set up a list of goals targeted for 2015. Better known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), they focus on a more “human-rights based, multisectoral approach towards development,” as Carol Bellamy says, (The State of the World's Children 2004, UNICEF). This “multisectoral approach” incorporates possible solutions to fundamental problems pertaining to developing countries.

The MDGs address the following developmental issues : eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improve maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and creating a global partnership for development.

This year UNICEF's Report (The State of the World's Children, 2004) highlights two of these goals in particular -- the achievement of universal education and the promotion of gender equality. The 2004 Annual Report focuses on these goals and the issues surrounding them. It also contains information on strategies, programmes and initiatives developed by UNICEF and its development partners to meet the challenge of gender disparity in education thus improving the lives of children and families. Since girls' education has been found to be beneficial to maternal and child health, early childhood care, nutrition, water and sanitation, the reduction of child labour and the overall status of a woman affecting the peaceful resolution of social conflicts, the Report identifies girls' education as one of the most crucial issues facing the international development community and calls for action on behalf of the 121 million out-of school children around the world of whom 65 million are girls.

UNICEF's aim is to reach gender equality through promoting girls' primary and secondary education by the year 2005. To help create an environment where education for girls is not considered “a luxury, but a human right”, the former being true of many developing countries, UNICEF seeks to make girls less vulnerable to societal problems. The strategy for achieving this objective is to help each girl achieve her potential by increasing her confidence, social skills, knowledge on health related issues and providing her with training to protect her from violence and ill health.

In the last two decades the major efforts of most development agencies have centred on economic growth. This was based on the concept that economic development would automatically have a positive impact on social and human welfare. Consequently, issues such as girls' education have not been a priority for the development community. However, the lessons of experience have shown that economic growth and social development have both to be pursued independently to achieve holistic results and maximize the benefits of development programmes. According to the Report, girls' education will have a multiplier effect on other facets of development; for example, by helping the growth of the economy by increasing participation of women, continued education for the next generation, healthier families, lower population growth rate, a decrease in maternal and child mortality etc. Hence, the investment on girls' education adds value to other social development sectors by reducing the strain on public health costs, improving the nutritional levels of infants and children, enhancing awareness on social issues like the exploitation of women and sexual abuse, which in turn increases social cohesion by making women more capable of resolving social and family conflicts.

In the Report UNICEF suggests that leaders of developing countries take the following steps: include girls' education as priority in development programmes, take steps not to impose any school fees, making education free and universal, implement education policies into national policies such as poverty reduction, create a community environment in schools, increase national funding for education, and apply strategies associated with economic growth into social development programmes.

UNICEF is taking the first few steps towards this new developmental technique by implementing the “25 by 2005 plan”, which strives to speed up the process of reaching the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The programme focuses on the development of twenty five countries in particular: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, India, Malawi, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papa New Guinea, Sudan, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen and Zambia and will help accelerate efforts to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in these countries. The countries were identified on the basis of need.

It is expected that UNICEF's human rights based, multi sectoral approach will help steer these countries achieve gender parity in education by 2005, which will then bring the development community closer to reaching their Millennium Development Goals, thus bringing the world a step closer to being safer and more problem-free for its future generations.



(C) Copyright The Daily Star. The Daily Star Internet Edition, is published by The Daily Star